Jeff is getting more timely in his trail review posts!
Bentonville as a mountain bike destination has been on my bucket list for a while, therefore, it seemed fitting to squeeze it into our trip back to Florida. Ten years ago there was essentially no mountain biking in Bentonville, but the Walton Family Foundation (founders of the WalMart) donated some land and wrote a check for about $13 Million to fund trail building in the area. Apparently, a couple of the Walton grand kids are avid mountain bikers who thought this would be a great place to host a trail. Cities and Counties who wanted to be part of the system matched the funds put up by the Walton family. Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas, Bentonville and some adjoining cities constructed over 100 miles of trails, most of which are connected by the 36-mile Razerback Regional Greenway System. As such, you can add some serious variety to the riding experience by linking the various bike trails with the greenway.
On several days, MB and I parked near the Greenway, and she would walk along the paved sections while I romped on the hand-crafted mountain bike trails. There are three main trail systems along the greenway: the Slaughterpen Trail System (land donated by the Walton family), the Coler Trail System, and the Oz Trail System (actually in Bella Vista). These trails were built by five different trail building companies, with support from the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). The Oz system alone has over 40 miles of buff single track built through Bella Vista, which borders Bentonville to the north. I had the pleasure of riding both the Slaughterpen and Oz trail systems. Both trails weaved through a hilly forest, at times picking their way up, down, and around limestone cliff faces. Trail artisans shaped large stone pieces into berms, jumps, and other features. These trails are made to last, with limited opportunity for erosion from mountain bike tires or weather elements.
My last trail day was spent on the Back 40 Loop, which provided a seemingly never-ending single track excursion through the forested hills and valleys of northern Bentonville and Bella Vista. Although the trail provided an excellent wilderness trail experience, you were never far from civilization occasionally riding behind back yards and across paved roads. One section provided a mountain bike first for me where the trail system cut right through and around an 18-hole golf course. Not quite adventure golf, but close. The trail was well marked and also provided bicycle repair stations and water fountains along the 24-mile, 2,200 foot elevation gain loop.
The Bentonville trail system provides a unique experience for both the mountain bike and road rider. Since the mountain bike trails started downtown, one can feast at many of the trendy downtown restaurants and coffee shops after emerging from the trails. This place will definitely be on our list again!