Upper Buffalo Headwaters - IMBA Epic

 7 votes
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Featured Ride
Trail

20.2 Miles 32.5 Kilometers


90%

Singletrack

2,194' 669 m

Ascent

-2,202' -671 m

Descent

2,512' 766 m

High

1,769' 539 m

Low

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

23%

Max Grade (13°)

Unknown

Update

Remote backcountry singletrack in the heart of the Ozarks.

Leslie Kehmeier

Overview

The Upper Buffalo Mountain Bike Trail offers about 40 miles of singletrack surrounding the highest point in the Ozark Mountains. This gem of a Midwest ride laces through the headwaters of the Buffalo National River on a mixture of narrow, hand-built singletrack and machine-cut flow trails.

The Epic ride features some of the best experiences available - stunning scenery past steep cliffs, turquoise waterfalls, abundant wildlife and old-growth hardwood forests.

Need To Know

The trails at Upper Buffalo are extremely remote. Come prepared with plenty of food and water as well as a big sense of adventure. Depending on your route, you may be required to carry your bike through multiple water crossings.

Description

Start just below Fire Tower Loop Trail on Knuckles Creek Road Trail. Pedal up a short climb and then descend through big trees and berms on Fire Tower Loop Trail. The end of this trail transitions directly to Fire Tower Trail. From here continue through a few more banked turns and sections of slabby rocks to a wider trail and corridor. Enjoy a few big drops and berms at the bottom before reaching the intersection with Knucklehead Trail West.

The forest closes back in here as you climb slightly and then descend gradually into the main Knuckles Creek drainage. Be prepared for several minor water crossing throughout this section. And don't forget to have a soak in the waterfall when you get to the bottom!

From the waterfall keep pedaling through the bottom of the valley through a beautiful section of rocky cliffs, out to Knuckles Creek Road Trail. From here, continue on to Azalea Connect Trail.

Stay straight on Azalea Falls Trail at intersection 23 and 22 and settle in for one of the best trails in the system. The dense forest eventually gives way to big trees, boulders and cliffs as you climb both gradual and steep sections along the route. The last bit of the trail winds through some house-sized boulders directly above the creek and the falls.

Roll out to the end of Azalea Falls Trail and connect to Sidewinder Trail via Connector: Ancients, Skyline, Zeester. on easy terrain. Sidewinder Trail is a steady climb with a few rocky sections on overgrown trail.

Stay left at the top and get ready for a rowdy descent on Wildcat Trail - expect lots of rocks, roots and tight turns. At the bottom, transition onto Twisted Hickory Trail, a traversing trail that has plenty of tech sections and one difficult but short climb.

Stay left at the end of Twisted Hickory Trail and descend Zeester all the way down to Buffalo Creek Trail. This part of the ride is very adventurous with several water crossings, most of which require wading the creek and carrying your bike.

After the last crossing, pedal onto intersection 8 and connect with Southern Slide Trail. From here the route climbs up from the creek on a quick, grinding climb to the South Bench Loop Trail. Stay right on South Bench Loop Trail and follow the contour through the hardwood forest back to the Azalea Falls Trail and out to Knuckles Creek Road Trail.

Finish the route with an easy pedal back up the road to the beginning of the ride.

History & Background

Almost 20 years ago, some families living in the headwaters area, where the trail now resides, decided to start building trails that would take them to the area's most beautiful spots but, unlike most trails built in Arkansas at the time, these would be ridden by mountain bikes. They built 3040 miles of rough cut trails that were technical and tough. After years of working with the U.S. Forest Service and with considerable negotiation, a plan was put together to improve the trails and make them accessible to all mountain bikers. Working with the Ozark Off-Road Cyclists (OORC) and the Walton Family Foundation, funding was put in place to have the trails professionally built. Progressive Trail Design was hired to do their magic, and the rest is history.

Contacts

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3.9 from 7 votes


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Check-Ins

Jun 1, 2016
Matthew Miller
Trails are in dire need of some TLC, 5 miles in I couldn't wait to get back to the car, cut the ride in half — 1h 15m
May 12, 2016
David Asselin
LOTS of water! but with rocky soil virtually no mud. LOTS of growth esp. Ancients trail! the fat bike was right tool this day! 15mi — 2h 11m
Feb 21, 2016
Tomas Rofkahr
Not a soul around.
Jan 30, 2016
ElizaBeth Heier
Completed the UBHWC Full distance -- lots and lots of climbing. Weather was perfect and trails were pretty dry. Just a few soft spots. 41.9mi
Jan 6, 2016
Aaron Mayfield
Gorgeous trail. A bit wet and muddy in spots, but still very rideable. A couple of trees were down, and a mudslide has messed up a small section o... 26.4mi
Dec 5, 2015
Tomas Rofkahr
Trail was in great condition - wet spots on the south facing hills only. 18.9mi — 2h 58m
Nov 23, 2015
Ryan Brooks
Nov 1, 2015
Marcus Troxell
18mi — 3h 00m

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Trail Ratings

  3.9 from 7 votes

#1305

Overall
  3.9 from 7 votes
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Rankings

#17

in Arkansas

#1,305

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5,633 Since Apr 14, 2015
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It's all here and it's all close to town, where you can enjoy all the amenities of a city while embracing that small town feeling. With numerous activities to choose from, you can break your vacation up and try any number of world class activities right from your doorstep, from downhill skiing in the winter, white water rafting in the spring, whale watching in the summer, salmon viewing in the autumn, the possibilities are simply endless. Best Mountain Bike Under : $500 http://empiremountainbikes.com/ Sep 28, 2015


Awesome trail. The parts we rode were very well marked, with the exception of the link between Sidewinder and Skyline. Luckily we came across some locals that gave us a head's up about that section. Also the "big loop" here on MTBProject shows taking Azalea Falls counterclockwise, but, again, a local told us it's better clockwise, and boy was it ever. Overall, we were very impressed. Trail has great flow and scenery. Nov 12, 2015


no longer seems maintained, or at least not well. being what appeared the first on the trail we hit more huge spiders and webs than fun mountain bike obstacles. all the attention seems to be on/near bentonville trails. if you want to be in the woods alone, this is your place, otherwise not worth the trip. Oct 15, 2016


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