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Arkansas isn’t a place you might automatically think of when it comes to amazing singletrack, but let me tell you, Bentonville mountain biking is becoming world-renown for its purpose-built trails and fun, artsy trail features.
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.
Why mountain bike in Bentonville?
Over the past few 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 as well as help transform the town of Bentonville into classy destination with amazing restaurants, museums, public urban spaces, and yes, mountain bike trails right in town. It’s amazing.
The Bentonville mountain biking scene 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 funky, random art), a glow-in-the-dark trails (what!?) and a dialed bike park filled with hours of fun.
Thanks to all the work that has gone into transforming this town, it also boasts really cool bike community vibes perfect for families and outdoor lovers.
Important Things to Know
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 really 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. S
omething 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!
5 Mountain Bike Trail Networks in Bentonville
Like most mountain bike destinations, 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.
There are 5 main mountain bike trail networds to explore. That being said, there is a ton more riding in Northwest Arkansas and I plan to write another guide that covers trail networks outside of Bentonville once I spend more time there (or move there?).
- Little Sugar, Blowing Springs, and the Back 40
- Slaughter Pen Trails
- Coler Preserve
- Handcut Hollow
- The Railyard & Lake Atlanta
1. Little Sugar, Blowing Springs, & The Back 40
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.
Little Sugar is also home to the Huntley Gravity Zone. This area was under construction when I visited, but it’s now open and ready to rip! You’ll find short downhill jump lines and flow trails for all levels. There is a dedicated climb trail so you can easily lap the descents. (Note: the Huntley Gravity Zone isn’t on the big Little Sugar Loop. You’ll need to take the trail Uphill Both Ways to access it).
I didn’t get to ride the Blowing Springs area, but it’s located between Little Sugar and the Back 40. From the research I’ve done and photos on TrailForks, it looks like this small area has a huge variety of terrain from cross-country flow to jump lines to cool features like a trail that goes straight through an old RV.
2. Slaughter Pen Trails
The Slaughter Pen Trails make up 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!
3. Coler Preserve
If you only have time to visit one mountain bike network in Bentonville, make it Coler Preserve. This place is 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 down 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.
Need a snack? Be sure to hit up Airship Coffee, which is located in the middle of the Coler Preserve trails and can only be accessed by foot or bike. You can also book a site at the Coler Campground if you want to shred sunup to sundown.
4. Handcut Hollow
Handcut Hollow is actually a newer addition to the Bentonville mountain biking scene. This network wasn’t hadn’t been build when I last visited, so I don’t know too much about it other than that it’s within easy pedaling distance to the Slaughter Pen Trails (one mile on-road) and the photos look great!
It’s also home to Zone 4 – the most challenging climb in Bentonville.
5. The Railyard & Lake Atlanta
Ok, so truthfully I didn’t even know about The Railyard until several weeks after I visited Bentonville, but to be fair, it was still under renovation.
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 all the other 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 – the Lake Atlanta trail network.
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.
Best mountain bike trails in Bentonville + Route Recommendations
Full transparency, I have not ridden every single trail or trail network in Bentonville (I tried!). I was there for 10 days and rode a lot, but there’s so much riding there and I didn’t cover every trail. Below is a guide to what I did ride and I’ll be back for sure, so I’ll continue to update this post as I explore Bentonville mountain biking further.
As mentioned above, most of the trails in Bentonville are multi-use. Be kind, be courteous, and have fun!
5 Must-ride trails in Bentonville
There are SO many great trails in Bentonville, but here are my highlights:
- Fire Line (Coler Preserve, Intermediate)
- Boo Boo and Choo Choo (Slaughter Pen Trails, Beginner/Intermediate)
- Tunnel Vision &/or Back 40 Loop (Tunnel Vision/Back 40, Intermediate) IF you like cross-country!
- Boom Diggity (Blowing Springs, Advanced)
- The Ledges (Back 40, Advanced)
3 Fun Route Recommendations
To be honest, it’s really hard to give specific route recommendations for most of the riding in Bentonville because the trail networks are so compact.
If you’re heading to Slaughter Pen, Coler Preserve, or Handcut Hollow, it’s really best to just set off and explore rather than try to follow a specific route. Use the Must-Ride trail recommendations above and build your rides from there.
The below route recommendations are for Tunnel Vision and the Back 40 since these networks have trails that are spread farther apart.
If you are someone who likes to have a set route, here are a few top choices for Slaughter Pen, Coler Preserve, and Handcut Hollow:
- The Slaughter Pen Tour
- Tour de Slaughter Pen
- Coler Preserve Cross-Country Route
- Handcut Hollow Traverse
1. Tunnel Vision Loop
Route directions: Multiple starting points along the route but I recommend Riordan Community Center Parking because you’ll have a nice downhill at the end > you can ride it clockwise or counterclockwise
The Tunnel Vision loop, located 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, so best suited for XC riders since it’s quite long and has almost 3,000 ft of climbing.
Make it shorter
There are a number of ways to make this loop shorter if you don’t want to do the full 25-mile loop. Little Sugar is essentially made up of four quadrants and you can ride each quadrant as its own loop. Some of the inner trails are better than others.
There’s also a 5.5 mile Down Under Loop that doesn’t actually include the Tunnel Vision Trail, but it features a lot of the same terrain in a smaller package. Ride it counterclockwise
Add jumps and drops
If you want to do some pedaling, but also want to work in some jumps and features, find your way to the Huntley Gravity Zone in the center of Tunnel Vision where you’ll find skill park features like jumps, drops, and large berms.
2. Back 40 Loop
The Back 40 Loop is similar to the Tunnel Vision Loop but slightly less flowy, although a lot of riders prefer it over Tunnel Vision because it has more interesting trail features. The trail passes by beautiful waterfalls, along ledgy cliffs, over bridges, and through pretty Oz forests.
The main trail itself isn’t overly technical, but you can add on harder trails if you want a challenge. The Back 40 Loop is best ridden counterclockwise.
Make it shorter
There are several options to make this loop shorter like this Shorter Back 40 Route. Be sure to bring a map and have TrailForks or MTB Project downloaded to your phone as it’s easy to get lost here.
Make it harder
There are several trails in the Back 40 that can up the game. The Ledges is definitely one of them with narrow rock ledges to traverse and some exposure. You can also descend down Flo Ride to Summit School to Rago to cut off some pedaling and add more challenging features.
3. Back 40 Variety Loop
If you’re looking for a bit of a challenge, but still enjoy cross-country riding this is a great loop in the Back 40/Blowing Springs area. The Ledges is the highlight trail will narrow rock ledges to traverse and some moderate exposure. Be sure to take Boom Diggity back to the car!
Make it longer
Add on to your ride by doing the 4-mile Blowing Springs Loop.
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 also hosts several mountain bike events if you want your trip to coincide with a shindig. Bentonville Bike Fest happens in June and OuterBike comes to town in October.
Bike Shops, Rentals, & Tours
If you’re looking for a bike rental, tune-up, skills lessons, or private tour, here are a few local businesses that can help you out:
- Phat Tire Bike Shop: 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
- Mojo Cycling: located in Bentonville. They offer 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.
- The HUB: part bike shop and 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-ups, repairs, and a curated selection of bike parts and apparel.
- Gearhead Experience Center: a Specialized bike rental and demo center in Bentonville. Choose from a fleet of high-end Specialized bikes including their Turbo Levo e-Bike!
- 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: during my first visit to Bentonville, I signed up for skills coaching with Slaughter Trail Guides to work on our jumping. It was awesome! They are super professional and knowledgeable. I highly recommend them if you’re looking to improve your skills or get a guided tour around Bentonville
- 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
- Women of Oz: if you’re a womxn and in Bentonville on the first Saturday of every month, be sure to sign up for the Women of Oz Flagship ride. There are several different groups based on skill level and each ride is no-drop so you can relax and have fun. Some rides even do skills coaching. You must register in advance to grab your spot.
Where To Eat & Drink in Bentonville
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, although that is changing quickly. Below are the only two campgrounds near Bentonville that I know of plus a place to park your van. (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.
- The Bike Inn – In addition to rooms (see below) The Bike Inn also offers 6 parking/camping spots for vans up to 25 feet long. There is electricity and water onsite, but no RV dump.
There are a lot of great hotel options in Bentonville if you don’t want to camp. For a super bike-friendly hotel check out The Bike Inn just south of Downtown. Visit Bentonville also has a list of bike-friendly hotels.
What questions do you still have about Bentonville mountain biking? If you’ve already ridden there, does it live up to the hype? Leave a comment below!