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Level: Intermediate
Length: 35 mi (56.3 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Network
Elevation: +995/ -987 ft
Total: 43 riders

Mountain Biking Upper Buffalo Headwaters Trail System

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#2 of 200 mountain bike trails in Arkansas
#124 in the world

This complex backcountry trail system is well-signed, but you are way out in the middle of nowhere. Getting lost is not advised!

These trails are reminiscent of riding in North Carolina or North Georgia with tons of stream crossings, rocks, and steep climbs and descents. The figure 8 loop measures in at about 18 miles, but there are many options and spurs to choose from.

Highly recommended!

This trail is located near Boxley, just south of the junction of AR 21 and AR 74.

First added by tlongpine on Jun 17, 2014. Last updated May 8, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: yes
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
While this 37-mile loop ride contains some steep climbs and a few rough, rocky sections, it is not technically difficult. It can be easily handled by beginners in good physical condition for the climbing.
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Upper Buffalo Headwaters Trail System Trail map

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Local Info

Trail checkins

cheezintheramen (on May 29, 2023)
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Trail conditions

Good (on Jul 28, 2019)
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  • John Fisch

    This trail system has a very backcountry feel to it. Just getting there requires a long bit of dirt road after wandering deep into the Ozarks.
    The trails vary from classic old school to more modern flowy cuts, but they are all remote and beautiful. I rode on a perfect weather weekend and didn't see a single soul on the trails (one other vehicle in the parking lot). Despite being remote and rugged, every intersection is well marked and it's hard to get lost. If you start at the upper lot, beware; you're gonna' have some climbing to get back up there.

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  • tk5010

    I've only ridden a handful of the available miles of trail but it's enough to make me love this system. I did the loop starting at Knuckles Creek TH, going up to start the entire Firetower downhill, the climb back up was breathtaking :D

    I also did about a 14 miler starting from the same TH, going down the FSR, starting at #30 I think, it is Firetower, midway down. Doing lots of fun stuff, including that black diamond part of Ancients, sooo much fun! I can't say enough how much fun the downhills are. Like everyone has said, prepare to climb. I had over 2000 feet in just under 14 miles. Mostly intermediate on the technical scale except the Ancients, it's extremely steep.

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  • tmdenkinger

    Great trail system. Really well marked. Some great scenery to match the trails. Only negative would be long stretches of Rocky trail can make very few sections flow when you are not going down and makes some of the uphill more challenging than you'd expect from the grade.

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  • [email protected]

    Getting to the trailhead is quite the quest. Most of the trailheads are located off of highway 16 in Redstart. There's a large FS sign on the main highway. I parked at Knuckles which is right in the middle of the area on FSR 1476.

    First, sorry that CFM had a bad experience. Second, the trailheads are at the top of the mountain, so most descend right away. Expect a climb at the end of the day. Third, expect some graded FS roads as part of your ride. When you've spent hours banging out the single track, this may not be a bad way to end.

    The trail bed will range between old hand cut single track, single track built on abandoned logging roads, double track on semi active "dim" roads, and lastly active FS roads. often more than one type on a single trail. Surface can be cruiser dirt, good gravel, Ozark "chumble" that will rattle your eyeballs, a few rock gardens. Really the whole gamut. There are creek crossings, many, so be prepared.

    Many map kiosks and well marked but still bring a map for where there aren't any. Fire Tower is awesome with many creek crossings. I did it clockwise. Azalea Falls is super sweet, probably best counterclockwise. Skyline was chumbly and not pleasent on a hardtail but I used it to get to the top of Wild Cat Hollow which is a one way technical downhill, super sweet, single black diamond. Climbed out on Buffalo creek which comes out at Cave Mtn trailhead. Do this one from the top down for some fast steep blues.

    More trails to ride. Will come back here.
    (the canned rating system here does not allow for the variety of intermediate trail you will get here)

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  • T-ROF

    Covered 26 miles of this system on 1/30/2016 as part of the Upper Buffalo Headwaters challenge ride. The ride is an annual event sponsored by the local IMBA chapter (OORC - Ozark Off-Road Cyclists). Riders covered between 26 and 42 miles based on riding the "Whole" or "Half" challenge.

    First off - the trails were in great shape. For those that have never been to the UBH located outside of Redstar, Arkansas, they are a mix of just about everything a rider wants. From the rocky and fast Buffalo Creek downhill, to crawling up and down through trails like Zeester, Azalea Falls, Sidewinder and Skyline. You'll see a mix of tough climbs, water crossings, light tech sections and plenty of beautiful Arkansas backcountry complete with waterfalls, bluffs, and an amazing array of trees and wildlife. There are some gravel connectors but they're short and purposeful - not drawn out excuses to make the overall trail length greater. Highlight trails like the excellent Fire Tower Loop show just how much the UBH has improved in recent years. Much of this is due to the OORC crews leveraging pro trail builders like Progressive Trail Designs to bring some great sections of fast, flowy trail complete with the kind of berms and drops that everyone loves without detracting from the backcountry feel. Add in some seriously avid trail maintainers from the OORC chapters around the state and you get a really great IMBA epic experience. The trails also have maps and markers at most intersections and it makes it very easy to orient yourself as you explore.

    Now - some caveats: When you ride this trail, you are in the middle of nowhere. There are no local services (gas, food, water) in easy reach. There is no cell signal. 911 works, but if you break yourself off on this trail, expect a minimum of 2-3 hours before you see a rescue crew. While there are some "easy" trails in UBH, they're usually nested inside of miles of rough, hilly, intermediate trails that will tear up new riders, or riders who aren't fit. When in doubt, do some homework as to the kind of distances and the amount of climbing you want to do and then plan your ride accordingly. Maybe pick a trail that supports shuttling (like the Fire Tower Loop) and spend the day having fun without getting caught up inside of a 18-20 mile epic with 3000 feet of climbing. On the flip side of that - if deep woods backcountry adventure is your thing - UBH has it in spades.

    Overall - this is an amazing trail system that is well maintained and full of sheer 2-wheeled joy to experience. It's also a true backcountry trail and not one that your kids or new-rider spouse are going to love you for when they're huffing and puffing up Skyline or that last agonizing crawl up Red Star trail in mid-July. But if you are reasonably fit, have good backcountry riding skills, and know how to maintain yourself when the going gets steep, hot, and technical - you will find a lot to love about the Upper Buffalo Headwaters trail system.

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  • A_Day_2_Remember

    Very well built and maintained. Lots of climbing, flowy single track and down hill section.

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  • CFM   ✓ supporter

    We looked forward to these trails with high hopes, given the glowing review posted on October 1. After finding the official trailhead off of Cave Mountain Road we launched our ride. Initially we plunged down the valley on doubletrack (Buffalo Creek Trail) that had some humps added for fun effect. During our steep descent we located signposts #2 and #3. When we continued to follow the arrows posted on trees we began to have trouble. We made it to a tree with #5 marked on it and followed the singletrack from that point believing we were on Twisted Hickory Trail. We soon realized that we were not seeing any more arrows and returned to the Red Star Trail to begin a loop back to the trailhead. Red Star was simply more doubletrack heading straight back up the other side of the valley we descended. Halfway to the top we came to where Cave Mountain Rd. intersects Hwy 16. The rest of the route was a gravel road back to the trailhead.

    Our experience was clearly not as good as we hoped. Descending and ascending steep, old four wheeler and gravel roads was not what we were looking for. I suspect that some of the other trails may have been better but we ran out of time due to the difficulty just trying to find entry to this trail system. The "trailhead" marked in Singletracks is located in the middle of a farmer's pasture in the valley. Even the people at Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca had precious little information to give us. Fortunately, they had just talked to some mt. bikers the day before who told them how to get to the upper trailhead.

    I suspect that this trail system is still under construction and will only get better with time. In the meantime, could someone in the know locate a better trail access to the lower trails? And please expand on the information in the description.

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  • willisdporter

    Probably one of the top 3 trail systems in the state. All of the sections that I have ridden seem to be very well designed with great flow throughout. Parts of this trail remind me of Syllamo (Red Trail) but only better.

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