The White Zone segment of the Iron Mountain Trail System, a great newbie trail
Arkansas offers numerous gorgeous mountain biking trails and is an excellent state for the hobby. The Iron Mountain Trail System near Degray Lake in Caddo Valley is one of the best. For beginners, like me, The White Zone segment is a great place to start honing your mountain biking skills.
Getting into mountain biking might appear scary, but if you have a good beginner trail, it’s easier than it seems.
I have had my mountain bike for a little more than six months. And I made some mistakes at the beginning of picking the wrong trails to gain experience. (Check out my Sometimes Life Leaves You Bruised post for a not-so-great experience.) Zach told me the Iron Mountain Trail System was a good beginner trail, but unfortunately, the first time I rode on it I picked the wrong segment of the trial. As I started the yellow portion of the trail, riding straight up a mountain, I cursed Zach. “This is not ‘easy,'” I said to myself. How can Zach find this fun!
It wasn’t until I went with Zach that he showed me The White Zone – a more beginner-friendly trail. The trailhead for this segment of the trail is located along Corp of Engineer Road 412, just down from its intersection with Skyline Drive. The intersection is three miles west of the spillway on Skyline Drive.
There is another trailhead for the entire Iron Mountain Trail System on Skyline Drive at the intersection. Once you park at the trailhead on Corp of Engineer Road 412, you have to ride east on the road about one-tenth of a mile to find the trail. Look for a yellow gate across an old road, this is where the trail begins and ends. A detailed map can be viewed by clicking here.
When you start the trail, you can either go to the right or left. I’m not sure if there is a better way or not, because I have only biked it starting at the right. According to the MTB Project, the elevation drops about 100 feet fairly quickly, levels out, and then gains the 100 feet back at the end. The MTB Project says the total ascent is 180 feet, and a total decent is -177 feet.
The White Zone portion of the Iron Mountain Trail System is 4.7 miles. I rode on the Fourth of July with Zach, Lagena, and Leah, and only Zach was a non-beginner. It took the four of us about an hour and a half. Because of our skill levels, we took it slow. It was hot, so we didn’t take too long breaks because the breeze was nice while riding.
There is no shame in getting off your bike and pushing it up hills. This past weekend was the second time I rode the trail and it was easier the second time.
If you are like me and just getting into mountain biking, the more you do it, the more you get a feel for riding over rocks and roots. You also get a better feel for riding a single track. This can be scary when you only have a few feet of trail between an embankment and a steep downslope, but it’s not as bad as it seems.
The White Zone is described on the MTB Project website as fast and flowy. The trail does flow very well. It also provides some of the best views of Degray Lake. In several places, you are up high above the water, and in other places, you are on the shore. When we were close to the shore, I was ready to jump in the water.
If you want to bring a picnic, there are several nice spots for a lunch break around the halfway point. And by being on the lake, you can get in the water and cool off.
I’m not sure if I was simply worn out from biking because I haven’t had that much experience, or if the last mile is harder. But both times I have biked this trail, that last bit has kicked my butt. I’m sure it doesn’t help that the ascent is at the end of the trail, either way, you bike it.
If you are not into mountain biking, the trail is a wonderful day hike. It is also excellent for trail running. However you experience the trail, the views of the lake are unmatched.
The Iron Mountain Trail System consists of several loops that are divided into colored segments. The colors coincide with the colors of the blazes that mark the trail – white, blue, red, green, and yellow. The entire trail system is about 22 miles and is located mostly on U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ land. Dedicated volunteers maintain the trail.