No matter what type of cycling you are into whether it be mountain biking, cyclocross, gravel, or bikepacking, chances are you have probably heard a lot about Northwest Arkansas in recent years. The region has become a bucket-list destination for bikepackers given the beautiful scenery of the Ozark Mountains, but it remains seemingly out of reach for many given the challenging nature of the area’s most popular bikepacking routes. With a growing library of gravel routes, hundreds of miles of amazing single-track trails, and paved trail infrastructure connecting towns, the opportunity for a visionary new project arose: The Fayetteville Bikepacking Route Network.
“With more than a million acres of National Forest and hundreds of miles of gravel roads at our door, Fayetteville is a natural basecamp for outdoor adventure,” said Molly Rawn, Experience Fayetteville CEO. “We’re excited to lead the way in creating the first curated set of bikepacking routes in our region from overnight to multi-day adventures.”
This project aims to create a unique, progressive loop system of bikepacking routes showcasing the best of the best in gravel and singletrack in the area. Bikepacking Roots’ Co-Founder and Routes Director, Kurt Refsnider, who recently spent two weeks in the region doing extensive route recon reflected, “The terrain and gravel riding opportunities in the Fayetteville region are incredibly diverse, and I’ve really enjoyed exploring it. This is the perfect place to create a suite of routes that cater to the full spectrum of bikepackers, from first-timers looking for relatively short overnight loop options to experienced riders looking to get out for a few days in the more rugged Ozarks. With destinations like Devil’s Den State Park, the Buffalo National River, White Rock Mountain Recreation Area, and Lake Wedington, the route network will take riders to some absolute gems along the way.”
Resources will be packaged into a convenient guidebook format with history on the area, logistical information such as camping and lodging, and all the best attractions in Fayetteville and other towns in the network. The guide will also include access to handy checklists and other tips to prepare new bikepackers for their adventures. Routes will be developed for those who just want a taste of bikepacking as well as those with a goal to work their way up to more epic routes in the Ozarks, such as the Arkansas High Country Route, an 1,170-mile loop system created by Adventure Cycling Association, or Doom, an intimidatingly named 375-mile route with over 40,000 feet of elevation gain.
The Fayetteville Bikepacking Route Network represents a true partnership between Experience Fayetteville and Bikepacking Roots and the opportunity to co-create a catalog of routes and resources to further cement Fayetteville’s role as a world class bikepacking destination. The two organizations first teamed up in October 2022 to host a community-centered bikepacking gathering focused on introducing new cyclists to the sport, building community, and showcasing Fayetteville as a bikepacking destination. The event partnered with local businesses, and included a workshop and an overnight bikepacking trip, and ultimately planted the seed for this expanded partnership.
This project highlights Bikepacking Roots’ growing presence around the country. “In my early tenure as Executive Director, it has been most exciting to build relationships with dedicated individuals and organizations around the country who are committed to growing the bikepacking community and expanding the network of high-quality routes,” notes Noelle Battle of Bikepacking Roots. “I couldn’t be more excited to develop this innovative, beginner-focused bikepacking network in a place like Fayetteville and the greater Northwest Arkansas region.”
Kurt Refsnider is leading this project, but local collaboration will be key to all aspects of the work. Bikepacking Roots and Experience Fayetteville are excited to collaborate with great local route creators such as Andrew Onerma, founder of Ozark Gravel Cyclists, a 501c3 non-profit organization with a mission to support and advance a diverse community of adventure cyclists through route development, group rides, events and educational opportunities.
Development of the Fayetteville Bikepacking Route Network is currently underway with an estimated release by Fall 2024. Stay tuned for more details!
More about Fayetteville, Arkansas
Fayetteville is already a hub that has attracted all types of world-class cycling to the area. Fayetteville is the only city in the United States to have earned UCI’s Bike City Label. The UCI cyclocross and gravel world championships have been held in Fayetteville. The unique Fayetteville Traverse is an 18-mile urban singletrack trail experience that links together multiple city parks, trail systems, residences, and the University of Arkansas with a continuous natural surface loop. And the paved Razorback Greenway starts in Fayetteville and connects towns all the way up to Bentonville and Bella Vista over 40 miles. For more information on Fayetteville, including a calendar of events, visit experiencefayetteville.com