Hitting a rock and going airborne while on a two-wheeled spiky metal contraption – even two inches high – is not my kind of adventure. After turning 40 my sense of mortality and broken bones has only grown. However, even though I’m not the biggest fan of mountain biking, there are some great trails around The Natural State where I can, mostly, enjoy riding. The Blue Bayou Trail, part of the Iron Mountain Trail System on DeGray Lake, is a great mountain biking trail for the beginner, or chicken.
Completed in 2021, the Iron Mountain Trail System has more than 30 miles of mountain biking trails for those of all ages, skills, and thrill levels. I have ridden The White Zone several times and found it to be a fairly fun ride. There are a few scary parts where I put the brakes on and walked my bike down the hill. And there are a few uphill parts where I didn’t have the leg muscles to push myself to the top.
The Blue Bayou Trail is similar in having a few scary parts where, if you are like me, you will want to get off and walk. And a few places where your inexperienced legs will not get you to the top. But overall it’s a great ride for someone who doesn’t want a lot of thrill and does not have a great deal of mountain biking experience.
The 2.9-mile Blue Bayou Trail took me an hour and 15 minutes to complete, but I did walk my bike quite a bit.
Finding the trailhead
The Iron Mountain Trail Systems has several trailheads where you can hop on the various colored portions. The Blue Bayou Trail can be accessed at the Corps Road Trailhead, which is 0.2 miles north of the Skyline Drive Trailhead. At this trailhead, you have to ride a little way on the Clockwork Orange Trail.
Because I was camping at Iron Mountain Recreation Area, I accessed the Blue Bayou Trail from the trailhead along Iron Mountain Road. This trailhead’s parking area is about 0.3 miles south of the fee booth for the Army Corps of Engineers campground. The parking area and official trailhead on Iron Mountain Road has a 0.15 spur before you hit the official Blue Bayou Trial.
Biking the Blue Bayou Trail
If you prefer, you can ride the road instead of the spur. The spur follows the road so closely through the forest, that my GPS put mapped me on the road. The spur takes you through the woods for that .15 miles, until the trail, Iron Mountain Road, and Corps Road intersect at one place. Intersection H is where Corps Road and Iron Mountain Road intersect. The Pink Cadillac Trail also intersects with the Blue Bayou at Intersection H.
The Blue Bayou Trail crosses Corps Road and winds its way up a little bit of the ridge before turning to the right and climbing higher in the forest. It meanders along the same elevation line so there are not any steep climbs to the top of the ridge, only a few ups and downs along the gullies.
The woods here are open and beautiful. Around mile 1.05 you come to Intersection K, where the Blue Bayou and Clockwork Orange meet. You want to go right and cross Corps Road. In just a short way you come to Intersection J, but you want to stay to the right again to stay on the Blue Bayou Trail. Then after another short way, you come to Intersection N and want to hang right again. Be careful, this area can be a little confusing.
Shortly after Intersection N, you will find one of the scary spots I was referring to, and will probably want to walk your bike.
Around mile 1.7, you begin to see glimpses of DeGray Lake, and the trail snakes around the coves of the lakeshore for about three-quarters of a mile. At mile 2.15, the trail almost runs into itself but instead makes a large loop. It looked like people may have made a shortcut here. You want to stick to the left and follow along the shoreline. When I was there, there was some caution tape. It seemed like the trail maintenance was trying to keep people from cutting through. This loop closes itself around mile 2.6.
From this point, the trail gently flows back to the trailhead. Be on the lookout for the spur to the parking lot. But if you miss it, you can simply ride the short distance back on the road.
Hiking the Blue Bayou Trail
If you don’t want to bike, the Blue Bayou Trail also makes for a beautiful hiking trail. With views of open woods, the lake, and the rocky terrain of the Ouachita Mountains, hiking is not a bad option – especially for those scaredy-cats like me.