Jill Rohrbach, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Ride one of the first mountain bike trails in the state at one of the oldest mountain bike festivals in Arkansas on April 6-8 at Devil’s Den State Park near West Fork. Celebrating 30 years, the Ozark Mountain Bike Festival includes scheduled bike rides, workshops, skills courses, friendly competitions and an evening social.
Test your biking skills as you pedal along on guided mountain bike rides over rolling, rocky terrain and creeks. Riders of all experience levels are welcome and rides vary in length and difficulty. Each ride will be geared to a group’s overall ability, so any level of rider can find a ride appropriate to his or her skills. The trails vary in length and some of the rides for the festival will use a combination of trails.
The festival begins at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, April 6 with a ride on one of the first mountain bike trails in the state – Fossil Flats. At 7:30 on the same trail is the yearly night ride.
“Typically, we don’t let people out on the trail at night,” Tim Scott, assistant superintendent at Devil’s Den State Park, says. “It’s fun to be able to ride with just your lights. The trail looks completely different than when you’re riding it during the day.”
On Saturday, April 7 enjoy trail rides and learning opportunities with rides focusing on improving skill. Rides and workshops are scheduled for beginners and intermediate bikers. There is also a ladies-only ride, family ride and a kids skill course, where youth can test their biking abilities by weaving around cones, riding a skinny and teeter-totter, and limboing.
Festival participants usually include beginners who want to learn about the sport, or people who have just moved to the area and want to become familiar with the trails before striking out on their own. Experienced riders attend to meet other mountain bikers and talk with them about additional places to ride. The experienced bikers also enjoy the opportunity to hammer down with their peers and see who can come up with the bragging rights – like at the Big Splash contest, where riders pedal across a creek crossing to see who can make the biggest splash.
The festival helps riders learn the park’s trails, which range from tight singletrack to wide doubletrack. Some of them are flat. The relief may not change more than 100 feet. Some trails have descents anywhere from 400 feet to 500 feet.
Plenty of fun, social elements are included in the festival mix, including a poker run and paddle boat race. Also bring your appetite for pizza, hamburgers, cake and ice cream to celebrate 30 years of mountain biking at Devil’s Den at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“This is probably the longest running mountain bike festival in the state,” Scott explains.
The Ozark Mountain Bike Festival was one of the first, if not the first mountain bike event in the state. You can read more about its history here. The terrain at the park is perfect for mountain biking activities, and with the development of other trails in the area, the popularity of the sport in Northwest Arkansas is now huge.
Admission is free. Those attending can plan to spend the night, or just attend the festival for the day. Camping is the recommended way to get the most out of the festival. Camping and cabins are available at Devil’s Den; but, cabin reservations usually go quickly. Group camping is available too. Also, bike vendors selling supplies or making bike repairs usually attend the festival. Dress for the weather and don’t forget that helmets are required.
Family members of bike festival participants often use their time to explore the park. Devil’s Den has hiking and backpacking trails that lead to caves, crevices and bluff overlooks. The park store offers groceries and gifts. The horse camp area includes riding trails and a bathhouse.
For the full schedule of events, call 479-761-3325 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.ArkansasStateParks.com for more information about the park.
To reach the park, travel eight miles south of Fayetteville on Interstate 540 to exit 53 at West Fork, then go 17 miles southwest on Ark. 170; or exit I-540 at exit 45 at Winslow and go seven miles west on Ark. 74. Note, trailers longer than 26 feet should use exit 53.
Jill Rohrbach, travel writer