By Suzanne Rhodes
For outdoor fun and majestic natural beauty, the opportunities for bikers and hikers in Northwest Arkansas are nearly endless. From the novice to the advanced, outdoor adventurers will find an extensive and carefully planned network of trails and greenways, as well as cycling festivals and groups to join. Here’s a roundup:
Trails and Greenways
• The Razorback Regional Greenway is a 38-mile, mostly off-road, shared-use trail from north Bentonville to south Fayetteville. The well-maintained asphalt/concrete trail weaves through scenic country landscapes, follows creeks, safely crosses city streets, and winds through tunnels. Trails are also in close proximity to downtown locations.
“Northwest Arkansas is a shining example of the positive impact cycling can have on a community,” said Steuart Walton, grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton. A recent study by the Walton Family Foundation revealed that bicycling provides $137 million in economic benefits to NWA. And Bike magazine chose the region for its annual bike test because “they are building trails faster than you can ride them.”
• Popular Bella Vista trails include Tanyard Creek Nature Trail, a 2.2-mile loop with a swinging bridge and a view of Lake Windsor waterfall, and Lake Bella Vista Trail, a paved 1.75 trail with picnic tables, a playground and a disc golf course.
• Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges has lovely shaded multi-use trails with sculpture gardens and stunning scenic views.
• Lake Leatherwood Trail in Eureka Springs is a flat, mile-long trail perfect for runners and light hikers. Lake Leatherwood City Park attracts visitors every year for its spring-fed lake and marina, mountain bike and walking trails, picnic and camping areas, and the Ozark Mountains.
• Fayetteville’s trails are many. Centrally-located Scull Creek Trail (4.4 miles) has been called “the backbone” of the city’s expanding trail system. Its paved, tree-lined surface and connectivity to other trails make it ideal for alternative-transportation commuters and recreational users alike. It also features a 650 foot-long, lighted tunnel, the state’s longest pedestrian tunnel. Gulley Park is one of Fayetteville’s most popular recreational sites and has undergone extensive development and improvements. The 1.5-mile Gulley Park Trail features a new, wide concrete loop, ideal for walkers, runners, strollers, and cyclists. Two new, 12-foot-wide bridges have replaced older bridges.
The all-new Niokaska Creek Trail links the Razorback Greenway to Gulley Park. Another innovation is Old Wire Cycle Track, currently under construction, that begins at the intersection of Old Wire and Ash Street and will end in Gulley Park. The Walton Family Foundation is funding this unique track for cyclists that will protect them from cars and pedestrians, and hopefully serve as a model for the region.
Clear Creek Trail offers 2.3 miles of peaceful creek-side scenery and links the Scull Creek and Lake Fayetteville Trails.
Lake Fayetteville Trail has a paved, multi-use surface 5.5 miles long, and a natural trail 6.9 miles long. The trails circle Lake Fayetteville and feature a pedestrian bridge, waterfall, picnic and nature areas, playgrounds and splendid views of the lake.
• In Rogers, outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the scenic Lake Atalanta trails, lake and park. The Railyard is a natural surface bike park for riders of all skill levels, with a trail that leads to Lake Atalanta Park. Other notable features are 2,000 feet of boardwalk, 4 miles of hard-surface trails and 10 miles of soft-surface trails. There’s also a nature area, serenity garden, pavilions and restrooms.
8 Top Cycling Festivals and Races
The Ozark bike boom has led to an ever-increasing number of cycling events for participants of all ages.
• The oldest continuing festival is the Ozark Mountain Bike Festival (April 6-7), now in its 31st year and held at Devil’s Den State Park. The single and double tracks thread through the mountains and are considered some of Arkansas’ best mountain bike trails.
• “Nine Races, Three Days, One Historic Festival” is how the Rogers Cycling Festival describes its July 26-28 event that will appeal to road and mountain bike cyclists of all skill levels.
• The Avoca Road Race Series is a four-part race series held in the Benton County town of Avoca and its surrounding farmlands. The races are from March through May.
• The MTB Town Series features a spectrum of mountain bike disciplines in various venues such as Bella Vista and Coler Bike Preserve in Bentonville. The series features Enduro (timed downhill) racing and short track cross country.
• Eureka Springs is the site for the Fat Tire Festival, celebrating its 21st year July 12-14. The event includes downhill, super-d, short track and cross country racing as well as social gatherings and group rides.
• For night riders, The Bad Moon Rising is a six-hour endurance race in Berryville, held on April 28.
• Cyclists participating in the Tour de Hills Road Race & Tour in Harrison will find the 56-mile course of the “Jasper Disaster” to be one of the steepest and most strenuous. It also offers breathtaking views from scenic overlooks and opportunities to view the amazing elk herd in Boxley Valley. The date is April 13.
• Ride, run and walk for a cause at the 2019 Tour de Cure in Bentonville, August 3. This family-friendly fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association offers road cycling, mountain biking, running and walking options for all ages.
Hiking and Cycling Groups
• The NWA Hiking Group has over 1,500 members from Northwest Arkansas as well as Ft. Smith, Tulsa, Joplin and Springfield. For a one-time, $10 membership fee, you will be joining “a group of outdoors enthusiasts who love hiking, backpacking, bicycling, floating (sometimes paddling), and camping in the great outdoors!” as they are self-described. “We get out year round and always focus on ‘leaving no trace’ as we go.” meetup.com/nwahiking/
• Senior hikers can join up with OLLI members for hikes and fun day trips. OLLI stands for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Fayetteville. You can take all kinds of classes, too. olli.uark.edu.
• Northwest Arkansas Cycling is for medium-distance riders (25-50 miles). Fitness and social experience are primary goals of this group, based in Fayetteville. meetup.com/NWACycling/
• Most members of Bella Vista Bike Club are retired, and range in age from 53 to 78. Rides are scheduled weekly on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at distances of 23 to 45 miles. Facebook.com/Bella-Vista-Bike-Club
• Ozark Mountains Trailblazers Club is a group of backpackers, hikers and trekkers whose goal is to bring the beautiful Ozark Mountains more fully into people’s lives for shared experiences. hikingtheOzarks.com/trailblazers/