Whether it’s fat tires, skinny tires, mountain, paved or gravel grinder trails and routes, The Natural State is ready to host your next event
With Arkansas’s varied terrain being ideal for all levels of competition and new trails and routes being added every year, it’s understandable why Arkansas is a world-class cycling destination. Along with some great rides, there are communities across the state ready to add their support.
The League of American Cyclists has designated Fayetteville, Rogers and Washington County, Little Rock, North Little Rock and Conway as official Bicycle Friendly Communities. Bentonville, Fayetteville and Hot Springs have been recognized by the International Mountain Bicycling Association as Ride Centers and Northwest Arkansas as a Regional Ride Center for its world-class amenities.
Mountain Biking in Arkansas
In its most recent listing, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) shared that Arkansas has 1,210 mountain trail miles. From their top 20 Arkansas mountain trails list, 16 are ranked intermediate or intermediate/difficult and located throughout the state from Hot Springs to Prairie Creek to Arkadelphia and beyond.
These four were ranked difficult:
Located in Northwest Arkansas’s Mount Nebo State Park, near Dardanelle, the Chickalah Valley Loop Trail features great rock work, jumps, drops and marvelous views. The Ledges is a Black Diamond/Difficult trail for advanced riders.
Carrying the humble name of Best Trail Ever is one of the Fitzgerald Trails. The Fitzgerald Mountain trail in Springdale deserves mention for its stretches of dirt and boulders knit together for some challenging trails. Schroen Train is the most technical of the Slaughter Pen Trails system. Like Arkansas’s entire mountain trail system, the developers and builders took what the local geology offered and created amazing mountain trails.
IMBA recognizes five Arkansas trails as Epic Trails. These trails promise a “true backcountry riding experience,” which is physically and technically challenging, at least 20 miles in length (Arkansas’s Epic Trails exceed 20 miles) and 80 percent single track.
Womble Trail is an epic mountain bike trail and a key element of the annual Ouachita Challenge. Syllamo Trail, Mountain View is a series of loops that interconnect for a 50-mile single-track ride. From the lake’is south side Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT) features climbs that lead to spectacular views of the lake. Located in Kingston, Upper Buffalo Headwaters, Peddigrew in the heart of the Ozarks, is 40 miles surrounding the mountain’s highest peak. Ouachita National Recreation Trail is remote, rugged and possibly the longest mountain bike trail in Arkansas.
The first in a collection of Arkansas State Park Monument Trails opened in 2019. It is a project of the nonprofit Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation and funded through private donations, including a $2 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation. IMBA along with Adventure Projects, Inc created the initial Mountain Bike Trail Project Monument Trails. The funding supported the opening of the first Monument Trail at Hobbs State Park.
Innovative building techniques by some of the nation’s best builders along with Arkansas’s unique terrain are making the MTB project, Monument Trails world-class mountain biking destinations. The Hobbs State Park Monument Trail in Rogers complements the Hidden Diversity Trail System and raises the level of mountain biking. Mount Nebo State Park Monument Trails in Dardanelle is second and features a 25-mile Monument Trail system. Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock has almost a dozen trails and is the third Monument Trail system. Four of the trails are rated difficult and very difficult.
Road Cycling in Arkansas
Arkansas’s beautiful, natural scenery lends itself quite nicely if road cycling is more your style. The Razorback Regional Greenway is a 72-mile round trip primarily off-road, shared-use trail connecting the downtowns of Fayetteville, Johnson, Springdale, Lowell, Rogers and Bentonville. The ride is suitable for all skill levels and the surface is skinny-tire friendly.
The Arkansas River Trail is an 88-mile loop through the diverse geographies of Central Arkansas’s metropolitan area, including Little Rock, North Little Rock, Maumelle and Conway. The shared use trails provide opportunities for all fitness levels and interests. More than 5,000 acres of federal, state and local parkland were used to create the trail.
In Rogers a natural surface bike park, The Railyard, has a variety of elements that will suit riders of any skill level. Unique to Arkansas and attracting visitors from adjoining states, the slope style park is a cross between BMX and mountain biking. Each of the four lines has an expanding difficulty level. A paved trail to Lake Atalanta Park and an off road to Lake Atalanta or Pleasant Ridge trails depart from The Railyard.
Throughout the year, Arkansas communities and organizers host more than two dozen mountain bike events and more than 15 road events. Throughout the bicycling world, the majority of events have been cancelled or postponed until 2021. Here are just a few to get you thinking about 2021 and beyond.
Level 2 Certification of the IMBA is a regional event hosted in Bentonville with additional events taking place in Rogers. Entrances to mountain and paved trails from The Railyard are a nice addition to any competition.
Rogers Cycling Festival features several road races and mountain bike events around downtown Rogers. The event draws competitors and enthusiasts from throughout the central region with races for the high-level rider and fun, family rides, too. USA Cycling has sanctioned a three-race Omnium option for competitive cyclists. You have to love the name Big Dam Bridge 100, Arkansas’s largest cycling tour. Elevated 90 feet above the Arkansas River the Big Dam Bridge connects more than 14 miles of riverside trails in Little Rock and North Little Rock. The Big Dam Bridge is 14-feet wide and 1,226 feet in length.
Looking for more information? Visit online at arkansas.com/cycling. While you’re there, download the Arkansas Cycling Guide. It’s the perfect place to discover cycling in The Natural State.
by Dave Bodle