Arkansas isn’t a place you automatically think of when planning a mountain bike trip, but let me tell you… Bentonville, Arkansas should absolutely be on your mountain biking radar. In the last couple of years, the Walton Foundation (under the leadership of the grandsons of the Walmart empire) has poured millions of dollars into Bentonville to build world-class mountain bike trails in and around town. Bentonville mountain biking covers dozens of miles of cross-country singletrack, professionally built jump lines with progressive features, trails that weave in and out of neighborhoods (many lined with random art), and a dialed bike park filled with hours of fun.
The Walton Foundation has also helped transform the tiny town of Bentonville from a typical southern working town into a classy destination with amazing restaurants, museums, public urban spaces, and yes, mountain bike trails right in town. It’s amazing.
And they know it. The town of Bentonville recently declared itself the Mountain Biking Capital Of The World and if they continue to do what they’re doing (rumor has it that there are plans in place to build 1,200 miles of singletrack between Bentonville and Little Rock over the next ten years) they will unquestionably live up to that name.
Ready to plan your trip to NWA? Here is everything you need to know about Bentonville mountain biking and how to plan an unforgettable trip!
(There’s a good chance that affiliate links are scattered throughout this post. If you click on one I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you and I’ll definitely be using it to buy bike gear.)
Important Things to Know about mountain biking in Bentonville
Trails are multi-use
Most trails in Bentonville are open to both mountain bikers and hikers. At Slaughter Pen Trails, there is a sign that says “bikers yield to hikers; hikers yield to bikers. We can all get along”, which I just love! Be courteous when passing and please share the trails.
The trails are professionally built and most of them are machine made
Why is this important to know? Because it means that 99% of the time, you can trust the trail builder. There are very, very few features and trails that will surprise you, which is great if you are learning new skills like jumps or drops. Everything is mostly well-signed, too.
Know your skill level
That being said above, know your skill level. There are a lot of big features in some of the trail networks like Coler Preserve and the Slaughter Pen Trails, so always scope your line and don’t try anything too outside your comfort zone.
It gets real hot and humid during the summer months
The average summer temps in Bentonville are in the upper 80’s, BUT the humidity during the summer months can reach mid 70%, which is muggy. If you visit Bentonville during the summer make sure you drink lots of water and stay hydrated.
The Bentonville mountain biking scene is hopping
The bike scene in Bentonville is exploding. Not just with locals, but with visitors as well. This is awesome, but it also means that the trails can be busy and trail traffic is definitely a thing. Something that I noticed and loved while I was in Bentonville was the lack of ego on the trail. There were no Stravassholes and there was no judgment or attitude. Let’s keep it this way!
Best Time to Ride Bentonville
Bentonville can technically be ridden all year long, but the summer months get hot. Real hot. And winters can be cold, rainy, and snowy. It’s best to visit during the shoulder seasons of April-May and September-October when the temps are perfect and the rain and humidity are minimal.
Bentonville mountain bike Trails & Routes
Like most areas, the mountain biking in Bentonville is spread out over a handful of networks. Much of the riding is cross-countryesque with options to hit features like drops and kickers off to the side. For mellower trails, Little Sugar and the Back 40 are a great place to start. If you want to step things up a notch, head to Coler Preserve. As mentioned above, most of the trails in Bentonville are multi-use. Be kind, be courteous, and have fun!
Little Sugar & The Back 40 (aka Blowing Springs)
Little Sugar and The Back 40 are the rolling cross-country areas of Bentonville. There are two big 20+ mile loops here: Tunnel Vision in Little Sugar and The Back 40 Loop. These two routes roll in and out of neighborhoods on mellow terrain with lots of well-built climbs and long, fast descents. Tunnel Vision flows slightly better than the Back 40 Loop, in my opinion, so if you only want to do one big cross-country day, I would recommend Tunnel Vision. If you’re not fancying a big ride, there are options for doing shorter loops, but overall this area is mainly machine-built cross-country riding with some tech thrown in over at the Back 40.
There are some new trails being built in Little Sugar that look like a mix of flow tracks with freeride features. They weren’t open when we visited this year, but hopefully they’ll be good to go when we return!
HOW TO LINK-UP LITTLE SUGAR & THE BACK 40:
Below are a few great cross-country loops to do north of Bentonville. Tunnel Vision basically has one big loop option or you can do the smaller Down Under Loop. There are lots of options for shorter loops over at Back 40:
Full Tunnel Vision Loop
Intermediate (because of length) | 25 miles | 3,100ft +/-
The Tunnel Vision loop in Bella Vista north of Bentonville is a long cross-country loop that weaves in and out of neighborhoods, up and down hills, through densely forested ravines, and along a meandering river.
It’s a really pretty pedal with very minimal tech. The route is mostly machine built, so it rolls well and it never feels like you’re pedaling uphill too much.
Note: the end of this route is a little different than what is shown on TrailForks. If you follow signs for Tunnel Vision you’ll end up finishing with Land Line, which has two climbs and two fun descents.
You can park anywhere along the Tunnel Vision Loop, but I recommend the Riordan Community Center Parking since you’ll have a nice downhill at the end. Ride the Tunnel Vision loop counterclockwise
Full Back 40 Loop
Intermediate (because of length) | 21 miles | 2,200 ft +/-
The Back 40 Loop is similar to the Tunnel Vision Loop but slightly less flowy. The trail passes by beautiful waterfalls, along ledgy cliffs, over bridges, and through pretty Oz forests.
It’s not technical at all (unless you detour onto The Ledges), but if you’re looking for a big cross-country day this will give you what you want. It’s best ridden counterclockwise
You can park anywhere along the loop, but I recommend the Blowing Springs Trailhead. Ride the Back 40 Loop counterclockwise
Back 40 Variety Loop
Intermediate/Expert | 16 miles | 1,218 ft +/-
This shorter loop in the Back 40 offers up a bit more tech than the 21-mile loop. The main attraction of this ride is The Ledges – a narrow trail with a small amount of exposure in places (for Arkansas), so if you’re not into heights, this may not be the ride for you.
Blowing Springs Trailhead > Back 40 Loop (counterclockwise) > The Ledges > The Back 40 Loop (clockwise) > Mulligan > Rago
SLAUGHTER PEN TRAILS
Slaughter Pen Trails is the mountain bike network located right in town. I mean right in town! You can literally catch singletrack trails from downtown Bentonville. It’s amazing.
These trails are a mix of old-school cross-country with minor tech and new-school flow with features like dirt jumps, drops, tabletops, and other super fun things to play around on. The higher-up trails tend to be more XC and less traveled while the lower-down trails have more features and are more popular.
One of Bentonville’s most popular trails is the iconic All-American Heroes. It’s a beginner-friendly semi-flow trail with tabletops, small gap jumps and other features sprinkled throughout. The last section at the northern end of the trail is great to lap if you’re looking to improve your jumping skills.
The Freeride Park is also a fun place to hang out. There are large dirt jumps to hone your doubles, three wooden drops that get progressively harder, and huge berms to practice your cornering. Don’t feel intimidated, here. Everyone is learning!
Other trails worth riding in the Slaughter Pen network are Bone Yard with its corkscrew wooden bridge, several large drops, and a couple of smaller drops if you’re working up to the big stuff. Schroen Train is a good mix of cross-country and freeride flow as is Tristan Trail. Choo Choo has fast berms and really good flow.
But honestly, you really can’t go wrong with any trails at Slaughter Pen! Go explore and have fun.
HOW TO LINK-UP THE SLAUGHTER PEN TRAILS:
Below are a few great loops and rides to do in the Slaughter Pen Trails. Personally, though, I wouldn’t recommend trying to stick to any one route. The Slaughter Pen trail network isn’t huge, so instead, I recommend choosing a few individual trails that you want to ride rather than committing to a route. The bike path runs right through the trail network, so it’s easy to get to and from different trails.
The Slaughter Pen Tour
Intermediate | 12.5 miles | 1,200 ft +/-
This is a good tour of the Slaughter Pen Trails with a mix of everything from flow to cross-country to tech to buffed. It’s easily customizable to your skill level and experience, so pick and choose what you want to ride. Warthog is rated a double black for its gap jumps and wallride, but there are go-arounds.
Main Parking > All-American Heroes > Boo Boo > Choo Choo > Boo Boo > Cry Baby > Rim Trail > Black Apple Creek > Ozone > Red Barn > Tristan Trail > Bike Path > Creek Trail > Downhill Connector > Black Bird > Warthog > Downhill Connector > Medusa > Armadillo’s Last Stand > Upper Angus Shoot > Angus Shoot > Razorback Ridge > Bike Path > Rocking Horse > Crystal Bridges Bike Path
Ozark 15 Fun Ride
Intermediate | 14 miles | 850 ft +/-
Another great tour of the Slaughter Pen Trails. This route is pretty similar to the one above, but hits slightly different trails like Apple Dumplin’ and Tatamagouche. Again, it’s very easily customizable so choose your own adventure!
Main Parking > All-American Heroes > Black Apple Creek > Apple Dumplin’ > Tiger Tail > Ozone > Red Barn > Tristan Trail > Bike Path > Creek Trail > Downhill Connector > Tatamagouche > Armadillo’s Last Stand > Bike Path > Razorback Ridge > Angus Chute > All-American Heroes > Upper Angus Chute > Ozone > All-American Heroes
If you only have time to visit one mountain bike network in Bentonville, make it Coler Preserve. This place is frickin’ awesome. The trails in the preserve are set up to be lapped and you could spend a full day here doing just that.
Many of the downhill trails start at The Hub, which is an elevated launchpad with ramps dropping into different trails. There’s everything from beginner-friendly jump lines at Coler Preserve to huge drops and technical features. There are also several cross-country loops if you’re not into getting air.
Fire Line is probably the most popular trail in Coler Preserve if not all of Bentonville. It’s a mile-long downhill flow/jump line with perfectly dialed tabletops and jumps. It’s suited for beginner-intermediate-level riders working on their jumping skills.
If you want to step things up a bit, Cease And Desist has bigger jumps, tabletops, and drops and also accesses the famous Drop The Hammer drop that takes a bit of self-encouragement to hit. There’s also Rock Soft and Rock Solid that have a mix of jumps and technical rock gardens.
For those that just want some cross-country pedaling, the Oscar Loop circles the perimeter of Coler Preserve and is great for beginner/intermediate riders.
HOW TO LINK-UP COLER PRESERVE:
There isn’t one ‘best’ loop in Coler Preserve. Most people ride up Oscar Loop to The Hub and just keep lapping the downhill trails from there. If you want a ride that is a little more structured, here is a good loop that hits the most popular trails.
Coler Preserve Tech Loop
Intermediate/Expert | 7 miles | 615 ft +/-
This loop hits most of the popular trails in Coler Preserve including Fire Line, Drop The Hammer and Rock Solid. It’s not a beginner loop, but it can be easily modified for your skills and abilities. Expect lots of jumps, drops, tabletops, and rock gardens!
3rd Street Parking > Oscar Loop Access > Oscar Loop > Fire Line > Oscar Loop > Cease And Desist > Drop The Hammer > Oscar Loop > Rock Solid (or Rock Soft) > Oscar Loop > Copperhead Road > Oscar Loop Access
4. The Railyard
Ok, so truthfully I didn’t even know about The Railyard until several weeks after we visited Bentonville, but to be fair, it was still under renovation and slated to reopen in November 2020 (we visited in October). But the pictures look sick.
The Railyard is a huge skills and jump park in Rogers, Arkansas, about 20 minutes east of Bentonville. There are 8 jump lines ranging from beginner rollers to pro-only sends and there all the features you can imagine: wallrides, pump tracks, ramps, tabletops, drops, and so much more. There’s even a small network of flow and cross-country trails adjacent to the bike park.
When I visited Bentonville I was thinking that it was missing something like the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, but nope. I just didn’t know that the Railyard existed 🤷♀️.
Learn more about the Railyard Bike Park on their Facebook Page.
Bentonville Mountain Bike Shops, Rentals, & Tours
Phat Tire Bike Shop – Phat Tire Bike Shop is a full-service bike shop with several locations throughout Northwest Arkansas including Bentonville, Fayetteville, Bella Vista, and Rogers. They have mountain bike rentals, a service shop, guided tours, and lots of knowledge about Bentonville area mountain biking | (479) 715-6170
Mojo Cycling – Mojo Cycling in Bentonville offers bike rentals, full-service tune-ups and fixes, bike fitting, and lots of shop gear and accessories to keep you looking good and riding great on the trail. | (479) 271-7201
The HUB – The HUB is part bike shop, part lounge with the intention of creating a gathering space for Bentonville’s bike enthusiasts (see below for food/drink offerings). Their full-service bike shop provides rentals, tune-up’s repairs, and a curated selection of bike parts and apparel.
Gearhead Experience Center – Gearhead Experience Center is a Specialized bike rental and demo center in Bentonville. Choose from a fleet of high-end Specialized bikes including their Turbo Levo e-Bike! | (479) 657-2135
Spoke Adventures – Located in downtown Bentonville, Spoke Adventures provides rental mountain bikes, e-bikes, and city bikes to explore around town on | (479) 856-1766
Slaughter Trail Guides – When we were in Bentonville, Andy and I signed up for skills coaching with Slaughter Trail Guides to work on our jumping. It was awesome! They are super professional, knowledgeable, and great instructors and guides. I highly recommend them if you’re looking to improve your skills or get a guided tour around Bentonville | Book Here
Ozark Bike Guides – Choose from a variety of guided tours in and around Bentonville including mountain biking, gravel bike, greenway tours, and more. They also offer skills coaching to help improve bike handling, jumping, cornering, and more | Book Here
Where To Eat & Drink in Bentonville
Food & Drink
Bentonville has no shortage of great restaurants, coffee shops, and bars! Here were a few of my favorites:
Tusk & Trotter: A gastropub offering locally sourced food and drink in a rustic, chic setting. Their craft cocktails are delicious and their menu has something for everyone.
The Preacher’s Son: Located in a restored church, this upscale restaurant is worth the splurge if you’re feeling fancy.
Crepes Paulette: GO HERE. Seriously, you’ll want to eat their crepes every morning for breakfast. Delicious stuffed authentic French buckwheat crepes. ‘nuff said.
Oven & Tap: If you’re craving pizza, Oven & Tap is where you should head. Tasty wood-fired pizza (among other wood-fired options) in a chic setting with a full bar and lots of local beer options.
Bar Cleeta: A New American restaurant located in downtown Bentonville. They serve small plates that are meant to be shared.
Tavola Trattoria: A casual Italian bistro that serves delicious pasta and other hearty Italian favorites.
Flying Fish: A laid-back diner-style fish restaurant with a cajun twist. They have a huge menu and serve everything from jambalaya to poor boys.
Buttered Biscuit: If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast before a big day out on the trails, head to Buttered Biscuit. They have two locations in Bentonville and serve big breakfasts with a southern flair.
The HUB: Head to The HUB for a pre-ride coffee and stay for a post-ride snack and cocktail! In addition to a full-service bike shop, The HUB offers a gathering place for Bentonville’s bike enthusiasts including a cocktail lounge, patio seating, lots of beer selections, and a tapas-style menu.
Where to stay in Bentonville
Surprisingly, there’s not a ton of camping in and around Bentonville. Below are the only two campgrounds near Bentonville that I know of. (With all the trail and city development going on, though, I have a feeling more campgrounds will be popping up in the near future).
Blowing Springs RV Park – A nice RV and tent camping park in Bella Vista north of Bentonville. It’s close to the Tunnel Vision and Back 40 loops.
Coler Preserve – There is a primitive campground in Coler Preserve that allows car camping (no motorhomes or pull-behind trailers. I’m not sure about vans). The sites don’t have water, but there are shower/bathroom facilities, a bike wash/repair station, and a community fire pit.
There are a lot of great hotel options in Bentonville if you don’t want to camp. Use the map below the check rates and availability.
Find Out More about Bentonville mountain biking
Have you experienced Bentonville mountain biking for yourself? What did you think? Does it live up to my hype? What were your favorite trails and things to do? Leave a comment below!