Tired of Treadmills? It’s Time to Hit the Trail

On the run with veteran off-roader Wesley Hunt

IT’S RARE that Wesley Hunt crosses paths with another runner, and that’s not just because he’s fast. (And trust us, he is: The Little Rock-based ultrarunner has won three of the four Arkansas Traveller 100-mile races he’s run.) It’s because, generally speaking, the trails are pretty empty.

“Selfishly, it might be a good thing,” he says with a laugh. “But I don’t think enough people take advantage of them.”

Which, when you think about it, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense: Trail running is arguably better for you than road running and is more aesthetically pleasing, to boot. “It’s also more technical and requires a certain level of focus you don’t have to have on the road,” Wesley explains. “And I love that about it. You can run at a comfortable pace, but it’s still a challenge.”

The other upside? We’ve got plenty of ideal trail-running territory in Arkansas, and you don’t need any fancy gear to make a go of it. Just grab your shoes, head to a trail—or a service road, which, in some cases, is the perfect place for a beginner to learn the footing—and take the road less traveled.

“If you’re hiking, just start running a little bit,” Wesley says. “Have fun. Jump off some rocks. Be a kid.”

BEST TECHNICAL RUN CLOSE TO LITTLE ROCK: 

Pinnacle Mountain Base Trail

“You can knock out two loops and get an almost-6-mile, very technical trail run,” says Wesley. “Very technical—it’s one of the few places where I’ve fallen multiple times. That just means you should do it more. It’s a great place to hone your trail-running skills and to get used to the rocky terrain.”

BEST FOR A WEEKNIGHT:

Allsopp Park

“I enjoy doing an urban-road-run-slash-trail-run. I’ll jump on the Allsopp Park trails—you can run a 2-mile loop if you connect the trails on the south side of the park. I’ll run from my home in Midtown, do a couple loops, and then run home. I love that I can do that from my front door.”

BEST FOR ASPIRING ULTRARUNNERS:

Lake Sylvia Recreation Area

“I like using Lake Sylvia as a kind of base camp on the weekend when I can. I like to do the first 16 miles of the Traveller course. But if you just want to hit the Ouachita Trail, you can do an out and back from Lake Sylvia. If you go to Brown’s Creek and back, that’s a good shorter distance run, about 8 miles total, with some good climbs coming back out.”

BEST DESTINATION RUN:

Lake Catherine State Park

“There are three really nice trails at Lake Catherine, and they all connect. If you do Falls Branch and Dam Mountain, that’s about a 4-mile loop from the trailhead. There’s never anyone up there, so you can let it go a little bit, and it’s beautiful. Horseshoe Mountain is a 3-mile loop, but it’s got the most climbing. All of them are technical—you’ve got to be careful.”

BEST FOR NEWBIES:

Hobbs State Park

“Nice little rolling trails—less technical, more runnable. Even if you’re a road runner, you can get away with jumping on those trails because they’re a little smoother. They’ve also got a great race every year, the War Eagle Trail Running Festival.”