Written by Andy Chasteen. Photos by Andy and Jackie Chasteen.
Northwest Arkansas has become synonymous with mountain biking, and with good reason. The area has some of the best single track in the United States, and a great deal of food, culture, art, and infrastructure to back it up.
But most probably don’t know of the world class gravel road riding that abounds in the area. Easy access, remote and endless gravel with little to no traffic, water crossings, treelined canopy gauntlets, steep climbs, grin-inducing descents, and scenery. All the scenery.
The access is so easy, you can go for a one hour gravel ride from the Bentonville town square and ride very little pavement. Or you can take all your gear and bikepack for a few days (or two weeks) to get the full service experience of what Arkansas gravel has to offer. My wife Jackie and I resolved to partake in the latter, on a sultry warm week last year.
Our first day plan was to leave from downtown Bentonville, roll out Sugar Creek Road then turn north to skirt the east side of Pea Ridge National Military Park on our way into southern Missouri for a few miles before turning southeast back into Arkansas and camping at the historic Beaver Bridge for the night.
We pedaled our way through beautiful tree lined roads with a noble amount of elevation change, stopping occasionally to take photos or adjust our bags to work out balance and packing particularities. The weather was quite warm and humid, but the tree canopy helped shelter us from the sun.
A gas station stop in Seligman, MO resulted in beers and chips and candy bars (and whiskey for the road, just in case). Then east onto a beautiful stretch called Butler Hollow that spit us back out in Arkansas and down to finish at Beaver Bridge. We made camp, took a shower (aka went swimming in the White River), rinsed out the riding clothes, and walked over to the local siDe bAr Restaurant for pizza.
We navigated our way through Holiday Island, with a few gnarly climbs and then broke east passing by ample farmland before turning south and stopping in Berryville for a burger at the historic Garner Drive In. Continuing on, we had to get far enough south to find a crossing over the Kings River before heading back north. The heat and humidity, and steep climbs, were wearing on Jackie. But one of the beauties of bikepacking in Arkansas is the bounty of creek crossings, and we took advantage of it in abundance.