Thursday, October 12, 2017
"You can't go wrong in Northwest Arkansas," said Jan Casebere of Bella Vista. A member of the Hill 'N Dale Hiking Club, Casebere joined the group's "trail boss," Bev Munstermann, last week on her front porch outside of Jane, Mo. They were sharing places where they've experienced the Ozarks' beautiful fall foliage on their hikes.
"Anywhere you can see the sun shine through the trees," Munstermann said.
Off the beaten path
Northwest Arkansas offers “leaf peepers” a couple of unique experiences for viewing fall foliage.
Arkansas & Missouri Railroad
When: Wednesday to Sunday
Where: From A&M Depot in downtown Springdale, round trip to Van Buren’s historic downtown.
Tickets: $70 to $100 for adults
Comments: “The Ozarks are so beautiful, especially in the fall,” said Aurora Miliret, a New Orleans travel agent who books tours for groups of seniors.
Information: (800) 687-8600, amrailroad.com.
Fall Foliage Flights
• 10 minute flight east of Springdale toward Beaver Lake, $65 per person
• 15 minute flight over War Eagle Mill and Beaver Lake, $95 per person
• 20 minute flight over Beaver Lake and Ozark foliage, $125 per person
Also, the business offers charter flights for customers. “Our business is about experience,” said Camron McAhren, owner of the business. “We want to make the experience an adventure you’ll never forget.”
Information: arhelicopters.com, 365-3640.
Hill ‘N Dale Hikers
When: Late October and early November.
Where: Northwest Arkansas
Weekly forecast: arkansas.com/travel-tools/seasons/fall/fall-update/
SOURCE: Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
The club doesn't take specific hikes to view the fall leaves, Munstermann explained. Rather, they hike different locations weekly, September through December and March through June.
"The Buffalo (National River) is by far the most scenic," Munstermann said. "There are so many hikes over there, we've yet to explore them all."
The Goat Trail along the Buffalo River near Ponca spurs off the Big Bluff Trail and takes hikers along a bluff edge over the river that is the highest between the Appalachian and Rocky mountains, Munstermann said. "But to get out, it's 3 1/2 miles uphill. I got winded. It was hard to breathe.
"Beginners should make sure you don't do hikes that are 'moderate' or 'hard," she cautioned. "The 'hard' ones have a lot of uphill."
"All trails start downhill," quipped Munstermann's husband, Glenn, who was overhearing the conversation while enjoying the morning scene across the valley, with the fog hanging in the mountain tops. He said he prefers the flat trails around Lake Atalanta in Rogers or Lake Bella Vista.
Casebere also mentioned the Lost Valley and Steel Creek trails with overlooks of the Buffalo near Ponca, and Bev Munstermann offered the Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Craig. "You've seen the pictures of that rock jutting out over the valley," she asked. "It's an immense valley -- and a pretty drive to get there.
"Devil's Den is my favorite park," Munstermann continued. "The vastness of the overlook on Yellow Rock Trail."
Devil's Den's Yellow Rock Trail overlooks the Lee Creek valley from 300 feet above, rated at moderate difficulty. The park offers 10 other trails of varying difficulty.
"And there's Lake Leatherwood in Eureka Springs," Casebere added. "And the drive to get there is beautiful."
Munstermann added Roaring River State Park nearby in Cassville, Mo. "We've just started exploring that," she said. "And they have the trout ponds. They have some good hikes."
Roaring River offers seven trails, with the rugged Deep Leaf Trail leading visitors to the fish hatchery. Lake Leatherwood, a Eureka Springs city park, includes seven trails.
"We'll go (hiking) at the drop of hat if it's below 80 (degrees)," Munstermann said.
Munstermann enjoys the solo hikes she takes nearly daily in the Huckleberry Ridge State Forest adjacent to her family's land.
"I hike to walk off the 'crazies,'" she said. "I walk to relax. Sometimes, I walk for an hour before I slow down. My solo hike is my time. I like being in nature. I like to breathe the air. My drug of choice is endorphins."
"I get to see something new every day," Casebere said of her hikes.
The Hill 'N Dale club takes several overnight trips to hike in other regions, Casebere explained. She enjoys hikes around Blanchard Springs Caverns in Mountain View and Petit Jean State Park.
The women also take advantage of the trails near their homes: the Blowing Springs trails, the Tanyard Creek Nature Trail and the Back 40 in Bella Vista.
"They're so scenic, with waterfalls and caves and bluffs over the creeks," Munstermann said.
"I live in Bella Vista and do (Tanyard Creek) over and over again, and I never get tired of it," Casebere said. "And we haven't gone wrong on the Back 40. And you can never go wrong on the Crystal Bridges (Museum of American Art) trails."
The Back 40 offers "nearly 40 miles of natural surface, multi-use trails," according to the Bella Vista city government's website. And Crystal Bridges maintains eight trails.
The Hill 'N Dale group also walks the Bentonville square to see the Christmas lights as the last hike of the season, Munstermann said.
But for those who prefer to see the fall color without the effort ... "The Pig Trail (Arkansas 23) is awesome to drive a car down, also U.S. 62 to Eureka Springs," Casebere said.
And she offered the Maplewood Cemetery in Harrison. More than 700 sugar maple trees grow in the park, and graves date back to the Civil War.
"Even the Bella Vista golf courses show some great fall color," Casebere finished.
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