Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Bella Vista Back 40

Bella Vista Back 40
Sugar Creek meanders through much of the Bella Vista Back 40

For about the last year or so, I have been telling myself that I should hike the Bella Vista Back 40 trails. Until recently, I never got around to hiking them because they are off the beaten path (at least off my beaten path). However, the Coronavirus social distancing guidelines made me decide to hit some less traveled hiking trails - and the Bella Vista Back 40 made for a perfect solo hike!

There are several access points throughout Bela Vista. However, I connected to the Back 40 via the Slaughter Pen Trails just north of Bentonville. I know there is a parking lot and trailhead east of the Town Center off HWY 340. You can do a Google search to find all the access points and parking lots.

Hiking the Bella Vista Back 40 Trails

Bella Vista Back 40 Trails
Enjoying a slower pace and more scenery

The multi-use mountain biking and hiking trails of the Bella Vista Back 40 are no joke! Unlike the paved Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway, the Back 40 is rugged, rocky, and much less traveled. There are over 20 miles of trails that take hikers and bikers through a wide variety of terrain--terrain that varies from beginner to advanced. Just a word of caution: The most challenging terrain is not for the faint of heart!

The Back 40 trails are an excellent way to experience the scenic beauty of the area. This trek also gives you a chance to get away from all the development in Northwest Arkansas. Bella Vista is well-known for its many steep hills and beautiful bluffs. The first thing I noticed starting out on my hike is that it felt like I was climbing up hills lol. Seriously, I would look at a high point in front of me and think that once I got to that spot, I'd have a great vantage point below. Wrong! I would find another high point to climb in front of me - so I kept climbing--climbing up hills and along the edge of bluffs.

Back 40 Features

Back 40
Steep limestone bluffs above Sugar Creek

First, I'll say that hiking up to the bluffs was definitely a lot steeper than it looked from the bottom. Secondly, the cool rock formations made it worth the climb! I always think about the bluff dwellers who would have lived underneath these large rock formations cut out of the hillsides. They would have made the trek to Sugar Creek for water and game on a regular basis. What a workout!

The geology of the Ozarks is famous for two things: Caves and springs. The fact that the terrain in the Ozarks contains a large amount of limestone, as well as the fact that the area is home to thousands of springs, is the reason why this area has so many caves. (These limestone rocks have been hollowed out into caves by years of water cutting through them.

Bella Vista Back 40 Cave
Entrance to a small cave underneath a limestone bluff.

After hiking underneath the overhang of several large bluffs, I came across this entrance to a small cave. At the time, I didn't go inside it. I just stuck my phone in the entrance and snapped a quick photo (pictured above). Anyway, after I looked at the photo, I decided that those large rocks toward the back look a lot like a sleeping mountain lion lol. 

Remember how I mentioned all the water flowing out of the bluffs? Well, the next feature I came across was a large, awesome waterfall!

Bella Vista Back 40 Waterfall
I love waterfalls!

Since it was a warm day, I took my cap off and put it underneath the water to cool myself off from hiking. The spring water was still cold! Bella Vista is full of waterfalls - and the Back 40 trails will take you to many of them. Even though I didn't meet very many other hikers or bikers on these trails, this waterfall is a popular feature, so there were several people around it. That means I didn't get to enjoy it for long.

 Sugar Creek

After seeing the waterfall, I decided to venture down the hill toward the Sugar Creek valley. The area around Sugar Creek is generally flatter and not quite as heavily wooded as the hillsides above. This part of my hike was easy after climbing up and down all those steep, rocky hills. I loved watching the water flow over the flat, limestone rocks underneath it. The uneven rocks on the creek bed create little white water rapids.

Sugar Creek
Quiet spot to enjoy my lunch near the water

In accordance with the Coronavirus social distancing guidelines, I now pack a picnic lunch to eat on my hiking treks (instead of going out to eat). I found a scenic spot off the trail - and next to the creek - to enjoy my lunch. These rocks made a nice natural bench for me to rest my weary legs while I let my feat soak in the cool creek water.

All in all, I enjoyed a wondering hiking trek on the Back 40 trails. It gave me a chance to see quieter, more scenic side of Bella Vista - away from all the traffic and noise of Northwest Arkansas.

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