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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.
Lake Leatherwood DH Park at a Glance
Lake Leatherwood Trails Map
Prefer MTB Project? See map here.
Important Things to Know
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.
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:
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.
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.
Similar to DH 4. It is fast and flowy with bermed turns at the top and rocky and chunky toward the middle and bottom.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
The campground does not offer:
The RV area of the campground is pretty congested and not great, but the tent/non-electric area is better.
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.
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.
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).
Looking for more two-wheeled Arkansas adventures? Check out these related blog posts:
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!