A First Timer’s Guide to Exploring Bentonville by Bike
There are bike trails everywhere!!! Seriously. Everywhere. Bentonville, Arkansas might just be our family’s new favorite vacation destination.
We’d heard all the hype about the millions of dollars the Walton family had pumped into building an amazing trail system, and took a 6 hour drive to see what all the fuss what about. In short, Bentonville is a biking paradise and totally OVER delivered on the hype. **Update – we’ve gone back six times since our first trip!**
From paved trails to mountain bike trails, bike parks, pump tracks, and bike skills areas, Bentonville and its surrounding areas has a little bit of everything for every style and level of rider.
And with four kids ranging from 2 to 13 in tow, family-friendly biking options were certainly high on our list of priorities. When it comes to biking with little ones, Bentonville has plenty of epic options for kids, toddlers on balance bikes, or even moms with trailers in tow.
Bentonville is a small town. Like really small. Despite being the headquarters of Walmart, its population is just over 35,000. You can bike from one end of town to the other in just a few minutes, which means you also have access to a huge number of trails without ever loading your bikes up on a rack. That’s because the trail system surrounds the town like a big bike hug. Embrace me, please.
As a caveat, this guide is for general bike riding families, or mountain biking families with young kids. If your whole group are serious and skilled mountain bikers, info on those black diamond trails won’t be found here. 🙂
Bike Bentonville is an amazing resource for everything we’re about to discuss.
Slaughter Pen lies on the east side of town, basically still in the town itself. It’s extremely popular because besides being crazy awesome, it’s crazy accessible.
From a family perspective, this was our hands-down favorite. This trail system is actually a parallel sets of trails. The Razorback Greenway is paved and runs along a system of dirt trails ranging in level of difficulty.
So if you’ve got more timid kids who don’t feel comfortable on a true mountain bike trail (or mom pulling the baby in the trailer), they can ride the paved trail along side more daring sibling who choose to tackle the dirt – and it’s still a family ride!
Essentially, the big draw is that you can all stay in the same basic area (and literally ride along side one another at times), while having the option to choose the trail that fits your skill level.
Slaughter Pen – All-American Section
The All-American section of Slaughter Pen (Phase 3) is a green level trail and super fun for beginning and advanced riders. It was a section of trail that I could easily dominate while riding a hybrid bike and pulling the trailer behind me.
This particular section we rode over and over. It was less about distance and all about just enjoying this roller coaster for bikes. Being close to town, it was nice because we could just quit and go home as soon as we were tired.
This particular section is particularly great for families because the paved and dirt trails are right next to each other. While pulling the trailer, there were sections that I would bail and get back on the paved trail. All the while I could still see my kids and cheer them on.
For smaller kids (or moms with trailer in tow), we recommend starting at the bottom of Crystal Bridges, as the very top portion of All American may be a bit steep for less-skilled riders.
Slaughter Pen – Choo Choo, Cry Baby, Boo Boo, Medusa
There are also blue and black runs all over Slaughter Pen. Dad and the boys explored these more technical trails after they ditched mom and the trailer. 🙂 While they explored mostly in Phase 3 and Phase 1, there are pretty much endless trails to explore.
Keep in mind that my kids are not experienced mountain bikers, but they were still able to confidently manage blue trails (Choo Choo, Cry Baby, Boo Boo), an even the black trail Medusa. It’s often just a matter of rolling over a jump rather than catching air. 😉
After subsequent trips, we highly recommend Ravine Trail (blue) as a drop-in to Slaughter Pen, Leopard’s Loop (blue) which is a paved downhill berm heaven, and Black Apple Creek (green) which takes you through a tunnel under Tiger Blvd. We hoot and holler the whole way through!
Coler Mountain Bike Reserve
On our second trip to Bentonville, our first stop was 𝗖𝗼𝗹𝗲𝗿 𝗠𝗼𝘂𝗻𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝗕𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗣𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗲, which DID NOT DISAPPOINT. In search of family-friendly trails that even Mom can ride with trailer in tow, we discovered Esther’s Loop near the south entrance.
Plenty of climbing and rocky, root-strewn trails, but wide enough for a single trailer! “𝗠𝗼𝗺𝗺𝘆, 𝗶𝘁’𝘀 𝘀𝗼 𝗯𝘂𝗺𝗽𝘆! 𝗜 𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗽𝘆!” 𝗠𝗼𝗺-𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗱. 𝗕𝗮𝗯𝘆-𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗱. But be prepared to sweat! It may be labeled green trail, but it’s a pretty advanced green trail, and you may have to walk a few portions if you have a trailer in tow. It’s a little over five miles.
I had recently purchased a new hardtail mountain bike and would only suggest tackling this trail with a true mountain bike. A hybrid, like the one I brought my first trip, would not have cut it.
Family Flow trail can be accessed near Esther’s, and is a flowy intro to downhill riding that’s perfect for aggressive, confident little ones. On our seventh trip to Bentonville, we towed our just-turned-4-year-old to the top and she baby bombed it down with a grin on her face. (Keep in mind this little one is pretty advanced for her age, so keep your child’s skill level in mind!)
If you’re looking for something more mild, there’s a paved trail that connects the north and south entrances. The paved road is often paralleled by Good Vibrations, an easy dirt flow trail – literally something for everybody!
And we can’t leave out the Thunderdome!! Whether this is kid-friendly or not is really up to the kids, but it is so. freaking. epic. No way I would do it with a trailer in tow, but confident kids with good bike handling skills will have the time of their lives.
It’s a dual slalom down hill course so kids and friends (or parents) can race each other on the way down. You walk your bike up to the top of a pretty steep incline, but it was so rad our kids were not complaining. It’s located right off the south entrance.
This area also has several water access points for kids to play in the shallow, slow-flowing creek.
Paved Family Rides
If you’re not into mountain biking, there are plenty of scenic paved trails for long or leisurely family rides.
Trails run through the town of Bentonville itself, and even down into the renowned campus of Crystal Bridges Art Museum.
The Razorback Regional Greenway is a 36 mile system of paved and off-road trails starting all the way to down in Fayetteville and extending north to Lake Bella Vista.
We did a 13-mile round trip ride from the city up and around Lake Bella Vista to the north. The lake was actually ugly, but the ride was great!
The prettier lake to explore is Lake Atalanta. You could technically ride there from Bentonville, but it would be a bit of a haul. Better to load up the rack and start your ride fresh at the lake. You can also start your ride at the Railyard Bike Park in Rogers which has a paved trail down to the lake.
The lake trail itself is a paved and shaded 1.8 mile loop with some pretty nice climbs and descends, and gorgeous views of the lake. There are also a few off-shoot MTB trails off the paved sections.
Local Bike Parks, Skills Areas, and Pump Tracks
If you want a break from strict trail riding, or the kids just want more of a chance to play for fun, the Bentonville area is full of pump tracks and bike skills areas.
These areas are also extremely conducive to balance bike riding because their size is limited and when your little one tires out, you don’t have to carry them (and their bike) for miles back to the car.
Runway Bike Park (Springdale)
Easily the best bike park in the area, the Runway Bike Park was designed and built to challenge every riding level.
Bike Skills Area: With three lines (green, blue, and black), our 2-year-old toddler dominated the green line parallel to dudes decked out in all their MTB gear running the black lines.
Velosolutions Pump Track: While built with BMXers in mind, this asphalt pump track is also a fun spot for toddlers on balance bikes and kids on bikes up to 26″. The track can get busy with serious BMXers, so if your kids are young, try to go in the morning when the traffic is lower.
Bicycle Playground: For very beginning riders the playground is the best place to start. The features are easy, and the pump track is small and isolated from bigger kids. Our almost 2.5-year-old was a bit bored, but she’s insanely brave and at the “mastery” stage of her balance bike and enjoyed the bike skills area much more.
The Railyard (Rogers)
The Railyard Bike Park is a few miles away in Rogers, but definitely worth the short drive if you have a child on a balance bike. The Kid Zone is adorably railyard-themed and features a tunnel, wood bridges, and a small pump track.
There are 8 runs in the main part of the park itself, but they are mostly intermediate track to intensely advanced jumps. There is one downhill green run that is challenging but manageable for young, skilled riders. Our advanced 3-year-old pedal bike rider loved this run, but got bored quickly because it was the only run safe for her.
Thaden School (Bentonville)
Located on the south side of Bentonville, this private school has its own Velosolutions pump track! It’s open every day after school hours and on the weekend.
Not all pump tracks are great for young riders. This particular pump track is deep with sharper angles. While our little one enjoyed this track on a balance bike, she’s found it quite difficult to navigate the inclines with a 14″ or 16″ pedal bike. It’s a great fit for our son on a 24″ bike, who pumps his little heart out.
If the pump track isn’t a good fit for your rider, there’s an adjacent dirt track and bike skills area that all of our kids (balance bike to 26″ bike!) declared their new favorite place to ride in Bentonville!
It’s directly next to the large red barn structure.
Walmart Bicycle Playground (Bentonville)
Just north of the Bark Park dog playground on the Razorback Greenway north of the city, the bike playground has cutesy and fun bike skills features for very beginning riders. We didn’t take our older kids because we knew they would ride it once and be done.
Metfield Skills Area (Bella Vista)
To the north of Bentonville in Bella Vista, the Metfield Skills area is small but varied and fun. The actual skills features (ladders, drops, and skinnies) can be a bit narrow and intimidating for average riders, but the beginner’s concrete pump track is fantastic for balance bikes, small bikes, and scooters.
Mama Bear Pump Track at 8th Street Market
New as of October 2020, this large, shallow pumptrack is challenging, yet very manageable for balance bike riders and young pedal bike riders. While older riders will get bored after two or three loops, we loved it for our 3-year-old who is still developing her pedal bike skills.
Located right next to 8th Street Market and Momentary, it’s a great place to ride before or after an outdoor lunch stop!
Located on the SW side of Bentonville, you’ll need to hop in the car for this one, but it’s definitely worth it. A true mountain bike trail, it’s fun for older kids to race and tackle wood and rock features, but also suuuuper balance bike friendly.
It consists of two fairly flat loops – the longer Wolf Trail and the much shorter Cub Loop. A confident balance biker should take about 10-15 minutes to finish Wolf Trail, while Cub Loop can be completed in less than 5. It’s the perfect mountain biking intro for budding shredders!
Because our bike rack only holds four bikes, dad’s bike got left at home and we rented a Trek for him once we arrived. Phat Tire Bike Shop has beer on tap and tons of bikes of all sizes to choose from. Located in the center of town, it’s easy to walk to if you need to pick up your bike on foot.
Where to Stay
Before going to Bentonville, it was hard to understand where the “best spot” to stay was. Were there bad areas of town? Was the southside too far from the Slaughter Pen trail access?
Like I said before, Bentonville is really small. If you stay anywhere downtown, you can basically ride your bike or walk everywhere. We ended up staying on the SW side of town and loved that area. Looking at the map I was worried that we should have stayed on the north side so we’d have quicker access to the trails. But everything is so close, it really doesn’t matter much.
We stayed in an adorable AirBNB, which worked out perfectly. There’s a Walmart Marketplace grocery store on the town square, so easy access to groceries and home supplies.
Other Things to Do
Buddy Pegs Classes
Our friends over at Buddy Pegs offer bicycle playdates for littles, learn to pedal classes, after school bike camps, and spring break day camps. Look them up and schedule a class!
Outside of the D.C. Smithsonians, the Amazuem is our family’s favorite museum. Everything is kid-focused and completely hands-on. Easily the best children’s museum we’ve ever been to. And yes, it’s clearly amazing.
The Town Square is quaint and small towny, and certainly a must-see. The shops are limited and you probably won’t spend much time there, but it’s still something you need to do. The Walmart Museum and Soda Fountain are located here.
Walmart Museum and Soda Fountain
The museum is free, so why not? Honestly, the museum is a little underwhelming, but once again, it’s free so we’re not complaining. There’s a cute shop at the start of the museum that sits in the original Walton Five and Dime space. It sells toys our parents had and really does feel like you’re stepping back in time.
The museum ends with an old-fashioned soda fountain shop with super affordable icecream. We, of course, ordered the Walmart “Spark” flavor. Turns out it’s really just blue and yellow vanilla, but a cool side effect was that our toddler’s poop was bright green the next day. HAHAHA.
Trash Ice Cream Shop
Just south of the Square, Trash ice cream shop is definitely more expensive than the Soda Fountain, but rightly so. This 80’s themed gathering spot has mini arcade games, Simon, and Rubic’s cubes at every table. Their specialty is mixing all your toppings into your ice cream so the entire bowl is infused with flavor. We loved it!
It’s a famous art museum and it’s free! Gorgeous architecture. Gorgeous art. Gorgeous landscaping. Great for adults and well-behaved kids. Not for escape artist toddlers. Unless you have a leash for your toddler (we unfortunately left ours at home), just explore the cool grounds and sculptures outside.
We’ve heard Bentonville referred to as the Disneyland for biking. It’s true and is the place to be for family bike riding. With countless trails, you’ll never get bored, and there’s an appropriate adventure for every skill level. From our first day there, we started plotting our return. And while we’re from the big city, small-town life never looked so good.