(Article by Jill Rohrbach, Travel Writer, Arkansas Tourism)
The light clink of utensils hitting plates and soft voices in easy conversation float down from the restaurant on the top hotel balcony. Looking down from my own outdoor stoop on the second floor, I spot two small deer foraging on the immaculately groomed grounds below. It’s the perfect end to a day that started with a hike from a trailhead located directly across from the entrance and parking lot of my historic hotel, the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa in Eureka Springs.
The trailhead for the Harmon Park Loop is easy to find. A trailhead board with maps and information marks the way, which starts with a long wooden stairway leading down into the wooded hillside. I snapped a photo of the loop trail before heading out in case I needed to reference it on the walk.
The stairs lead to a dirt, singletrack path that parallels a paved street with just a few trees between you and the road. Cars pass on your left side while squirrels scamper on your right. The shaded path soon crosses the street, taking you to Harmon Park. The city’s parks and recreation office is located here, along with a large playground, skate park, restrooms, dog park, and picnic area.
It’s only .24 miles from the trailhead to Harmon Park and the whole loop is about 1.4 miles.
From Harmon Park, the path becomes a wide, unpaved former roadbed called the Spring Garden Trail. The tree canopy quickly opens to the sky providing a sweeping view of the hillside above and below. A left spur splits from the main trail here and is singletrack for mountain bikers. Stay on the wide roadbed flanked by trees and you eventually come to a lovely bench welcoming you to sit a spell and let nature wash over you. Unexpected and interspersed along this portion of the trail are small stands with laminated pages of a kid’s book clipped to them. Sponsored by the city’s Carnegie Public Library, the installations let you read the book along your walk.
Soon, houses begin to come into view, some of them stately vintage beauties, until you reach King Street. Go right up to Spring Street. From here, you have some options. To finish the Harmon Park Loop according to the map, go left and there are stairs connecting Spring Street to Crescent Drive and the Crescent Trail going back to the hotel on the poolside.
However, I decided to turn right on Spring Street, walking back up toward Harmon Park where I looped back on the lower Crescent Trail leading to the trailhead I started from.
Walking on the sidewalk along this street stretch, don’t miss stopping at Grotto Spring, across from Trolley Stop 89. Go down a few steps into the cool grotto surrounded by stonework and a wooded area. Eureka Springs has more than 66 springs and about 15 prominent ones are easy to walk to.
If you want a longer walk in the woods, go past the grotto and look for trail signage for Aine’s Way on a curve on your left. Aine’s Way is an intermediate hiking and expert biking trail.
Another option when you get to Spring Street is to turn left, walking through residential neighborhoods full of beautiful Victorian architecture as you head downtown to the shops and restaurants. When you’ve had your fill of food and fun, either walk back or, if you’re staying at the Crescent, call them for a shuttle. You can also catch a trolley at the downtown depot and ride it back up to the trailhead.
While Harmon Park Loop is one of the longer in-town walking trails, there are others for hikers and bikers to enjoy. Some are full blown mountain biking experiences and others are short stretches through unpaved streets and alleys for urban hikes.
For example, Jacob’s Ladder is a long staircase connecting several terraces of streets on East Mountain. Kansas Street is a staircase and old roadbed for foot traffic only connecting Kings Highway to Harding Sweet Spring and Spring Street. The Basin Park Trail is basically two sets of staircases accessed from the park’s main level and leading up to a bluff line and natural terrace and back down. A shorter route to downtown from the Crescent is Magnolia Trail, which is accessed across from the fountain garden path. Descending but easy, this nature trail takes you by Crescent Spring on its route to downtown.
The grounds of The Great Passion Play are home to numerous mountain bike trails. Minutes away by car is Black Bass Lake with five miles of hiking trails along the bluff line, lake and historic dam. Lake Leatherwood City Park has more than 25 miles of hiking and biking trails as well as kayaking, fishing, camping, and a playground.
On foot and through the woods is one of the best ways to discover this city’s jewels. Nature is all around and as easy to access as the art, restaurants, and gorgeous architecture that Eureka Springs is known for. In fact, it’s beautifully in tandem with the artsy and creative vibe the town exudes.