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Oftentimes during the Spring in Duluth there’s not a lot to do, we experience 20 degree freezing temperatures and then 40 degrees and raining the next day. If you’re a mountain biker all you can do is hope for some sunny days to dry the trails out. So what comes from this longing to mountain bike that many Minnesotans experience this time of year? The annual migration of Minnesotans to Bentonville Arkansas.

Why Bentonville? Well because it’s dubbed itself the “Mountain Bike Capital of the world”.  Bentonville is the birthplace of Walmart and since the early 2000’s they have been funding the building of trails and bike infrastructure. In 2022 they were ranked number 1 on the PeopleForBikes’ annual rating for the quality of a city’s bike network. A big goal they have had while building the trail system has been to make them accessible to all riders. They have a wide range of trail difficulty, from my experience you’re almost always close to a green, blue, or black diamond trail.  This convenience makes Bentoville a destination for bikers of all abilities, it’s a great place for family vacation for that reason specifically. Back in highschool my family made the trip down twice, both times we simply enjoyed riding from the air bnb and eating good food. It’s hard to have a bad vacation when all you’re doing all day is biking and eating good food. 

Speaking of good food Bentonville is not lacking in that department, each year I go down there I seem to find new delicious food. This year’s discovery was a new BBQ spot right at the end of the All American Trail named Wright’s Barbeque Bentonville, where I had delicious ribs, coleslaw, and mac and cheese. My favorite lunch spot is the Yeyos taco truck. Yeyos has been in Bentonville ever since I started making the trip down there in 2016. It’s the perfect mid ride lunch spot, right in the downtown area across the street from Bentonville best bike shop Phat Tire. Finally, my favorite breakfast spot in Bentonville is the Airship, located inside the Cooler preserve, it’s only accessible via walking or biking. We had an AirBNB right next to Coler so each morning I rode my bike over to the Airship for their breakfast tacos and coffee. When it comes to food in Bentonville you can’t really go wrong, there is something for everyone.

Now for the important question, what trails to ride? There are two big ride centers right nearby downtown Bentonville, there’s the Slaughter Pen trail system and the Coler Preserve.  If you start riding downtown hop on the All American trail to enter the Slaughter Pen trail system, you can take the trail all the way to the Castle Bentonville‘s latest trail ride center. The Castle is a mini downhill park, you take the return trail up to the top where you have the option to ride down several green flow trails, or a two awesome blue jump trail, with beautiful table tops the whole way down. If you’re a bit more experienced they also have two black diamond runs that are a blast. What makes the Slaughter Pen system so good is that as you ride down the All American there are countless other trails branching off. It’s really easy to spend a day or two exploring the trails just around the Slaughter Pen system. 

The other trail system near downtown, about a mile and a half from the entrance of the All American is the Coler Preserve. Coler has a unique mix of trails, on the south end of the park you’ll find a parking area and the entrance to the walking path. You can choose to either take a right and climb up Oscar’s loop which is an old school technical trail that does a loop around Coler. Or you can go left and ride the duel slalom course and race your friends.  Oscar’s loop will lead you up to The Hub, which is a large wooden structure used as the start of several advanced jump lines. You’ll need to be a fairly skilled rider to ride down the double black diamond Here’s Johnny. The Hub is the start to one of my favorite trails in Bentonville, Fireline. Fireline is a long flow trail with table tops, amazing berms and some really fun B-line gap jumps. The return trail is a windy paved path, plan on getting passed by a bunch of e-bikes if you plan on doing laps, or better yet rent an ebike. If you don’t want to bother with riding Oscars loop up to the Hub, skip the single track by parking at the North end and jump right on the paved return trail. Once you’ve done enough laps to exhaust yourself head to the Airship for a smoothie. 

There are a lot of trail centers and areas to ride in the larger Bentonville area and surrounding towns, you could probably ride a new trail system everyday you’re down there. If you’re gonna make the drive and check out another area, there are two places I would recommend. The first is Hobbs State Park, about a 40 minute drive from Bentonville. I would recommend starting with a scenic bike ride and riding the Karst Trail. An 8 mile loop that will have you riding past the White River, if you stop by the beach about half way through you can either go swimming or look for fossils. Once you’ve completed the Karst loop head across the street and ride the Wolf Den loop, an easy loop that although takes a good amount of climbing is worth the descent, make sure to ride Wolf Den East first. Half way through you can also take the tunnel under the road and ride down TimberJack, a fast flowy blue trail, just be ready for the long return trail. 

If downhill trails are what you’re looking for then Eureka Springs is the place to go. You’ll find a wide range of downhill trails, something for all skill levels. There’s an older gentleman who runs a shuttle up and down the mountain. If you’re not scared of going fast up a windy mountain road then it’s a great way to run laps. The mountain bike trails aren’t the only reason to head to Eureka Springs. Probably the most unique town in all of Arkansas, Eureka Springs is nestled within the mountains and has lots of fun shops, restaurants, and other tourist traps. If anything you’ll have fun walking around the town and checking out the architecture. There’s even a haunted hotel worth touring or staying at if getting scared is your cup of tea. 

Another important thing to touch on is what gear to take down there with you. For starters I always take extra tires and make sure I have the equipment to change a tube or my tire if need be. Bentonville has a lot of sharp rock slabs and if you’re riding trails other than just the machine built stuff, there’s a solid chance you might slash your tire. A question I get about Bentonville is what bike to bring? Should you take a enduro oriented bike like a Megatower or a Slash, or should you stick to something more cross country like a Blur, Procaliber, or Spearfish. Or is the best option to go for the middle ground and bring a trail bike like a Tallboy or a Stumpjumper? To be honest any of these bikes that I mentioned are gonna be fun, it all just depends on what kind of trails you prefer to ride. The past two years I’ve been down in Bentonville I’ve brought my Salsa Spearfish. The Spearfish is a cross country bike with 120mm of travel in the front and 100mm in the back. A cross country bike is my favorite style of bike to ride down in Bentonville. This is because I like to ride all day and explore trails across the whole city and if I were to ride on a bike like the Megatower I wouldn’t be able to get as many miles as I want to. However if you plan on mostly riding downhill laps then a Megatower is perfect. All of Bentonville is e-bike friendly as well. There were a ridiculous amount of e-bikes down in Bentonville this past year and I understand why, there are so many areas where having some electric assist allows you to ride lap after lap on some awesome machine built flow trails. If you plan on doing a little bit of everything then a trail bike is probably the best way to go, friends of mine have headed down to Bentonville with Santa Cruz Tallboys and that bike seems to do great everywhere. 

If you do plan on going down to Bentonville this Spring for some early season mountain biking make sure to stop by Skihut for any gear that you need to stock up. If you have any questions about Betonville, many individuals on our staff have been there before and we would be glad to give advice or answer any questions you might have! Ride fast, take chances!