"Y'all gonna love this one here,"proclaims our Ozark Mountain bike tour guide, Dave Renko, as we pile out of the truck and start to unload the bikes. "It's a screamer," adds Stan Johnson, another Fayetteville, Arkansas mountain bike freak.
The trail they are referring to is the Mountain Creeks Falls Trail, located in the northwest corner of Arkansas, an area ripe with networks of singletrack, doubletrack, and four-wheel drive roads. I came to explore it on fat tires, and capture the road less traveled over a five day span.
Moments later, I find myself tearing around a corner, gripped. Just ahead lies a ledge drop, followed directly by twenty yards of fist-sized rubble. Hold on, have faith, and stay off the front brakes! Unlike most rides, this one begins with a long and hairy descent. The climb comes later. Toward the bottom of the descent, my hands and forearms burn from trying to keep up, yet the only remnant of Dave and Stan is a cloud of settling dust. Trees whiz by in my peripheral until I reach a set of switchbacks.
Beaten down by the elements, the Ozarks are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the country, dating back millions of years. Valley floors are at about 1,200 feet and the highest peaks rise to 2,800 feet. Beautiful, thick hardwood forests of beechwood, hickory, oak, maple, and dogwood blanket the landscape, and spring creeks wind their way down to bigger waterways like the Buffalo and White rivers. After a good hard rain, dried-up creek beds spring to life and feed countless tiny waterfalls.
A half-dozen puckering sections later, the trail finally mellows and I see them waiting for me beside one of these beautiful creeks. "I thought you'd like it down here," Dave says with a smile as he shoulders his bike and starts downstream. I couldn't have found a better person to show me the area. Working mostly weekends, Dave plays a mean sax for The Cate Brothers Band, and on weekdays he acts as president for the Ozark Off-road Cyclist Club, building trails, organizing races, leading rides, and promoting mountain biking in the region. He also does a phenomenal amount of trail research - what most of us just call "riding."
Stan and I follow his lead.The stream flows over one limestone shelf after another and then plummets 25 feet into an eerie green pool. Over the next four days, this same scenario replayed itself: gripping descents, pounding climbs, and a mountain culture vibe that feels like home.
Small towns rich with mountain folklore from the days of mining and logging dot the land. Eureka Springs, nicknamed "little Switzerland," is most notable for its old world charm. Shanties and buildings defy steep terrain, teetering on the edges of cliffs, stilted. Recently, Eureka Springs has become a funky town with unique shops, old hotels, and resident artists. The town also hosted the Ozark's first Fat Tire Festival earlier this summer.
There is an easy way about the people in this neck of the woods. Real friendly-like and willing to go out of their way to give a helping hand. But they sure have a funny way of talking.
"How y'all doin'? Y'all wanna ride o'er through that holler? . . . y'all come back now, y'heer?"
With undeniable beauty and hospitality, unique towns, endless trail and road systems, and developing organizations like the Ozark Off-road Cyclists Club, the Ozarks are a road tripper's prize.
1st Choice Cabins
Jasper, Arkansas Vacation Rentals
A Great Vacation awaits you at 1st Choice Cabins! Enjoy your stay in the Ozark Mountains and the Buffalo National River Country....
Rates from $140 Per Night
Creek's End Riverside Retreat
Parthenon, Arkansas Vacation Rentals
Comfortable, well-stocked vacation rental located right on the banks of the Little Buffalo River. Beautiful wooded mountain location with hiking trails and plenty of relaxation!...
Affordable Rates from $125 Per Night
Lake Forest Cabins in the Beaver Lake Area
Eureka Springs, Arkansas Vacation Rentals
Luxury Log Cabins in the Beaver Lake Area of Beautiful Eureka Springs, Arkansas. All cabins sleep 1 - 10 persons. Seasonal Swimming Pool, Fireplaces, BBQ grills, 2 person jacuzzi tubs....
$149 Per Night
Active Cave Exploration
Ozarks, Arkansas Cave Exploration
Tame Cavern tour ( about 45 minutes ); and two extreme cavern tours, not for the faint of heart ( from 3-5 hours ). We provide helmets, headlights, knee-pads, and gloves; and hot showers. Rock and mineral shop. Spectacular bluff, and waterfall....
Starting at $12 Per Person
Renew & Relax at Fire Om Earth Retreat Center
Eureka Springs, Arkansas Spiritual
Spiritually Creative Workshops & Retreats Nightly & Weekly private cabin rental Yoga - Tai Chi - Bellydance -...
Rustic Luxury at the Buffalo River Lodge
Ozarks, Arkansas Bed & Breakfasts
The Buffalo River Lodge offers rustic luxury with a romantic atmosphere in the Ozark MTNs. near the Buffalo National River. Guests can escape to the serentiy of 62 scenic acres. Relax by the waterfall and koi pond while enjoying landscaped gardens. ...
$79 Per Night
A Eureka Springs Favorite for Over 28 Years
Eureka Springs, Arkansas Bed & Breakfasts
Quiet Historic District residential street with plenty of free parking - One block walk or trolley to shops, spas & cafes. A full breakfast is served on our balcony overlooking "America in Bloom" award winning gardens. Some rooms with TWO BEDS...
Starting at $95 Per Night
A Wedding at Hidden Acres
Eureka Springs, Arkansas Bed & Breakfasts
Hidden Acres offers small, intimate weddings at our chapel or gazebo with professional photographs in digital black and white or color format. You may reserve one of our B & B cottages with its own personal hot tub for a honeymoon package or getaway....
Catherine's Landing, an RVC Outdoor Destination
Hot Springs, Arkansas Campgrounds & RV Parks
Encompassing one mile of water frontage on Lake Catherine in Hot Springs, Arkansas; this is your ideal natural environment mixed with your favorite hotel experience....
$36 Per Night
Family Fun at Aunt Grace's Stay 'N Play
Lakeview, Arkansas Hotels & Resorts
Clean and spacious stone cottages. Large pool and picnic grounds. Minutes to Bull Shoals lake and the White river. Real kitchens or you can eat out or Bar-B-Q. Pizza can be delievered pool side or to your room. Pets are welcome. Free WI-FI....
Starting at $75 Per Night
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