|3.5 Miles||Loop System||1.7 Total Climbing Miles||1,365' Max||7.5% Avg Grade|
|12.75 Climb Index||95% Singletrack||1.5 Total Descending Miles||1,109' Min||31.1% Max Grade|
Overview: Shady Lake trail is not a real long trail but it will give you a pretty good workout. If you go clockwise on this trail you will have a short little climb right off the bat but after that it is all pretty mild as it goes through the woods, the trail in this section is pretty wide as it follows an old road. You will soon come to Forest Road 38 where you will turn right onto the forest road and follow it for maybe 20 yards and the trail will pick up again across the bridge and to your right. This section of the trail has a lot of up and down as it follows the shore of the lake. There are plenty of rocks and roots in this section to keep the ride interesting. You will follow this section all the way to dam overlook where you will probably have to dismount and walk your bike up the stairs. This is a good place to snap off some photos. Head down the other side of the overlook and get an even better view of the spillway and the Saline River. You will continue on down the trail for about 50 yards and then you will have to get your feet wet as you cross the creek.
Once across you will have to ride through some large loose rocks for a little bit, some folks my want to walk this area. The trail will head off to the right from where you crossed the creek. You will eventually make it to the single track, be prepared to do a little climbing. This section is not a real difficult climb but there are sections in the trail that are a little technical and some tight switchbacks, expect roots and rocks to be on this climb.
After the climb you will continue to hug the shore line of the lake only this time a little higher up above the lake. You will come to a bench that overlooks the swimming area and makes for another great photo shoot.
Now comes the big climb you see in the profile be ready for some really steep, sustained climbing and to make it even more challenging there are roots and rocks to help suck a little more strength out of the legs. This is the worst climb out there so just keep telling yourself when it’s over all the other climbs are going to seem like ant hills.
At the top of this big climb you will have the chance to get some more photos as you get an awesome view of the mountain range in this area. Now comes the fun descent, it is pretty mild as far as technical stuff goes so you should be able to blaze down this thing. There are a few little spots that will require some hits on the brake levers.
The trail will get pretty mild for a little while so enjoy the ride and recover. There are a few tight switchbacks in this section so be aware. You will eventually come to a creek crossing again where you will need to get your feet wet once again. After this is a steep little climb but much shorter than the last. Once you are over this climb there is really not a whole lot of climbs left. The trail will drop you onto another forest road, just hang a right and follow the forest road over the bridge and pick the trail back up again on your right.
This next section follows the Saline River with some really great views of the river as it rolls over numerous cascades. This section is mostly gentle to mild riding and very shady and cool during those hot summer months. When you come to the last climb you are almost done. Just follow the trail up to the road and hang a right and you will be back at the pay/information center.
Recommended Route: Starting from the day use area take the trail clockwise.
Rating: Advanced beginners and up should do okay out there. Some people may find the hills a little too steep for their liking. Physically this trail requires some moderate or better physical fitness, don't come out here unless you are in decent shape, the climbs are steep. Technically this trail does have some technical features to it, big rocks and roots that must be managed as well as tight switchbacks and drops. Terrain is rugged, loose rock to hard packed areas. This area of the Ouachita's is known for its ruggedness and steep hills. Photo op's on this trail are numerous and inspiring. Bailouts are numerous on the east side of the lake but once you get on the west side the bailouts become less abundant.
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