If you’re scratching your head wondering what kind of mountain biking is to be had in the deep South state of Arkansas, then chew on this; the IMBA’s 2016 world summit was held in Arkansas.
Over the past 10 years or so Arkansas, realizing the growing popularity of the sport, has been quietly investing in its mountain biking infrastructure.
Still not impressed?
How about the fact that Arkansas, on the bottom half of the country’s states when it comes to size and population, is home to five IMBA Epic MTB trails, which ties it with California for most IMBA Epics in the country.
It’s not difficult to see what part of the state is ground zero for this mountain biking expansion. Bentonville, with its location in the northwestern part of the state amid the Ozark mountains, has embraced the MTB industry, quickly turning itself into a southeastern MTB hub town.
Although most of the state’s best trails are located in and around Bentonville, mountain biking is also making inroads in other parts of the state, including around centrally-located Little Rock.
Here are 10 of the best mountain bike trails in Arkansas.
1. Slaughter Pen, Bentonville
Accessible from the middle of Bentonville is Slaughter Pen. This trail will instantly tell you that Northwest Arkansas is no joke when it comes to mountain biking.
The trail is well designed with fast-flow and well-built switchback berms that at times seem unending, creating that roller coaster feel that all MTBers lust after.
Slaughter Pen is set up as a series of short loops, allowing you to create the difficulty level and length you want. Freeriders should check out Tatamagouche, which features jumps, drops, and a series of wooden features.
Once gassed, simply ride into the middle of town for a burger and a beer.
2. Upper Buffalo Trail System, Jasper
Upper Buffalo is one Arkansas’ IMBA Epic rated trails. What that should tell you is that the trail is challenging and that it will take you deep into the wilds of the Ozarks.
This is pure cross country mountain biking at its best. The trail is rugged, often leaf-covered singletrack. Make sure you know where you’re going as side trails weave in and out.
Among the obstacles, you’ll encounter are water crossings, with some that require you to remove your shoes and carry your mountain bike as you wade across. You’ll also face some technical climbs and plenty of rocky terrains.
3. Cedar Glades Park Loop, Hot Springs National Park
Proof that mountain biking isn’t just a sport for northeast Arkansas is Northwoods, located in central Arkansas just outside Little Rock. This trail, completed just less than two years ago by an IMBA Trails Solutions crew, is already one of the most popular in the state.
Northwoods includes all the benefits of modern trail design including, most importantly, plenty of flow. This trail winds through woodlands on a mix of hard-packed dirt and rock, skirting hillsides on bench cut trail.
Well-timed wooden features, berms, and jumps add to the thrill of this flow trail. There are even a few rock gardens thrown in for good measure.
4. Blowing Springs, Bella Vista
What makes the Blowing Springs one of the best trails in Arkansas is the fact that it has a little bit of everything.
This 20-mile plus loop has rugged and rocky trails with technical ascents and fast descents all while riding through the wooded backyards of a suburban neighborhood. The trail even runs through a golf course at one point.
The real gem of this loop is The Ledges. This technical trail primarily follows a ledge along a mountainside with plenty of downhill flow. This is experts only with drop-offs of up to 40 ft just a few feet off the trail.
5. Enders Fault, Greenbrier
Enders Fault is a classic cross country mountain biking trail located in the center of the state just north of Little Rock. The trail winds through forests of hardwoods and cedar, using a mix of fire road and single track trails.
With its relatively smooth and wide terrain, sections of this trail run faster than your typical technical cross country trail.
Enders Fault features fast descents and some short but challenging climbs. You’ll also face some technical but fun stream crossing. The trail mostly meanders through woods with a few exposed bench cut sections that skirt hillsides.
6. The Womble, Mount Ida
The womble is an Arkansas’ First IMBA Epic, so you know you’re in for challenge and adventure with this ride.
As most IMBA Epics do, the Womble heads off into the backwoods. In this case, you’ll explore the Ouachita Mountains as you follow this 35 miles plus trail. The terrain is a mix of loose rock and packed dirt with a tricky creek crossing and plenty of long climbs followed by heart-pumping descents.
Have your camera phone ready as there are many opportunities to stop and take in excellent views of the surrounding mountain ridges.
7. Iron Mountain, Arkadelphia
There aren’t many mountain biking trails in the southern part of the state, but there are a couple worth mentioning, and one of those is Iron Mountain.
This trail opens by winding through wooded areas and up and down hillsides. The terrain of mostly rocky soil makes for a very fast albeit bumpy ride.
After using a paved road to connect to the second set of trails, you’ll hit a mix of fire roads and technical singletrack while encountering sustained climbs and quick downhills.
Make sure to check out the White Zone section of this trail system, which is more flow and features many great views of Degray Lake.
8. Syllamo, Mountain View
This IMBA Epic in the rugged mountains of the northern part of the state offers an exceptional cross country mountain biking experience in a series of loops covering some 50 miles of single track.
Syllamo includes everything you would expect from an IMBA epic trail; long climbs, technical terrain, difficult descents, a backwoods setting, and stunning overlooks.
Highlights include a rock stairway to descend and some wide, but fun, stream crossings, and many thrilling descents. This road is very rocky and rooty in some sections, so a full suspension bike and self-sealing tubeless tires are recommended.
9. Mt. Kessler, Farmington
With its rugged terrain and natural beauty, the trails at Mt. Kessler offers a backwoods mountain biking feel without having to go very far from civilization.
Located just outside Fayetteville and Farmington, this trail system features more than 16 miles of trails with the most popular loop being the intermediate Kessler Loop.
The loop begins with a difficult climb that is rewarded with excellent views. The ascent is followed by a rocky and technical downhill section with plenty of berms for keeping your speed high. One of the highlights is a narrow trail that squeezes through a series of 12-foot high boulders.
10. Lake Leatherwood, Eureka Springs
An amazing set of flow and free ride trails make up this relatively new MTB park located just south of the Missouri border at the northeastern most part of the state.
Opened just a couple of years ago, Lake Leatherwood adheres to the current trend in flow trails with smooth and flat terrain that mostly skirts the hills and ridges of the Ozark mountains.
The main attraction of this trail park is its double black diamond, which features a massive jump created out of a rock. This is an all flow trail broken up by periodic sections of rocks that add a nice technical element.