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The OZ Trails

An overlook at Mt. Kessler

The first week of April Tara, Oscar and I drove 10 hours due south to northwestern Arkansas to mountain bike on the hilly, single track trails around Bentonville, Arkansas, the headquarters of Walmart. This area, the "OZ Trails", have recently received much attention due to the amount of quality singletrack and hosting of the 2016 IMBA World Summit. We shared a rental home with our hard riding friends from Minnesota, Michael and Mark, in Bella Vista, just north of Bentonville adjacent to one of the many of the 200 miles of trails in the area, called the Back 40.

As we usually do, we dropped by a local bike shop (Phat Tire) to talk about current trail conditions because it had been raining and you always find some useful trail info talking with the locals. Lucky for us, they grow lots of rocks in NW Arkansas and have little soil; a good combination for quick drainage, usually ridable within 24-36 hours; but some even sooner. We wrote down a pecking order of trails to ride from driest to wettest, based on advice from the bike shop.

Our first day of riding was 50 minutes east at Hobbs State Park, recommended as a good wet weather riding venue. The single track was in very good shape, naturally cut into the sides of hills with good drainage and punchy little switch back hard climbs. We rode the War Eagle and Little Clifty loops which are mostly flowy single track with small rocks, few technical features or roots, and several fun bridge crossings. We didn’t see a single rider the whole time we rode; just pine forest, fossils and fresh air.

On day two we rode the Back 40, a five star rated trail, that we enjoyed immensely. As told, the trails had dried out within 24 hours to near hero dirt conditions. We started at the Buckingham Trailhead, one of the many that dot the perimeter of the 21-mile loop; which weaves its way through the suburban hills just north of Bentonville. Within the first mile I flatted right after screaming down a long swooping wooden walkway, the first on my tubeless tires, probably due to the numerous sharp rocks on the trail. Luckily, Tara had some tire plugs to seal the small gash in my tire; which lasted for the rest of the trip. We later learned about the “Back 40 Survival Kit”, tire plugs, sealant, and a good pump. We rode the entire outer loop clockwise and this trail deserves its stellar rating; it has varied terrain, lots of climbing, some technical features, an amazing hanging bridge, rollers, berms, really fun flowy sections, and rocks. After over three hours of riding we were tired and running low on water since there are no easily accessed water sources on the trail. It was a great trail we will go back to explore more.

Our third day was a rain out, so we walked Oscar at Tanyard Creek and looked for fossils and spent the afternoon at the Museum of American Art. Crystal Bridges is quite the architectural marvel with a great variety of American Art; and good food too! After walking the museum we got tickets to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright house on the museum property which was interesting.

We got back to riding on day four and we parked at a nearby trailhead in Bentonville to access the Slaughter Pen and Blowing Springs trails, which are connected by a paved walking/biking path that runs north to south in Bentonville. We rode to the Phase 3 trails of Slaughter Pen and explored the trails which have some rocky features and small drops. In the middle of the trails was a freeride skills park with berms, table tops and drops. From Phase 3 we rode to Phase 1 and 2 which had a variety of trails from green to black with numerous features, including berms, drops, little table tops, a steep climbs and more. Not that this wasn’t enough we decided to close out the day riding the Blowing Springs trails; which ended up being a good decision because they were fun!! Blowing Springs has gradual climbs up the ravines and fun, fast, flowy trails coming down the ravines, with a few technical elements including rocks, roots and alternate drops. It was a long day stringing these trails all together, but worth it.

Tara's type of trail at Mt. Kessler.

On our last day of riding we drove down to Mt. Kessler near Fayetteville and rode the rocky trails on the top of this little “mountain.” These trails were more remote, rocky, rooty, and more technical than those we had ridden earlier in the week. There are no big features; but they are consistently harder and a good challenge. After about an hour of riding there we drove north to Rogers and finished on the Atalanta trails, adjacent to the Railyard Bike Park which was closed at the time. Atalanta had a number of short single track trails, connected by a paved walking path around the lake. Atatlanta has lots of sidecut trails with a few rocky features and like all other trails in the area, plenty of climbing. It was a fun trail and would be great to pair with some time at the Bike Park.

Northwest Arkansas offers a great variety of riding and we plan on heading back, in fact we’re planning a guided trip to this area this fall!



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