Mountain Bike Routes in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Mountain Bike Adventures

The history of Arkansas mountain biking can be traced back over 3 decades to just south of Fayetteville at Devil’s Den State Park – which in 1989, became the first Arkansas State Park to open its natural surface trails to cyclists. Today, Devil’s Den is recognized as the official Birthplace of Arkansas Mountain Biking and the Northwest Arkansas region – including Fayetteville - is home to over 600 miles of singletrack trails.

A bookend to regional trail experiences, Fayetteville offers mountain bikers access to hundreds of miles of world-class singletrack trails, with several renowned trail systems located inside our city limits. Accessible from downtown, the Fayetteville Traverse is an 18-mile urban singletrack trail experience that links together multiple city parks, trail systems, residences, and the University of Arkansas with a continuous natural surface loop for mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners.

At Kessler Mountain Regional Park, the recreational jewel of Fayetteville, mountain bikers can discover close to 20 miles of predominantly hand-built multiuse trails sprawling across 630-acres of wooded mountain top. The fittingly named Spellbound, Western Myth, and Bewitched trails speak to the mystical environment atop Kessler Mountain, where ancient hardwood trees tower over the trails and moss covered boulders serve as gateways into the forests.

Just north of Kessler, Centennial Park at Millsap Mountain has established a legacy as the premier mountain bike and cyclo-cross event venue in the Southern United States. In addition to having hosted some of cycling’s most prestigious events - including the 2022 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships – Centennial Park features over 12 miles of singletrack trails optimized for mountain bikes. From the novel truck jump on Junk Draw to the daunting rock drop on World Cup, the trails at Centennial Park are loaded with unique trail features.

Using Fayetteville as hub, countless miles extend deep into the Ozark National Forest where remote backcountry mountain bike trails can lead to all-day adventures. From the scenic trails of the Upper Buffalo Mountain Bike System to the Lake Wedington Recreation Area, the rugged beauty of the Ozarks is just a few pedal strokes away.

Starting from popular trailheads with public parking, the following is a collection mountain bike adventures for an afternoon or weekend of riding in Fayetteville. To aid in route selection, we’ve identified the predominant trail difficulty associated with each route – based on the international standardized trail rating system.

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Mountain Bike Routes | Overview

Beginner

Beginner’s Luck

From Centennial Park's North Trailhead, this under 3-mile mountain bike experience favors the novice and beginner mountain biker - combining two accessible loops including the ‘Learners Permit’ and ‘Pop Rocks’ trails. From the trailhead the route follows Learners Permit in a counterclockwise direction, tackling a majority the elevation within the initial ½ mile of the ride. From the top of Learners Permit, cyclists are rewarded with primarily fast and flowy singletrack trails back to the bottom. Once they’ve completed the Learners Permit loop, riders can hop onto Pop Rocks. Constructed from all-weather materials and able to be ridden mostly year-round, the Pop Rocks loop is perfect for even the youngest of little shredders on balance bikes. While Pop Rocks construction creates a mostly weatherproof experience, Learners Permit typically takes a few days to dry out after substantial rainfall. Where to Park Accessible from the frontage road along I-49, this smaller North Trailhead for Centennial Park provides public parking and direct access to the park’s most beginner-friendly mountain bike experiences. While traditional amenities including public restrooms and water are NOT available at this trailhead, they can be found at the park’s pavilion and main trailhead.

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Intermediate

Western Ways

Featuring the popular Western Don and Wiggins Way trails, our ‘Western Ways’ route at the Lake Wedington Recreation Area trail system is a popular all-weather Intermediate option. The rocky, undulating terrain in this heavily wooded pocket of the Ozark National Forest drains nicely – making it a destination for year-round riding. Beginning from the trailhead, the route jogs across State Hwy 16 and into the day use area of the park. A quick right turn follows a pedestrian and bicycle path deeper into the 424-acre Recreation Area, where a short pedal down the Lake Wedington Entry Road leads to the beginner-friendly Wiggins Way trail. The next few miles skirt the picturesque southern shoreline of Lake Wedington before a series of switchbacks descends to the spillway. Completed in 1938 and amidst the Great Depression, the spillway is known for its large and often active waterfall. The route continues back across the highway, where lush hardwood forests create a constant canopy over the Western Don loop. A 6-mile loop by itself, the route follows Western Don in a clockwise direction where rolling elevation and sometimes loose terrain make for a mostly intermediate (blue) mountain bike experience. After completing the loop, a quick left onto the Twisted Pines trail takes users back to the trailhead to complete the route. Where to Park Located just 13 miles west of Fayetteville, the Lake Wedington Recreation Area offers a paved trailhead for hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers just north of State Hwy 16. While most Lake Wedington’s facilities have remained closed since the onset of the pandemic, the 102-acre lake and picnic areas are open for day-use and the area continues to be a popular destination for flatwater kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and shoreline fishing. With the restrooms and running water currently unavailable at Lake Wedington, cyclists should plan to self-support - carrying with them the nutrition and hydration necessary to complete the experience.

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Intermediate

Fayetteville Traverse

Featuring accessible urban trail development with a backcountry vibe, the Fayetteville Traverse trail connects Fayetteville’s lively downtown and entertainment districts to the University of Arkansas, Kessler Mountain Regional Park, Centennial Park, and Markham Hill with a continuous singletrack loop for mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners. Predominantly Intermediate in difficulty, the Fayetteville Traverse blends technical hand-cut singletrack, mountain bike optimized flow trails, multiuse paved paths, and a few bicycle-friendly streets to create Fayetteville’s premiere mountain bike experience. The Fayetteville Traverse route features almost 18-miles of mountainous urban landscapes with close to 1500 feet of elevation gain. Departing from Downtown Fayetteville along a short ½-mile paved trail connection, cyclists quickly get their first taste of dirt as they follow the Fayetteville Traverse trail in a clockwise direction. A combination of cross country singletrack and multiuse paved trails define the next few miles as the route proceeds towards Kessler Mountain Regional Park – a 620-acre public park and nature preserve that reaches 1,856 feet above sea level. The recreational jewel of Fayetteville, Kessler Mountain is home to almost 20-miles of technical, rock-filled mountain bike trails and some of the longest descents in the region. After traversing across Kessler, the route descends to State Highway 62, where cyclists can utilize the pushbutton at the pedestrian crosswalk to safely cross the street. Once across, the route weaves through a small residential neighborhood before ascending Millsap Mountain and to Centennial Park. Host venue for the 2022 Walmart UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, the 228-acre Centennial Park features purpose-built cyclo-cross and Olympic-style cross country mountain bike racecourses and a 11-mile network of optimized mountain bike trails including the popular Junk Drawer trail – with a gap jump over an antique pickup truck! From Centennial, the route travels underneath Interstate I-49 via an abandoned cattle tunnel JUST wide enough for cyclists to squeeze through. A unique experience, the tunnel spans 500 feet and serves as a key connection from Millsap Mountain to Markham Hill – a 144-acre wooded mountain top just west of the University of Arkansas. The route cuts through the sprawling University of Arkansas campus along some of the most popular sections of the Fayetteville Traverse. On campus, world-class trail construction is complimented by hundreds of architecturally significant buildings spread across 500-acres. A popular photo op, the 25-foot tall, 50-foot wide “Wild Band of Razorbacks” fountain located at the north endzone of Razorback Stadium includes six nearly seven-foot tall Razorbacks and represents “individual characteristics indicative of the University of Arkansas and the Razorback Nation.” Back downtown, cyclists will find quite a few local favorites for after-the-ride recovery including restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops – plus bike-friendly patios for cyclists looking to enjoy the views (and brews!) of Fayetteville. Where to Park Complimentary and paid parking is widely available across Downtown Fayetteville and the Dickson Street Entertainment District. Recommended options include the Downtown Fayetteville Surface Parking Lots located at Church Avenue and Center Street. These lots are FREE to the public all day on Saturday and Sunday and close to countless after-the-ride options for food and drink.

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Intermediate to Advanced

Chasing Rainbows

Beginning from the same start & finish line shared by past National, Olympic, and World Champions including Thomas Pidcock, Savilia Blunk, and Kate Courtney, our Chasing Rainbows route features 8-miles of Intermediate and Advanced singletrack at Fayetteville’s Centennial Park at Millsap Mountain – including the purpose-built cross country mountain bike racecourse known as “World Cup.” From a stretch of tarmac, the route dives onto World Cup #1 and the first of four segments that comprise the only racecourse of its kind in the Southern United States. Built to test even the best athletes, the World Cup racecourse features extensive rock gardens, massive jumps, punchy climbs, and daunting drops – keeping cyclists out of the saddle through the first few miles of the route. An arduous 100-foot climb up a powerline corridor leads to “OZ Mountain” and a technical 8’ rock drop. Riders not ready to send it can opt for an alternative b-line – an advanced level rock garden that rattles down alongside the drop. After 2.5-miles of rowdy terrain on World Cup, the route pops out at the main trailhead before dropping onto the Fayetteville Traverse and then Learners Permit for a counterclockwise ride around the park’s perimeter. From the mountain’s peak, the route follows Junk Drawer and a popular 2-mile section of trail that descends off the mountain’s southern face to a gap jump – and over the bed of an abandoned pickup truck! A half-mile climb leads to Captain Fantastic and one of four directional, downhill trails on the southside of the park. Taking advantage of steep and technical terrain, Captain Fantastic stacks up trail features as it descends some 150’ in a ½ mile. Built to session, riders have the option to follow a short section of Junk Drawer clockwise back to the top to ride it (or any of the other trails) again. The route finishes with a short, one-mile punch back up the mountain along the Fayetteville Traverse and to the main trailhead. Where to Park Centennial Park at Millsap Mountain features a 12-mile trail system that includes purpose-built cyclocross and cross-country mountain bike racecourses. Since opening in 2021, the park has hosted some of cycling’s most prestigious events – including the 2022 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. The park’s primary trailhead includes free public parking, a pavilion, restrooms, and water bottle filling station.

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Intermediate to Advanced

Mythical Creatures

Featuring the western side of Mount Kessler and a quintessential Ozark trail experience, our 9-mile ‘Mythical Creatures’ route includes the iconic Spellbound and Western Myth trails - with over 800 feet of total elevation gain. Predominately hand-cut singletrack, this Intermediate to Advanced trail experience is ideal for the avid mountain biker looking for technical but rewarding riding. Beginning from a public parking and playground area, the route hops onto the Fayetteville Traverse trail for an initial 3-mile ascent up Mount Kessler including portions of Trent Trail, Serpentine, and Eggbeater. The route follows Eggbeater south along a western ridge of the mountain before descending on Spellbound in a clockwise direction. Known for its unique rock formations and sweeping overlooks of the Illinois River Valley west of Fayetteville, Spellbound is a technically advanced hand-cut mountain bike trail well worth the effort. From Spellbound, the route follows Western Myth back south along a parallel ridgeline before reconnecting with Spellbound for a formidable climb back to the Trent Trail and the route’s highest peak at 1801’. Crossing the Trent Trail, the route follows Crazy Mary to the Chinkapin Oak trail and the beginning of a rowdy 3-mile descent off the mountain. A popular stage for enduro events, riders rattling down Chinkapin are rewarded with tight and twisting singletrack featuring lengthy rock gardens, technical step downs, and alt-line drops. The route finishes with a spirited pedal along the Saddle Up trail and back towards the parking lot. Kessler has long been a local favorite for mountain bikers, with trail construction beginning decades before conservation efforts in 2014 led to the acquisition of the land for public use. In the 1990’s, volunteers with the Ozark Off Road Cyclists (working with permission from landowners) built the initial system of intermediate and advanced-level trails – efforts that would highlight the recreational value of the mountain and help lead to successfully conserving what is today the 620-acre Kessler Mountain Regional Park. Where to Park Located just west of Interstate 49 off Cato Springs Road, Fayetteville’s Kessler Mountain Regional Park serves as the trailhead for “Mile Zero” of the Razorback Greenway and close to 20-miles of world-class natural surface trails popular with mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners and dog walkers. Free public parking is available at the playground area at the park’s entrance, PLUS restrooms, water fountains, bicycle repair stations and other amenities.

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Intermediate to Advanced

Down Mountains

Featuring the downhill trails of Fayetteville’s Centennial Park at Millsap Mountain and Kessler Mountain Regional Park, this Intermediate to Advanced mountain bike route combines Fayetteville’s hilly landscape with the technical rock gardens, jumps and drops some mountain bikers seek – including a gap jump over an antique pickup truck! Rolling from the main trailhead at Centennial Park, our Down Mountains route begins with a few warmup miles around Millsap Mountain including portions of the Fayetteville Traverse and Learners Permit – before heading down the popular Junk Drawer trail. This playful directional trail offers ample booters and berms as it descends 200 feet off the mountain’s southern slope. Discovered by the trail builders and incorporated into the trails design, an iconic gap jump over the bed of an old pickup truck awaits at the bottom. Riders not ready to send it can roll an alternate b-line around the feature. Millsap Mountain’s steep southern slope offers 4 different intermediate and advanced directional downhill experiences to choose from, including the Captain Fantastic and Hail Mary trails. Difficult by design, cyclists are reminded to ride within their limits in the park. From the bottom, the route utilizes portions of Junk Drawer for a short ½-mile return line to take another run. After a couple downhill runs, the route continues south along the Fayetteville Traverse to Centennial’s sister park – and the daunting Kessler Mountain. A milelong climb up Kessler’s northern face leads to the top of Flight Training. Optimized for mountain bikes, this advanced downhill trail takes advantage of Kessler’s steep slope with vertical grades that reach -35%. At the bottom, a series of dirt jumps allows mountain bikers to make the most of the high-speed descent. The route finishes back along portions of the Fayetteville Traverse trail, guiding riders back up to the top of Centennial Park for celebratory fist bumps with their buddies. Where to Park Centennial Park at Millsap Mountain features a 12-mile trail system that includes purpose-built cyclocross and cross-country mountain bike racecourses. Since opening in 2021, the park has hosted some of cycling’s most prestigious events – including the 2022 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. The park’s primary trailhead includes free public parking, a pavilion, restrooms, and water bottle filling station.

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Advanced

Beast of the East

Highlighting the eastern sandstone and limestone bluffs of Fayetteville’s Mount Kessler, our ‘Beast of the East’ route layers a series of Intermediate and Advanced singletrack trails together for over 8-miles of backcountry mountain biking – inside the city limits! Beginning from the base of the mountain and public parking, cyclists can expect to warm up fast with an initial 3-mile ascent up portions of the Fayetteville Traverse and then along the historic Trent Trail, where remnants of old wagon tracks lead south to the mountains peak. Heavily wooded, old growth forests line this long, laborious climb to the top – providing ample shade even in warmer months. The riding gets risky from here, beginning with a 1-mile descent down Crazy Mary – an advanced hand-built trail with a wealth of rock gardens and rewarding views. A right turn at the bottom follows Bewitched, Kessler’s newest hand-cut trail experience brewed up by the Ozark Off Road Cyclists (OORC). Likely the most technical riding in all of Northwest Arkansas, expect to be bewildered at the level of rock work and wooden features packed into this 1-mile, black diamond trail – constructed in entirety by the OORC and their volunteer trail building community. After a short section of the Chinkapin Oak trail, named for the ancient woodlands found along the mountains rugged ridges, the route drops below the bluff line as it follows Terrapin Station – an intermediate section of singletrack littered with boulders, rocks, and roots. The route finishes with a few of the mountains only flowy bits, with Last Call leading to Saddle Up – descending back to the trailhead and parking lot. Where to Park Located just west of Interstate 49 off Cato Springs Road, Fayetteville’s Kessler Mountain Regional Park serves as the trailhead for “Mile Zero” of the Razorback Greenway and close to 20-miles of world-class natural surface trails popular with mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners and dog walkers. Free public parking is available at the playground area at the park’s entrance, PLUS restrooms, water fountains, bicycle repair stations and other amenities.

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Advanced

Crown Jewel

All of Kessler Mountain. The whole thing. Known as the recreational Jewel of Fayetteville, this 17+ mile Advanced experience features most of the trails at the 620-acre Kessler Mountain Regional Park. From the wildly technical terrain of Rock City to the aggressively steep pitches of Flight Training, from the iconic hand-built Spellbound to the fan-favorite Chinkapin Oak - this route has it all. Beginning from the foot of Kessler Mountain, the route follows the Fayetteville Traverse and predominantly intermediate trails for a 2.5-mile climb to reach the Goat Trail – where a ½ mile of sandstone creates a technical rock garden across the mountain top. Things stay peppery as the route descends the iconic Rock City trail and one of the original trails used to establish the recreational value of the park - and its eventual conservation. Erosion over hundreds of millions of years has exposed sandstone bluffs along Rock City, with cracks creating natural gateways for the trail. It’s an old school hand-cut singletrack experience that will have you appreciating every millimeter of suspension travel on your bike. Stark in comparison, Rock City leads to Flight Training and the mountains lone directional, downhill only trail. With trail construction optimized for mountain bikes, Flight Training takes advantage of Kessler’s steep northern slope to create an advanced downhill experience where vertical grades reach -35%! Trail builders stacked the bottom of Flight Training with a series of dirt tables, taking full advantage of the high speed descent and creating a runway for mountain bikers to accurately… take flight. The next few miles feel more akin to Narnia than Fayetteville, as moss covered slab rock towers over the trail and the natural beauty of Kessler becomes a welcome distraction from the 3-mile pedal back towards the top. The western edge of Kessler is home to a series of hand-built trails stacked along the ridges and bluffs that overlook the rivers and prairies west of Fayetteville. Advanced experiences including Spellbound and Western Myth have long challenged riders and served as a rite of passage for the local cycling community - decades before the welcome boon in trail development. The route summits out the first time at mile 10, reaching over 1,800 feet above sea level towards the southern end of the mountain. The history of Kessler Mountain can be tracked back to this area, when in 1866 the Kessler family purchased 13 acres at its peak and started the first winery in Arkansas. That wine found its way to downtown, where the family operated Kessler’s Wine Hall on West Center Street in Fayetteville – and served “Kessler’s celebrated wines and peach and apple brandies...drinks ten cents or three for twenty-five cents.” From the top, riders are rewarded with Crazy Mary, a mile long hand-built descent rich with technical rock gardens and bluff line views of the expansive Ozark Mountains. A short climb back to the top along Trent Trail welcomes the route’s second summit, this time descending the Chinkapin Oak trail. Named after the ancient oaks found along the mountain’s eastern edge, Chinkapin is a rowdy, rock-filled descent that drops close to 350 feet in elevation - in 2 miles! At the bottom of Chinkapin the route drops below the sandstone bluffs and along Terrapin Station - where house-sized boulders and moss covered rock can feel like a different planet when compared to riding through stands of old-growth forest just a few miles before. Our ‘Crown Jewel’ route finishes with Saddle Up and the mountains only beginner-friendly trail – and a nice descent back to the parking lot. Of note, navigating all of Kessler requires a small amount of overlap. Please refer to the cue sheet for a turn-by-turn description at key trail intersections. Where to Park Located just west of Interstate 49 off Cato Springs Road, Fayetteville’s Kessler Mountain Regional Park serves as the trailhead for “Mile Zero” of the Razorback Greenway and close to 20-miles of world-class natural surface trails popular with mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners and dog walkers. Free public parking is available at the playground area at the park’s entrance, PLUS restrooms, water fountains, bicycle repair stations and other amenities.

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Advanced

Two’s Company

Beginning from the Lake Wedington Recreation Area just west of Fayetteville, this 22-mile Advanced mountain bike route features the Twin Knobs trail and a rugged out and back that traverses the distinctive Twin Mountains formation. From the trailhead and public parking, the route heads north along the Twisted Pines trail and onto portions of the Western Don Loop – a 7-mile intermediate loop accessible from the parking lot. From the northwest corner of the loop, the Twin Knobs trail continues north through the hills and valleys of the Ozark National Forest. With over 600 feet of elevation gain and almost 8-miles of technical singletrack in either direction, the Twin Knobs trail increases in difficulty as you approach the routes distinguishing “knobs” – with both the Upper and Lower Knob offering beautiful views of the surrounding Ozarks and Illinois River Valley. After looping the Lower Knob at the route’s northern most point, the route heads back south along the Twin Knobs trail, reconnecting with the Western Don Loop – about 18 miles into the ride. The route continues to follow the Western Don Loop in a clockwise direction, finishing with long sections of fast rolling singletrack trails that twist through hardwood timber forests common in the Ozarks. With consistent climbing and rocky terrain, our ‘Two’s Company’ route is best suited for mountain bikers seeking an intermediate to advanced experience (Blue/Black). With a majority of the facilities including restrooms and running water currently unavailable at the Lake Wedington Recreation Area, cyclists should plan to self-support - carrying with them the nutrition and hydration necessary to complete the experience. Where to Park Located just 13 miles west of Fayetteville, the Lake Wedington Recreation Area offers a paved trailhead for hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers just north of State Hwy 16. While a majority of Lake Wedington’s facilities have remained closed since the onset of the pandemic, the 102-acre lake and picnic areas are open for day-use and the area continues to be a popular destination for flatwater kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and shoreline fishing.

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