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blueBlack Upper Buffalo Headwaters - IMBA EPIC

  4.2 ( 22 ) Favorite


20.2 mile 32.5 kilometer loop
90% Singletrack


Ascent: 2,194' 669 m
Descent: -2,202' -671 m
High: 2,512' 766 m
Low: 1,769' 539 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 23% (13°)


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Trail shared by Leslie Kehmeier


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Remote backcountry singletrack in the heart of the Ozarks.

Leslie Kehmeier

E-Bikes Unknown

Features -none-


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.


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.

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Dogs Allowed, Features, E-Bikes Allowed


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Jun 21, 2019
Peter Lundin
Trails are not maintained well enough to warrant coming to do this epic ride without some other local event +/- a couple weeks. 20.2mi — 5h 00m
Jun 13, 2019
Jon Smail
Fun trails, just dont go to Knuckles creek trailhead as overgrown and not marked, rode to tower trail 15mi — 2h 00m
Apr 20, 2019
Monica Rodriguez
Apr 20, 2019
Christian Figueroa
Jul 17, 2018
Jake Griffin
20mi — 4h 00m
May 22, 2018
Chris Lacher
Mar 14, 2018
Daniel Cox
Great trail and scenery. Use gps and plan ahead! Trail was in good shape and mostly well marked. 7.8mi — 3h 34m
Dec 16, 2017
James Brow
Definitely going back to do the whole loop. 6.7mi — 1h 46m

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  4.2 from 22 votes


  4.2 from 22 votes
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