Northwest Arkansas’ Best Mountain Biker, Locals Say
The northwest corner of Arkansas is booming with trail development over the past decade. The result is now an ATV hotspot with more trails than you could ever ride in a lifetime. This poses a very real (but very good) problem for visitors: what should you drive first? To help answer this question, we turned to four locals for their best advice.
“Bentonville is unique because you can get out of your house and take a trail,” says Dave Neal, a longtime resident of nearby Bella Vista and co-owner of Bentonville’s Mojo Cycling bike store. “And most of the trails are connected, so you can spend the day riding without having to hit the road at all.” Whether you are looking for expert or beginner level terrain, Bentonville has it all.
Where to start? Head first to Coler mountain bike reserve, a specially designed system with 17 miles of trails ranging from gravity fed jump lines to paved paths suitable for strollers and wheelchairs. Or cycle to Slaughter Pen for a more traditional single cross country trail hike (which starts right in the heart of their downtown plaza), and overnight camp in the reserve or stay just a mile and a half away. from downtown Bentonville. In the heart of the reserve, you will also find the Airship, a café accessible only on foot or by bike on trails accessible to the ADA. Looking for a hearty meal after the trip? Neal will send you to Oven & Tap, owned by ATV enthusiasts and known for its wood-fired pizzas. “Not only will you get a phenomenal meal, but you’ll be surrounded by other cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts from all over the community,” said Neal.
As you stroll or cycle through the city, keep your eyes peeled for the city’s many outdoor art installations, which Coler site manager Lori Reed alone is worth a visit. day of exploration. Also be sure to stop by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and its satellite gallery, the Momentary. From now until the beginning of January, Crystal Bridges is hosting an immersive nighttime art installation called Northern forest lights, where you can immerse yourself in a magical and musical play of light arranged around the wooded park of the museum.
With lush, forested mountains and seven sparkling lakes, Bella Vista has been the perfect location for beautiful lakeside summer homes for over 100 years. These days, says Neal, those homes, many of which are available for vacation rentals, are surrounded by mountain biking trails. “I can get out of my garage and be on a trail in 4-5 minutes,” says Neal. The Back 40 trail system has been specially designed for mountain bikers and has 37 miles of trails suitable for beginners and experts (and yes, it is also open to hikers). If that’s not enough for you, don’t worry: the system also connects to 47 miles of trails at Little sugar, with lots of knotty laces to win your descents. To pick up speed and get some fresh air, you can hit the Staggerwing Session Zone and the Huntley Gravity Zone. And, finally, you can end the day at Blowing Springs Park in the Equipment garden, a quaint, tree-shaded beer garden perched next to a natural spring and, you guessed it, surrounded by an additional 14 miles of handcrafted single track.
There are over 200 vacation rentals available on sites like Airbnb scattered within these trail systems, so it’s easy to drop your car as soon as you arrive. Bird watchers will love taking a day off from the bike spotting herons and eagles, and photographers will have no shortage of waterfalls to photograph. So if you are looking for a true back to nature biking experience just minutes from a patio with a cold beer and stunning lake views, Bella Vista is hard to beat.
Fayetteville Tracks Are Approved By Riders: Alec Cowan, a resident and pro road cyclist for the Los Angeles L39ion, says the city is a “hidden biking paradise.” He moved to Fayetteville from BC and says the trail system is impressive. One of his favorite places? Centennial Park, which will host the 2022 UCI Cyclocross World Championship in January. For an adventurous day that combines countryside views with trails through town, set out for the 40-mile Razorback Regional Greenway. The “Zero Mile” of this paved trail begins at Kessler Mountain Regional Park, just south of downtown Fayetteville, and winds through northwest Arkansas. Kessler Mountain Regional Park is also a favorite spot for mountain bikers. Its natural surface trails cover approximately 13 miles, including the Trent Trail, and are rated “easy,” “difficult,” and “very difficult,” so there is a trail for everyone. Cato Springs Trail, a 12-foot-wide concrete trail, connects to the Razorback Regional Greenway. Be sure to keep an eye out for the facilities of the city’s vibrant outdoor art scene while you cycle.
“I call Northwest Arkansas ‘Little Colorado’, with rolling hills instead of Rocky Mountains,” says Loren Whedbee of Springdale’s Lewis & Clark, a beloved and locally owned hardware store. Although in Springdale you will find at least one mountain—Mount Fitzgerald, the city’s single-track hub, there’s no shortage of rock. Here you can ride literal waves of the substance: the trail builders masterfully (and painstakingly) stitched up boulders to form flowing stone berms. The so-called best trail ever is a wild run with jumps, bridges, and rock gardens, and there are trails suitable for beginners as well.
After your ride, cycle the Razorback Greenway – the backbone of Northwest Arkansas cycling infrastructure – to the new JB and Johnelle Hunt Family Ozark Highlands Nature Center. There you can practice target shooting with a bow and arrow or BB rifle, and you can also learn skills essential for sustainable hunting and native plant harvesting.