Epicenter: Why Bentonville Should Be on Every Mountain Biker’s Hit List

Tucked into a valley on the Ozarks Plateau, this quiet borough is widely known as the home of Walmart’s corporate headquarters—but it’s also quickly becoming one of the top mountain bike communities in the region.

Over the last decade, this town of 40,000 has become a singletrack factory. By this coming fall, Bentonville and its vicinity will boast 100 miles of singletrack, rideable from its Mayberry-esque downtown square. From traditional singletrack to air-inspiring gravity trails, there are seemingly endless opportunities for two-wheeled fun. The town’s burgeoning mountain bike prowess is further exemplified by the fact that IMBA chose it for the site of this year’s World Summit in November.

The region as a whole offers some great riding, too. Rogers has a newly opened bike park featuring a slopestyle course, dirt jumps, and kid-friendly trails. Fayetteville is home to some of the best old-school technical riding in the region, and the Upper Buffalo Headwaters trails will take you deep into the backcountry. Plus, given the clientele that all these awesome trails attract, local businesses have emerged to make sure a cold beer and burrito are never far from the end of your ride. It’s a life-list quality destination for any mountain biker.

5 Great Places to Pedal

The Slaughter Pen and Blowing Springs Grand Tour

While the Slaughter Pen and Blowing Springs trail networks are two separate systems, together they make a nice half-to-full day of riding. The Slaughter Pen trails offer a lot of variety, including a fun gravity line called Medusa that’s filled with berms and jumps. Blowing Springs is a free-flowing singletrack that contours through hardwoods and around rocky cliffs.

Rogers Bike Park and Lake Atalanta

The trails at Lake Atalanta are the new kids on the block in this area, but they’re quickly becoming the go-to spot for anyone around Rogers. A ride here will take you around the lake on steep, punchy climbs and swooping descents.

The Rogers Bike Park is connected to the west end of Lake Atalanta, featuring big hit jumps and slopestyle features, as well as skills courses designed for newbies and kids.

Tom Bailey gets some air time at the new Rogers bike park.

Tom Bailey gets some air time at the new Rogers bike park.

Hobbs State Park

Hobbs State Park is within easy driving distance of Bentonville and has a full day of riding. Be sure to hit Little Clifty, the park’s biggest loop and the heart of the trail system. The loop is best enjoyed in the counter-clockwise direction. Riding it this way takes full advantage of a fun downhill section three-quarters of the way through.

Mt. Kessler

If you’re looking for a backcountry trail experience but don’t want to go too far out of Fayetteville, check out the trails on Mt. Kessler. More fit and experienced riders will find technical riding with plenty of climbs and descents connected by tight and twisty singletrack. Rock City is the highlight for most at Mt. Kessler with a short slot canyon experience through house-sized boulders.

The features that give Rock City Trai, part of the Mt. Kessler System, its name.

The features that give Rock City Trail, part of the Mt. Kessler System, its name.

Upper Buffalo Headwaters

The Upper Buffalo Trail System offers about 40 miles of singletrack surrounding the highest point in the Ozark Mountains. This gem of a ride laces through the headwaters of the Buffalo National River on a mixture of narrow, hand-built singletrack and machine-cut flow trails. The ride features some of the best experiences available—stunning scenery past steep cliffs, turquoise waterfalls, abundant wildlife, and old-growth hardwood forests.

The Best

Eats

Pressroom is a breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, bikes and beer kind of place that’s sure to satisfy any mountain biker’s craving. Right next door, you can find more caffeine at the Onyx Coffee Lab, showcased as a hip combination of art and science. Try the signature menu for a beverage served up as the sum of all its parts. For the more traditional two-wheeled fare, head over to SW A Street for wood-fired pizzas at Pedaler’s Pub and tasty beers at Bike Rack Brewing.

Camping

The closest camping option to Bentonville can be found at the Blowing Springs RV park. While it’s not the remote camping experience many look for, it has direct access to the Blowing Springs trails, as well as long ride options combined with the new Bella Vista trails to the north and Slaughter Pen trails to the south. Need something rustic with four walls and a door? Devil’s Den State Park, located about an hour south of Bentonville (via Fayetteville), has some luxurious cabins requiring nothing more than a bringing your own food.

Shop

Bentonville is blessed with multiple bikes shops. Phat Tire Bike Shop lives on the southwest corner of the downtown square and was founded by one of the core volunteers who helped build some of the original trails in the Slaughter Pen network. Mojo Cycling is just a few blocks away on S. Walton Boulevard. The owner has a strong local following with his “POD,” a daily e-mail blast that keeps locals up to date with the latest information on weather, trail conditions, and events.

Rest-Day Activity

It’s been said that visitors travel to Bentonville for the biking and the art. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a worthy rest day excursion, featuring five centuries of American works from the Colonial era to the present. Located within a pleasant walking and pedaling distance from the downtown square, the museum is free to the public and open every day except Tuesday.

Epicenter, created in partnership with PeopleForBikes, is a new series highlighting communities that have invested in cycling infrastructure and grown into full-blown mountain bike destinations as a result. PeopleForBikes aims to make riding better for everyone – whether you ride trails, through the neighborhood to the store, or all the way across town.

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