Much of the road system at Lake Sylva is a Forest Service “auto tour” route that winds through some of the Ouachita’s most scenic sections. This network of dirt roads includes opportunities for just about any kind of bikepacking you’re up for. The Sylvia 57 route is sort of a “greatest hits” compilation of the riding possibilities out there. Be prepared for some hike-a-bike, a significant stream crossing, and some occasional rambling along poorly-maintained back roads. Watch that GPS closely!
Turn off of Arkansas Highway 9/10 onto 324. Drive approximately 4 miles and park in the parking lot to the left, just before 324 turns to dirt. The route is a loop and may be ridden in either direction. Hop on your bike and continue up 324 or backtrack a couple miles and take a left off the pavement on to Forest Road 805.
With the exception of a couple off-the-beaten-path sections, this route follows Forest Service “auto tour” roads. The roads are well-maintained and wide enough for two people to ride side-to-side. Hills are abundant, and most of the time you will either be going up or down one of them—if you’re looking for flats, this is not the route for you! For a first-timer it is crucial to bring along a GPS. The Forest Service roads intersect often and getting lost would be a real possibility without proper navigational tools.
Camping sites are obvious and abundant. As this route is in the Ouachita National Forest, dispersed camping is permitted. The “perfect site,” in my opinion, is at the point where the route tops out in elevation (1650 feet). It is close to half-way in either direction. The site has a fire ring and overlooks a valley to the east. The sunrise is breathtaking! The only downside is that there is no water source, so you would need to plan accordingly. Plug these coordinates into your GPS for pinpoint location: N34° 49.273′ W93° 01.518′.
In Arkansas summers are hot and often dry. Flowing streams may be low or nonexistent in this case. Snow can be present in the winter and conditions can be icy (perfect for a fat-bike!). Fall and spring are mild and usually the best time to tackle this route.
Although there are a number of streams that run through the area, it is best to set out with the water you expect to use. If it has been dry, this may be a necessity. Bring what you need or drop some water to avoid un-wanted stress.