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Getting Shreddy at Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project

Looking for some gravity-fed downhill mountain biking fun? Check out Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project in Northwest Arkansas!

Large rock drop on mountain bike trail at Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project in Arkansas

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The first time I discovered Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project, was by accident. My boyfriend (at the time) and I were driving back across the country from Vermont and we were making our way to Bentonville, Arkansas. We needed a van camping spot for the night, and Lake Leatherwood City Park was just the right distance away.

Lo and behold, this little city park is also home to some amazing mountain biking!

We soon discovered that Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project is a shuttled-accessed downhill bike park with 7 purpose-built downhill lines starting from two main hubs. It’s kind of similar to Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville if you’ve ridden there.

I love Lake Leatherwood for many reasons and in this post, I share everything you need to know about making your first trip to this awesome DH park.

Bike park at a glance icon

Lake Leatherwood DH Park at a Glance

  • Location: Eureka Springs, AR
  • Lifts: Shuttle bus
  • Miles of trail: 8 miles + more XC trails around the lake
  • # of trails: 7 DH lines, one XC loop, and half a dozen more cross-country trails around the lake
  • Elevation high: 1,420 ft
  • Elevation low: 1,066 ft
  • Vertical drop: ~350 ft
  • Skills area?: No
  • E-bikes allowed? Yes
  • Rentals? No

Lake Leatherwood Trails Map

Prefer MTB Project? See map here.

Important Things to Know

Mountain biking at Lake Leatherwood Gravity Park is awesome, but there are a few things to know before hitting the trails:

  • You need a pass for the shuttle: The shuttle is run by Slaughter Trail Guides. A full-day pass costs $35 per person. You can pay in person (Venmo or cash) or book online. Shuttles run pretty much every day depending on weather, but it’s a good idea to call ahead to make sure it’s actually running the day(s) you want to ride.
  • You don’t need a pass to pedal: If you prefer to pedal, you don’t need to purchase a pass to ride. The climb trail is Miner’s Rock Loop (clockwise).
  • Ride within your skill level: There are some BIG, SCARY features at Lake Leatherwood. Always scope a feature before you ride it and ride within your skill level.
  • Loose gravel top layer: The trails at Lake Leatherwood have a top layer of loose gravel that kind of acts like little ball bearings, which is a bit unnerving. It’s easy to slide out with these conditions, so take it easy at first until you get a feel for how to ride it.
  • E-bikes are allowed: Electric bikes are allowed on the shuttle and trails. If you prefer to pedal your e-bike, you can take Miner’s Rock Loop (clockwise) to the top.
  • Bring money for the food truck: There’s a really good food truck at the shuttle drop-off that serves burritos and other delicious things to eat.

watch pro rider Jimmy Smith Shred Lake Leatherwood

How to Get There & Where to Park

Lake Leatherwood is located just 10 minutes north of the small, quirky town of Eureka Springs and about an hour east of the “Mountain Bike Capital of the World” – Bentonville.

It’s a bit off the beaten path, so expect windy roads and rural surroundings.

If you’re just visiting for the day, you’ll want to park at the top of the hill (get directions here). There is no parking at the shuttle pick-up at the bottom.

If you are camping at Lake Leatherwood, there is a ~1-mile nice, flat trail that leads to the shuttle pick-up (Leatherwood Trail on TrailForks).

If you are staying at the Topo Motel, all you need to do is walk out the door! (See camping/accommodation options below).

The 7 DH Trails in a Nutshell

Alright, let’s get to the trails!

There are 7 purpose-built DH trails at Lake Leatherwood, each of which start from one of the two hubs:

  • North Hub: DH 4, DH 5, DH 6, DH 7
  • South Hub: DH 1, DH 2, DH 3

I know, the trail names are very original.

Built-up stone 'hub' that leads into 7 downhill mountain bike trails at Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project in Arkansas
Each of the 7 downhill trails starts from either the North Hub or the South Hub (shown above)

Part of the fun is exploring each of the trails on your own, but below is a quick overview of what to expect on each one.

From easiest to hardest:

DH 6

This is the easiest trail at Lake Leatherwood. It’s a fast flow trail with small jumps and tabletops and big berms. I recommend starting on this one to get a sense of what to expect on the other trails, which all have bigger/harder features.

DH 4

Great mix of fast flow and rocky ledges/rock gardens. There is one big drop and a step-up (both optional) that are pretty high consequence. This is one of my favorites.

DH 5

Similar to DH 4. It is fast and flowy with bermed turns at the top and rocky and chunky toward the middle and bottom.

DH 2

My favorite! Great flow, medium-size features (one big gap jump), lots of bermed turns. This is one I could ride again and again.

DH 3

DH 3 is okay, but not my favorite. There’s a big log ramp drop that is cool, but intimidating. There’s also a good mix of flow and lots of rocks. When I rode it last, it was a little rutted out.

DH 1

This trail has some crazy features! A huge step-up, a ‘Lily Pad’, and other impressive highlights – natural and manmade. Even if you’re not an expert rider, I highly recommend doing this trail just to see it. There are go-arounds for all the major features.

DH 7

DH 7 is for the freerider’s out there. There’s a squirrel catcher feature at the start (see first photo) to weed out those who aren’t comfortable in the air (like me…). Like DH 1, there is some impressive rock work, but the jumps are bigger.

Mountain bike trail starting from central hub at Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project in Arkansas
The start of DH 5 from North Hub

Shuttle or pedal?

Isn’t the answer always shuttle? Just kidding (but not really…).

You do have the option of pedaling up to the top of Leatherwood Gravity Project via the Miner’s Rock Trail/South Hub Climb.

Miner’s Rock Trail is pretty well-built for a climbing trail, but you probably won’t want to do more than a few laps unless you’re on an e-bike.

If you want to fully experience the Lake Leatherwood DH trails, I highly recommend shuttling. You can book your shuttle by calling Slaughter Trail Guides, purchasing a pass through their website, or buying one with Venmo or cash when you get there.

Shuttle van pulling empty mountain bike trailer at Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project in Arkansas
Call ahead of time to make sure the shuttle is running

Safety at Leatherwood

I’m sure many mountain bikers have visited the hospital straight from Lake Leatherwood Gravity Park.

As a safety measure, there are numbered and colored markers along each trail so that you can quickly identify where you are so help can get to you as quickly as possible.

But it’s also up to you to keep yourself safe. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Look before you send. There are some big features at Lake Leatherwood. Pre-ride, re-ride, free-ride!
  • Keep tabs on what trail you’re on so help can be sent to the right place.
  • Make sure your bike is in great working order.
  • Carry a first-aid kit.
  • Don’t let ego overpower common sense.
  • Do not pedal up the downhill trails! (There are ‘do not enter’ signs)
Huge rock step-up jump on trail at Lake Leather mountain bike park in Arkansas
There are some big features at Leatherwood!

What about the XC trails Around the lake?

While the downhill trails are the reason most mountain bikers visit Lake Leatherwood, it’s worth pointing out that there are some pedal-accessed cross-country trails as well.

I’ve ridden most of them and they are… ok. Worth doing if you’ve already ridden the downhill trails, but not really worth doing as a destination.

You used to be able to ride across the dam at the end of the lake, which was pretty cool, but unfortunately, they’ve closed it off.

If you do want to pedal the XC trails, this 8-mile route is a good option. Skip Shoreline Trail if you want to cut out some hike-a-bike sections and technical riding.

Photo out over handlebars of mountain bike onto singletrack Lake Leatherwood trail in Arkansas
The cross-country trails around the lake are ok – not great, but worth checking out if you have time

Best time to visit

The downhill trails are open year-round and the shuttle runs on demand, so technically you can visit any time of the year.

I prefer spring and fall for the best weather and temps, but you can also visit during the summer (be prepared for heat and humidity).

Winter can be chilly and it does actually snow occasionally in Arkansas, so always check the weather and forecast before making your plans.

Camping & Accommodations

There are lots of hotels and places to stay in Eureka Springs, but if you want to be close to the trails, here are my two recommendations:

Lake Leatherwood City Park Campground

This is the campground near the base of the Lake Leatherwood DH trails. It is about a mile, or maybe a little less, to pedal to the shuttle pick-up, but it’s all flat and quite beautiful.

The campground offers:

  • RV sites with hook-ups
  • Non-electric tent/van sites (my personal pick as these sites are quieter)
  • Rental cabins
  • A (very dated) bathhouse with showers
  • Firewood
  • A small store with snacks and camping/fishing supplies

The campground does not offer:

  • A dump station

The RV area of the campground is pretty congested and not great, but the tent/non-electric area is better.

Van parked in meadow next to picnic table, fire ring, and gravel tent pad
I prefer the meadow camping at Lake Leatherwood becuase it’s quieter and less crowded

Topo Motel

If you prefer to stay in a hotel, the Topo Motel was recently purchased by Slaughter Trail Guides and sits at the top of the DH trails. It’s actually the shuttle drop-off point.

You can literally wake up, hop on your bike, and do a first lap before the shuttle even starts running.

Food truck parked in gravel lot at Lake Leather Gravity Project in Arkansas
The food truck is parked right next to the Topo Motel at the top of Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project

Other things to do At Lake Leatherwood

Lake Leatherwood is a destination for all outdoor lovers, not just mountain bikers. You can fish, swim, boat, hike, or just hang out on the grassy lawns.

It does get pretty busy during the summer months, so keep that in mind when making your travel plans and booking your campsite.

Final Thoughts

I LOVE visiting Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project. What the trail crew has built and developed is super impressive, not to mention a blast.

If you only have a day, I highly recommend doing the shuttle so you can make the most of your time on the trails and hit each of the 7 downhill runs (perhaps multiple times).

If you do like to pedal, the cross-country trails around the lake are ok – not great, but worth checking out if you have the time (and legs).

Have fun!

What questions do you have about Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project? Have you ridden here? What did you think? Is it on your bike-it list? Let me know in the comments!

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