It starts with the natural terrain of Northwest Arkansas. The Ozark Mountains’ hills, valleys and bluffs carved from layers of ancient limestone created the perfect playground for mountain bikers. Add a community dedicated to sustainable recreation, and miles and miles of trails followed at a rapid clip. Local outfitters got into the game, intent on sharing their spectacular backyard with riders of all abilities, and mountain biking culture soon seeped into every strand of Bentonville’s dna.
From pitchy climbs and bumpy descents to jumps and tricks on breakaway singletrack, the trails of Northwest Arkansas offer thrilling, challenging rides. Streams carve through the sinewy terrain and lakes with rugged rock banks add awesome scenery along the ride.
Park your car downtown and find trailheads from beginner to expert within one block of the city square. The Slaughter Pen trailhead has clearly marked rides for all levels, from flowy singletrack to steep, technical climbs. Set off on a family ride on the All American Trail, a popular introduction to mountain biking that sticks close to civilization. Or commit to a full-day adventure and ride the Slaughter Pen and Blowing Springs trails that connect to the Back 40 loop. This trail near Bella Vista adds remote, wild terrain to the adventure.
Thrill seekers head to Coler Mountain Bike Preserve, located just a 5-minute ride from downtown. Coler is the only Mountain Biking Preserve on the planet, and its natural drops and jumps add the adrenaline boost experienced bikers seek. Man-made obstacles invite experienced riders to push their limits in this outdoor playground.
Tap into local knowledge and let pro guides lead the way to the best mountain and gravel biking experiences of your life. Local outfitters Ozark Bike Guides and Slaughter Trail Guides customize outings based on the skill level of the group, choosing which routes, elevation changes and obstacles will give riders a safe and satisfying experience. Plan half a day for a mellow introduction to the trails close to Bentonville. Plan a full day for group excursions that shuttle up to Bella Vista to access the Little Sugar Trail (with more climbing per mile than any other trail in the region) or over to Eureka Springs to access even more rides in the Oz Trails system.
37 North Expeditions and Shift Outdoors take it deeper into the woods to explore the network of trails that extends throughout Northwest Arkansas. Join 37 North on an overnight bike-packing trip for cyclists who want to camp outdoors and get back in the saddle for another day of riding. Shift Outdoors takes a less extreme approach to their Twilight Rides, for those who are in it for the scenic beauty. Either way, chances are your trip will culminate with new friends and cold beer back in downtown Bentonville.
Bentonville’s public art program features 100 sculptures and installments that pop up along trails, on the sides of buildings, and in some surprising places. Like everything in Bentonville today, a prevailing bike theme surfaces in the city’s public art. While exploring Bentonville on two wheels, these pieces may cause you to pull over for a quick shot.
Four massive Bike Towers pop up along the Razorback Greenway and other multi-use trails in town, named for their monochromatic approach taken on each piece. Each a mangled stack of discarded bike frames, the bases have working tire pumps. Look for Sassy the Sasquatch on trails near Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Sassy is an 11-foot monster covered in fur made from bike chains by Amanda Wilshire, the local artist who also created Monarch & Dandelion from discarded bike parts. Back in town, the mural outside Pedaler’s Pub suggests that like-minded individuals may be inside.
Bentonville makes the social side of riding as fun as the ride itself. The area’s “come as you are” attitude invites mountain bikers to take a break for pre- and post-ride camaraderie at popular attractions and restaurants. No need to change out of your kit to mingle with locals while enjoying everything from food trucks to High South cuisine, antique shops to art galleries. Even the major destinations such as Crystal Bridges and The Momentary welcome cyclists to hitch their bikes outside and come inside to experience all that Bentonville offers.
Cyclists find other cyclists up and down A Street, the main artery that leads to Crystal Bridges. Bike trails roll right by Pedaler’s Pub, where riders carb up on woodfired pizzas and beer. At The Hub Bike Lounge, tacos and gyros are on the menu while other nooks inside let riders gear up, rent a bike, and even have their bikes serviced. The High South cuisine at The Hive—inside 21C Museum Hotel—sources much of its protein and produce from area farms. Another high-end option, The Preacher’s Son, offers a seasonal menu in a historic church near the city square.
Find more bike-centric businesses throughout downtown. At Blu Fish House, end a day of riding with a plate of Arkansas catfish, sharable bites from the sushi bar, or a crawfish boil. At Bike Rack Brewing Co. in the 8th Street Market near The Momentary, grab beers named after the chutes and trails you just shredded and head to the patio. At Oven & Tap, just off the downtown square, savor a woodfired meatball pizza and mug of beer at communal tables. Street taos steal the show at Yeyo’s Mexican Grill, a family affair that extends to the farms that provide much of the meat and vegetables. Take it easy at The Dive Bar, a no frills hole in the wall where the PBR is cold and dogs are welcome on the patio.