In the beginning, there was Slaughter Pen.
Before Coler Preserve, before the Back 40, the 2006 greenlighting of 25-plus miles of singletrack at Slaughter Pen—a historic former livestock operation in Bentonville—spurred a now-storied trail-building boom in Northwest Arkansas.
The project created an international destination for the sport and has been drawing mountain biking enthusiasts with year-round rides and world-class features ever since.
And it isn’t just the trails that have grown. Beyond the initial hardcore fanbase in a sport that has historically skewed “young adult male,” Slaughter Pen’s fun factor has inspired more women riders to get on two wheels, along with a new generation of kids and families riding for the very first time.
Haley Tranum is an enduro racer and National Interscholastic Cycling Association coach for students grade 6-12 in the region. “Slaughter Pen is an incredible trail to ride, and the convenience factor can’t be beat,” she says of its location across the street from her downtown driveway.
Beyond coaching, Haley and her colleagues have been hard at work spreading the cycling gospel, lending out loaner bikes to kids and families interested in hitting the trail for the very first time.
One thing is clear: whether you’re a weekend warrior, professional shredder or a family looking to try something new, there is no better place to start a ride in Northwest Arkansas than the trail that put the region on the map.
The entrance to Slaughter Pen is just a one-minute ride from the once-sleepy Bentonville Town Square, taking you past local landmarks like The Walmart Museum, Phat Tire Bike Shop and a host of acclaimed new eateries, hip hotels and buzzing coffee shops.
Dropping into the trail makes it clear exactly why trail builders understood the Ozarks to be such a promising locale for mountain bikers—with limestone caves, rocky ledges, waterfalls and hardwood forests from which to carve an unforgettable experience.
Slaughter Pen itself is a carnival of manmade and natural features, with big, flowy berms, ladder bridges, giant wooden wall rides and some major gravity-fed downhill. And trail improvements in the past few years have touched just about every inch of this cross-country icon.
If you aren’t too busy admiring your own air, peel off and cruise by the mind-blowing outdoor collections of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art—where names like Abramović, Chihuly and Kusama spring from the forest floor.
Looking to get beyond Bentonville? Slaughter Pen connects to the Razorback Regional Greenway, the a 37-mile paved trail system and major cycling artery that runs from Bella Vista in the north all the way down to Fayetteville. Whether you are a first timer to the region or a banged-up veteran of the Northwest quadrant’s wild rides, make sure to swing through Slaughter Pen and pay homage to the trail that started it all.