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If you haven’t heard, mountain biking in Arkansas is kind of blowing up right now. With the Walton Foundation pouring millions of dollars into building and maintaining trails in the northwest and Arkansas State Parks initiating their Monument Trails project, there are lots of reasons to plan a visit to the Natural State.
I’ve spent over a month in Arkansas checking out the different mountain bike networks and riding a huge variety of trail. While I haven’t touched nearly all of it, in this post, I round up the best places I’ve ridden plus a few more on my radar.
Arkansas Mountain Biking – Mapped
Bentonville is where all the Arkansas mountain biking hype started and it is home to some of the best trails in the state. The Walton Foundation has poured millions of dollars into this town and the surrounding area to create world-class riding for all levels of riders.
Here are a few networks not to miss in Bentonville:
Coler Preserve is a tightly packed trail system with a lot going on. There are trails for cross-country enthusiasts (easy and hard), kiddos, those working on drops and jumps, and for pros who already know how to hit the big stuff. It’s a really cool place and should definitely be on your Arkansas mountain biking itinerary for at least a day (or two).
Slaughter Pen Trails
Slaughter Pen is the network of mountain bike trails right in the town of Bentonville. Like Coler, there’s a little bit of everything here including a skills/drop zone, cross-country trails, and machine-built downhills with big berms and lots of features.
All-American Heroes is one of the classics that runs through Slaughter Pen and there are a ton of other great options to explore from there.
Bella Vista Trails
Just north of Bentonville is the neighborhood community of Bella Vista. These trails include the Little Sugar Network, The Back 40, and Blowing Springs. For the most part, these trails are more cross-country with the potential to do big-mile days like the 25+-mile Tunnel Vision Loop or 20+-mile Back 40 Loop.
That being said, there are lots of options for shorter rides and a bit of natural tech.
If you are still looking for the jumps and features, there’s a small freeride park in the middle of Little Sugar called the Huntly Gravity Zone.
This is a newer network of trail in Bentonville that I have not ridden yet. It supposedly has the hardest trail in town – Zone 4 – a climb trail with lots of natural and manmade features.
The city of Fayetteville is about 30 miles south of Bentonville and has its own network of worthy mountain bike trails. They’re not quite as well-maintained or as popular as the riding up in Bentonville, but I enjoyed them and think they’re worth a stop if you head down that way.
The first time I rode Mt. Kessler I hated it. The second time it grew on me. My biggest mistake was riding Spellbound in the wrong direction and it ended up being a very sweaty and frustrating hike-a-bike.
But there are some great trails here. The descent down Chinkapin Oak is really fun, especially when linked into Last Call. Spellbound is worth doing (ride it south-to-north) if you’re looking for some natural tech.
On the north side, Flight Training is pretty fun with big, tight berms although I’d skip it if you only have a day at Mt. Kessler.
Mt. Kessler Fun Loop
- Route directions: Mt. Kessler Parking > Fayetteville Traverse > Serpentine > Egg Beater > Chinkapin Oak > Terrapin Station > Last Call
- Route notes: This is a great intro loop to Mt. Kessler. The climb up to the top isn’t long or technical and you get a great descent down Chinkapin Oak and then Last Call.
- Do more:
- If you want to add on some miles and tech, you can give Spellbound a go. I rode it in the wrong direction and did not have fun, but I think in the right direction (south to north) it would be a good challenge. There’s a lot of rocky tech.
- You could also add some miles to the northern end by continuing on Fayetteville Traverse to Flight Training. This adds quite a bit more climbing, but Flight Training is a fun descent. Take Rock City to connect back into the loop.
Centennial Park is just north of Mt. Kessler and home to a World Cup Cross-Country Course. I didn’t ride any of the WC trails, but I did do a really fun ride around the outside perimeter. It’s mostly cross-country with some natural features like rock drops and a cool jump over an old car.
If you’re looking for more, you can lap the southernmost downhill trails like Hail Mary, Red Rum, and Chunky. These trails are definitely built for more downhill fun and technical challenge. I only rode Captain Fantastic, which was fun (and short) but the other trails definitely looked more challenging and rocky-technical.
Centennial Park In-and-Out Loop
- Route directions: Centennial Park Parking > Junk Drawer > Captain Fantastic > Fayetteville Traverse > Learner’s Permit
- Route notes: This loop is pretty straightforward with nothing very challenging unless you want it to be.
- Do more: Add another lap or two on Captain Fantastic or try one of the harder downhill trails like Chunky, Red Rum, or Hail Mary.
With a trail named “Best Trail Ever” I had to check out Mt. Fitzgerald, which is located just north of Fayetteville. Unfortunately, The Best Trail Ever was not the best trail ever, but I did enjoy the other singletrack in the network, especially the descent down Coyote Cave. There are more trails to the south, but I didn’t get a chance to ride them.
Quick Fitzgerald Loop
- Route directions: Mt. Fitzgerald Parking > Main Road > Butterfield > Fitzgerald > Coyote Cave > Butterfield
- Route notes: This is a fun, quick loop on Mt. Fitzgerald. You can add on the Best Trail Ever loop (ride it counterclockwise), but I found it annoying and it didn’t seem like it got ridden that much (there were a lot of cobwebs!). Definitely do the descent down Coyote Cave, though.
- Do more: If you want to do more, I’d head to the trails to the south. I didn’t get a chance to ride them, but I got the feeling that they’re more popular than the Best Trail Ever.
3. Eureka Springs
Eureka Springs is a funky little town that feels like it can’t decide if it wants to be quaint or grunge. It’s worth walking around the hilly downtown area, which is full of shops and cafes.
The riding is awesome too. The shuttled trails at Lake Leatherwood are super fun and while I haven’t gotten to Passion Play yet, I’ve heard really great things.
Lake Leatherwood is home to Arkansas’s one and only lift/shuttle-served bike park, which runs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project is a purpose-built downhill park with 7 different trails starting from two hubs. There is 1 easy beginner trail and then they get progressively harder from there, some with features that I will never hit.
In addition to the Gravity Project, there are also several miles of cross-country trails around the lake. But if you only have a day or two at Leatherwood, the Gravity Park is where you should spend your time.
There is also camping for tents and RVs as well as several cabins that can be rented out.
Learn more about mountain biking at Lake Leatherwood and book your shuttle here
I haven’t ridden at Passion Play, yet, but I’m dying to get back to Eureka Springs because it looks awesome! Located just a few minutes drive from Lake Leatherwood, Passion Play is supposed to be one of the best mountain bike networks in Arkansas with tons of cool features – natural and manmade – and over 20 miles of purpose-built trail. I can’t wait to check it out!
Watch: Passion Play vs. Lake Leatherwood trails with Rich Drew of The Ride Series
4. The Monument Trails
The Monument Trails are a collection of Arkansas mountain biking networks within State Parks. These trail networks are multi-use and tend to be a bit tamer than the mountain bike trail networks I’ve covered above with more cross-country terrain and fewer features.
Currently, there are four Monument Trails around the state:
Devil’s Den State Park
This place is really cool and has one of the most unique trails I’ve ridden in Arkansas, Devil’s Racetrack. Much of the trail is along a tall limestone (I think?) band with shallow caves and overhanging rock. It’s beautiful!
The rest of the network is mostly cross-country with a few downhill-minded trails. There’s not a whole lot of tech here and when I visited, it did feel like the trails could see a bit more use. There were a lot of trees down and the trails were scattered with broken sticks and lots of loose rocks. But overall, I really enjoyed it.
Devil’s Den State Park has great camping as well as cabins to rent out and there’s a scenic river that runs through it. I could definitely see myself camping here for a few days!
Devil’s Den Greatest Hits
- Route directions: Devil’s Den Parking > Goldbrick > Devil’s Racetrack > Fossils Flat Loop > Dollar A Day > All You Can Eat > We Can Take It > Sparky > Fossil Flats Loop > We Can Take It (switchbacked Climb) > Orville > Fossil Flats Loop
- Route notes: This isn’t quite the exact loop I did when I visited Devil’s Den, but this is what I would do if I returned. I haven’t ridden Orville, so I don’t know how challenging it is.
- Make it easier: Skip the second loop on We Can Take It and Orville
- Make it longer: The lower section of Devil’s Racetrack is quite cool and it’s worth doing an out-and-back to the first road crossing if you want to extend your ride. After that, the trail is less interesting and your time is better spent on the northside.
Hobbs State Park
If you’re looking for a 17-mile mellow pedal along the shores of a beautiful lake, head to Hobbs State Park. The lake is beautiful and the trails are mostly easy pedaling through quiet woods.
I haven’t done the west side trails, but I imagine they’re more of the same with fewer lake views.
There is camping at Hobbs State Park including a cool bike-in (or boat-in) only campground at the northern end of the Karst loop. This would be a fun overnight bikepacking trip!
Hobbs State Park Loop
- Route directions: Hobbs State Park Parking > Tunnel Connector > (optional: Sawtooth to Return Trail) > Wolf Den West > Karst Trail > Wold Den East > Tunnel Connector > (optional: Timberjack to Return Trail)
- Route notes: This side of Hobbs State Park features mellow cross-country trails through pretty forest and along the lake shore. If you enjoy big, pedally rides, you’ll love it!
- Make it shorter: If you’re not up for the full ride, I recommend just doing the Karst Loop. You can park on the side of the road at the trailhead.
- Make it longer: The descents down Sawmill and Timberjack are pretty fun and worth doing if you have the legs to climb back up the Return Trail (the climb is pretty mellow).
Mount Nebo State Park
I haven’t gotten to Mount Nebo State Park, which is located about halfway between Bentonville and Little Rock. It’s part of the Monument Trails System and features over 10 miles of trail.
The photos look awesome with lots of cool rock features, beautiful views, and oak forest. If you’ve ridden Mount Nebo, leave a comment below with trail/route recommendations.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park
Pinnacle Mountain State Park is located just outside of Little Rock and it’s another Monument Trail network that I have yet to visit. There are about 14 miles of trail right on the Arkansas River with options for everyone from entry-level cross-country trails to downhill tracks with bigger features.
Good to know’s
Before planning your mountain bike trip to Arkansas, here are some things to keep in mind:
- There are two more networks I would add to this list – Syllamo and Upper Buffalo Headwaters – but I haven’t ridden them. I’ll update this post as I continue to explore Arkansas mountain biking!
- Unfortunately, Arkansas is home to a lot of bugs and insects including chiggers and ticks. I actually thought that I was coming down with monkeypox because I developed a rash on my ankles, but it turned out to be from chiggers. Spray your ankles with bug spray and try to not step off the trail. It’s also a good idea to shower immediately after you get done with your ride and wash all of your bike clothes.
- Watch out for the turtles! I’ve come across a handful of little turtles (or tortoises?) on the trails in Arkansas. If you see a large rock in the trail, it might be a turtle – don’t roll over him/her!
- E-bikes are allowed and thriving at most – if not all – mountain bike networks in Arkansas.
- Look before you send. There are some big features at most Arkansas mountain biking networks. Always scope your lines first and ride within your skill level.
Best time of year to ride
Depending on what the weather is doing, much of Arkansas can actually be ridden year-round. That being said, Arkansas does get snow in the winter, but it doesn’t usually last for more than a week or less. However, many trails are closed in wet conditions.
Summers can be very hot and humid, which can make for unpleasant riding. But it’s still doable. I visited at the end of August and I could squeeze sweat out of my gloves after every ride….
The best time for Arkansas mountain biking, then, is during the fall and spring months when temps are cooler.
- OZ Trails for information on mountain biking in Northwest Arkansas
- Arkansas State Park Monument Trails for info on Devil’s Den, Hobbs, Pinnacle Mountain, and Mount Nebo State Parks
Have you explored the mountain bike trails in Arkansas? What are your favorite places to ride? Do you have anything to add to this list? Let us know in the comments!