That’s the number of unique trails in this little sliver of Northwest Arkansas. If you enjoy bicycling, NWA has many trails-less-travelled on tap for you to explore. The Slaughter Pen Trails in Bentonville and the recently opened Back 40 is paradise for mountain bikers with over 40 miles of off road trails.
The Green Belt runs 36 miles from Bella Vista to south of Fayetteville. It is a truly enjoyable and closed pathway that winds through six different towns with many places to refuel with some food or perhaps a refreshing beverage along the way. It also a network of spurs that would take years to explore.
Yesterday I joined what seemed like several thousand people in the annual Square to Square ride between Bentonville and Fayetteville co-sponsored by both municipalities Parks and Recreation departments. It is a fun 30 mile ride winding through country side, forest, and small towns.
This year we had a great turn out. The Square to Square ride starts in downtown Bentonville square and goes South on the concrete two-way Greenway. There were all kinds of riders; roadies, mountain bikers, recumbent bikers, single speed “fixes”, and I even saw a few homemade machines on the trail.
The trail was fairly congested in the first few miles of the ride but quickly cleared up. The trail takes you straight down J Street behind the high school until you cross Walton Boulevard and enter Horsebarn Park. There you can grab a donut at the nearby Kripsy Kreme or, if you are in need of a repair or accessory, head up to the HighRoller Cyclery right off the trail.
You continue down through Rogers crossing underneath Interstate 49 where one might be tempted to stop in for a Bagel at Einstein’s or perhaps a cold one at the Core Brewery Public House outpost right next to the trail. I pressed on taking a brief break to listen to some great Old Tymey blue grass at Mercy Trailhead at around mile 6.5.
After crossing Promenade Road you ascend slightly past a school and few churches…from there things get a bit country. It was here that I was traveling at what I consider a good clip and I heard a voice behind me which made me jump off my seat.
“We could use a better draft today, couldn’t we?” an older disembodied male Arkansan voice said.
I thought for a moment it might be God.
It turned out it wasn’t God, but a octogenarian pumping along effortlessly on what looked like a 1960s-era Schwinn 10 speed bicycle. He smiled broadly at me and then sped off like Han Solo successfully executing the light speed jump. Hope I am in that kind of shape at that age. Heck, I wish I was in that kind of shape now.
From there you continue on to a very welcome steep down grade and criss cross over Puppy Creek numerous times until you eventually make your way to downtown Springdale at mile 18.5 or so.
If you didn’t know any better on any given Saturday you might think you are close to Santa Monica beach. Folks are doing Yoga, there is a Farmers market, Phat Tire bike shop…and yes, another Core Brewery outpost right on the trail!
I took a quick breather there, said hello to my elderly Schwinn riding friend munching on a chicken salad sandwich, and then made my way in earnest down to Fayetteville. Briefly following Spring Creek the trail then splits off and heads south and then hooks up with Lake Fayetteville right after mile 21. At the entrance to the Lake you are treated to a nice down hill coast followed by a steep switch back up. You will wish for mountain bike gearing here.
This section is probably the nicest part of a really nice ride. There are tons of trees that cover the trail like a canopy. Leaves fall from above, see-sawing their way lazily to the ground. The trail curves around about one half of the Fayetteville lake loop, up past the dam and then you begin your descent into Fayetteville proper.
Things get a little more congested once again with local traffic and walkers on the trail. College students can also be found, some perhaps a bit bleary headed from the previous night’s festivities.
You eventually make one more modest ascent and then descend down to Dickson street past Arsaga’s before being confronted by the final steep hill up to the historic square in Fayetteville and their weekly Farmer’s Market.
I never rode the entire trail end-to-end and it was more difficult than I anticipated, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and would do it again for sure. The Green Trail is just another aspect in NWA of the inter-connectivity between people, art, and nature. It is reminder that we should certainly take some time to look around and enjoy what is in front of us every day. I look forward to hitting the trail again soon and checking out some of the other trails in NWA.
P.S. If you are visiting the area and in need of a rental you can do so at Phat Tire, High Roller Cyclerly, and GPP. You can also rent at the Bentonville Downtown Activity Center for a very reasonable rate.