Saturday, December 14, 2019

NWA Razorback Greenway North Bentonville Trail

north bentonville trail in compton gardens

One of my favorite sections of the Razorback Greenway for short hiking treks is the North Bentonville Trail that runs between Lake Bella Vista and the Bentonville Square. I like this section because it offers lots of beautiful scenery and wooded areas free from the noise of traffic. You will also pass Compton Gardens and a world-class art museum (Crystal Bridges) on your way to the square. If you enjoy a hike or bike ride that offers a good mix of scenic beauty and friendly people, check out the North Bentonville Trail.

What Is The Razorback Greenway?

The Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway (official name) is a 37-mile multi-use trail that runs from Fayetteville to Lake Bella Vista. The paved trail is mostly off-road, and its 10-foot width is wide enough to accommodate hikers, bikers, and joggers. There is plenty of room to politely pass someone going slower than you or to let those going faster conveniently pass you. The Razorback Greenway is a combination of several trails that take outdoor enthusiasts through lots of scenic places in the middle of nature, as well as through some quaint city neighborhoods. The trail will often follow a sidewalk in towns, but it's very pedestrian and bike-friendly. Once a month the Razorback Greenway hosts square-to-square: A bike ride that takes bicyclists from the Bentonville square to the Fayetteville square, or vice-versa (about a 30-mile ride).

North Bentonville Trail

Hikers and bikers will find lots of access points and parking along the North Bentonville Trail. I usually park at Hidden Springs (just north of the Bark Park). However, if the parking lot is full, you can usually find more parking at the Bark Park about a half-mile south. Hidden Springs is about a 3-mile hike or bike ride to the square (which makes this trek 6-miles round trip). Occasionally, I will make this a 10-mile trek by hiking on to Lake Bella Vista.

slaughter pen trail system

Hiking and biking on the Razorback Greenway is a lot like following a highway. For example, you have clearly-marked signs to show you exactly where you are at and where you are going. In addition to signs, you will find easy-to-read trail maps along the way. I don't think that I have ever met someone lost on this trail lol.

Another reason that I enjoy this section of the Razorback Greenway is because I love the sight and sound of clear, flowing water. After leaving the parking lot at Hidden Springs, you will cross a small creek that follows the trail for nearly your entire trek to the square. 

hidden springs bentonville

This creek doesn't have an official name. (The small stream is actually one of the main tributaries of Little Sugar Creek, which along with Big Sugar Creek, forms Elk River in Southwest Missouri). Instead, this creek is a series of springs that flow together north of Bentonville referred to as Hidden Springs. There are a few low points along the trail that can get covered by shallow water after heavy rains. However, throughout most of the year, the springs add to beauty of the area during your trek.

Slaughter Pen Mountain Bike Trails

Bentonville is fast becoming known as a "Mecca" and "Disneyland" for mountain bike riders. The Slaughter Pen Trails includes over 30-miles of mountain bike trails for all levels of riders.  However, unlike the Razorback Greenway that is paved, these bike trails are unpaved and often quite rugged. If you are an adventurous mountain biker, you can access the Slaughter Pen trails from various points along the Razorback Greenway. These popular mountain bike trails hosts several events and competitions throughout the year that attract professional riders from around the country (and probably from around the world). Slaughter Pen was actually the name of an old neighborhood in north-side of Bentonville that was located near the slaughter houses. This was a poorer part of town. Therefore, it's funny that this area is now a world-famous mountain bike playground.

North Trail Fitness Station

Contrary to what you might think, the Razorback Greenway offers more forms of physical activity and exercise than just walking and bike riding. Just south of the Slaughter Pen trail head, you will find the North Trail Fitness Station. This fitness station contains outdoor equipment for pull-ups (or chin-ups), pushups, and stretching. This is also a fun place to take a break from hiking or riding. Across the trail from the execrise station are a couple of cool sculptures. One looks like the incredible hulk (made out of stones) on a hiking trek.

Take Your Time to Enjoy Sightseeing Along The Trail

In addition to getting a healthy dose of physical activity on the North Bentonville Trail, there several opportunities to stop and enjoy the beautiful scenery. You will find park benches conveniently located along the trail. As if breathtaking scenery wasn't enough, you will also pass by the world famous Crystal Bridges Museum of Art. 

Crystal Bridges Museum

Most of the North Bentonville Trail is fairly level with gentle inclines. However, on your last mile to the square, you will encounter two very steep hills. This area can sometimes get congested as less experienced riders opt to walk their bikes up the hills, and a lot of joggers will slow down their pace.  The Crystal Bridges Scenic Overlook is my favorite resting spot between conquering those two big hills. The scenic overlook offers a good view of the museum from the west, as well as the wooded hillsides. There are also restrooms nearby if you need to see a man about a dog.

Compton Gardens and The Crystal Bridges Art Trail

The last leg of this trek runs between Compton Gardens and the Crystal Bridges museum grounds. In fact, you can take the Crystal Bridges Art Trail right to the museum's south entrance. I recommend exploring the art trail because it features some creative outdoor art exhibits, a couple of cool waterfalls, and really attractive museum grounds. Behind the museum you will find Crystal Springs - the source of the little creek that I mentioned earlier. This area has plenty of unique places for photo opportunities with friends and family.

After you are finished checking out the museum grounds, head across the trail to Compton Gardens to enjoy the beauty of Compton Gardens. Compton Gardens was the home of Dr. Neal Compton who fought hard to save the Buffalo River from being turned into a lake in the 1960s. The park grounds around his former home serve as a testament to his love of nature. The North Bentonville Trail ends right after you leave Compton Gardens just north of the square.

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