Outdoor writer and photographer Corbet Deary is a regular feature on The Sentinel-Record. Today, Deary takes readers on a journey along the Sunset Trail from Ricks Pond to Cedar Glades Road.
Last week’s destination article started a series of hikes along segments of the Sunset Trail. Well, today we are going to embark on another walk along this particular road.
The initial hike started at the Gulpha Gorge Recreation Area and meandered generally along Gulpha Creek before crossing Highway 7 and following Stonebridge Road for a short jaunt to where we finished the hike at Ricks Pond.
Well, today we will start at the point where the original walk ended and embark on a nice journey of around 2.5 miles before stopping where the designated path crosses Cedar Glades Road.
I’ll be the first to suggest that this walk is a bit more challenging. It stretches for just over a mile longer and is a bit more physically demanding, as a long, steep incline lurks along the way. But as I suggested in the previous destination article, those who are not physically prepared for a long and steep climb can simply plan a little extra time to stop, catch their breath and take in the scenery. during the ascent.
It is important to remember that this is not a race. In fact, those who stop, catch their breath, and savor their surroundings once in a while are likely to notice things that those of us who are always in a hurry never have the pleasure of seeing.
There is also a trail along this particular walk that some might consider as well. But we will talk about this route when we reach the intersection in the description.
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Alright, let’s get started. Parking alongside the road at Ricks Pond, the trail immediately crosses Stonebridge and enters a wooded area. There are a few hills along this section of the path, none of which should be feared. In fact, gentle climbs provide the perfect opportunity to get the blood pumping and warm up the muscles before embarking on the aforementioned climb.
The trail winds through mixed forest for just over 0.5 miles, before entering a low area and crossing a dark road. Although this section of the path was dry during our last excursion, it is not uncommon for the ground to be saturated and sometimes waterlogged during the wettest seasons of the year.
The trail climbs slightly shortly after crossing the dark road. And the ascent gets noticeably steeper as the trail continues. It goes up and it goes up. In fact, the trail gains 275 feet in just half a mile.
But hang in there, because the road eventually ends on the ridge line. And the worst climb is now a thing of the past.
OK, with the dreaded climb behind us, the trail follows the contour of the mountain top, staying fairly flat, while making a sharp turn to the left. This is one of those places where I always expect to see a whitetail deer leap out of the thicket and disappear into the woods.
The trail winds for a short distance through an area where small saplings thrive on the right side, as it heads towards the aforementioned intersection of another trail. I’ve taken a detour at this point a few times over the years and embarked on a hike along the Fordyce Peaks trail. And I can’t remember a ride along that 1.2 mile path that I didn’t enjoy.
However, I find it important to mention that the route hardly lends itself to an easy walk. In fact, it makes a very steep and long climb before reaching its destination. It’s definitely more tiring than the hill we just climbed
Those who have hiked the hidden climb on the Sunset Trail might also find the walk along the Fordyce Peak Trail a pleasure. But I would suggest that those who had trouble making the initial climb might consider returning at a later date when they are more physically prepared.
From the intersection, the Sunset Trail continues straight and relatively flat, while continuing to follow the contour of the ridge line. It soon enters the open woods, composed of both pine and hardwood. It is also an environment where those walking quietly have a chance of seeing a white-tailed deer going about their daily rituals. In fact, one is likely to see just about any native wildlife using the area.
The trail eventually descends slightly and heads to another trail intersection. I’m pretty sure this is part of the Northwoods trail system. However, I have not walked that particular path yet.
The trail then makes a fairly steep, but short, climb back down the hill and into another climb and steeply down the opposite side of the hill.
OK, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the climbs and descents are behind us now. The route winds through typical Ouachita Mountain terrain and eventually passes a large concrete water tower on the left. It continues at a fairly flat pace for a short distance, until you reach a parking lot and the path crosses Cedar Glades Road. This is also where we will end our hike, until our next excursion.
This particular section of the Sunset Trail is by far my favorite. Admittedly, in the near future we will be crossing significantly more scenic sections, as several views of a distant hot spring set in the valley lurk in front of us.
However, there is something about this section of trail that makes it feel more removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. And as odd as some may find it, I really appreciate the option to veer off the main path and embark on a jaunt along a path that seems to meander even further into the depths of nature.
And those who are not in a physically demanding climb? I’m confident you’ll find your walk along the main trail just as enjoyable.
To get to Ricks Pond from Hot Springs, head north on Park Avenue (Highway 7) approximately 2 miles and turn left on Stonebridge Road, just before you reach DeSoto Park and just across the intersection of Gulfha Gorge. Stay on Stonebridge Road for a short distance and park in the wide spot on the left side of the road next to the reservoir.
To get to the Cedar Glades Road trailhead from Hot Springs, head north on Park Avenue and turn left on Whittington Avenue. Stay on Whittington for 200 feet and turn right onto Cedar Street, next to the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts. Go 0.4 miles and turn right onto Cedar Glades Road. Follow Cedar Glades up the hill and the parking lot will be on the right.