Visiting Lake Atalanta in Rogers, AR, felt like walking into life’s worry-relief zone. Because we visited in June, just three months into the coronavirus pandemic, we needed to see life’s unadulterated side. The 236-acre park delivered the right dose of purity. It filled our lungs with hope and legs with the will to bike on.
We mounted our Cannondale bikes eager to spot some of the 100 species of Arkansas birds and 608 types of plants in and around the park. Working off our lunch at Smokin’ Joes Ribhouse was a top priority, too.
Rogers is ranked 6th out of 567 Best Cities for Bikes.”
The Sites and Sounds of Lake Atalanta
Lake Atalanta is a spring-fed lake surrounded by lush Ozark forests.
Originally built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration, Lake Atalanta Park once contained a restaurant, swimming pool, tennis course, and miniature golf. Those amenities lost their luster over time so Lake Atalanta reinvented itself.
In 2016 Lake Atalanta Park reopened with zippy, challenging new bike trails, a two-mile boardwalk around the lake, artwork, shelters, and plenty of space to social distance, hike, bike, picnic, and listen to gushing streams and underground springs gurgle.
With more than 219 miles of off-road and 132 miles of paved trails in Benton and Washington counties, Rogers and Bentonville are top destinations for diehard bikers and city refuge seekers.
Each August hundreds of amateur and pro mountain bikers gather in Rogers to compete in the Kessler Mountain Jam otherwise known as the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series. Other events typically taking place near Rogers in the fall are Frisco Festival on Aug. 21 and the Homegrown Festival on Oct. 3 in Siloam Springs. Check website calendars to see if the events are postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic.
Onward to the City of Rogers
Once we whizzed around the two-mile lake loop, we pedaled uphill for approximately nine miles to Railyard Bike Park. Railyard Bike Park sits right smack dab in the center of Rogers and is connected to 40 miles of paved bike paths that weave through town and back to the Atalanta trail system.
Stick to the paved trail unless you’re an intermediate to advanced cyclist. I shot off onto a dirt trail for a half mile and quickly regretted it. After realizing I was over my skill level, I turned around and walked my bike back to easier terrain. You’ll be passed by advanced bikers like those extremists in the video below in mass. If you’re a beginner like me, there’s no shame in sticking to the easy trails.
The construction of Railyard Bike Park gives the City of Rogers a national bragging rights and a tourism trump card. The only bike park of its caliber is in Colorado. So Arkansas is playing with the big boys when it comes to amenities.
When cruising around Rogers you’ll see some groovy murals. The city has definitely done a stellar job mixing its country roots with cosmopolitan splashes.
Oh and There’s More Art
Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art tops any museum I’ve ever been to except the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. If you’re in Rogers to play, make sure to carve out four hours to pop into Crystal Bridges or at least take in the outdoor sculptures on foot or by bike.
Point is, treat yourself to a trip to Rogers, Bentonville, or any city in Northwest Arkansas. There are groovy places to stay like the Retro Post-War Charmer we stayed at.
Plus little cities like Rogers and Bentonville are charming, culture packed, and make for a low-cost, high-zen getaway.