A dude ranch in Arkansas ditched horses for mountain bikes

With 10 miles of brand-new Walton-funded singletrack, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is Northwest Arkansas' newest must-ride MTB destination.
Mountain biking through a rock cave.
All photos by Adam Munich, courtesy Rock Solid Trail Contracting

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch has long been an iconic tourist attraction along the Buffalo National River outside Jasper, Arkansas. According to Arkansas.com, the “family-owned dude ranch [features] horseback rides, canoeing (when in season) on the Buffalo National River, rock climbing, zip lining, target shooting, hiking, fishing, archery, disc golf, swimming in the outdoor pool and a children’s program.” The ranch offers “13 log cabin rentals [that] sleep up to seven in each and feature refrigerator, coffee pot, microwave, full baths and are fully furnished.”

However, that description is a bit out of date, as Horseshoe Ranch has recently changed ownership and ideology. Horseback riding “has been discontinued due to its costly nature,” according to an article on KUAF.com. But what could possibly take the place of horses?

Mountain biking, of course.

Rock Solid Trail Contracting recently finished phase one of a brand-new mountain bike trail system on Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, featuring 10 miles of brand-new singletrack on a piece of the property that offers 700 feet of vertical relief. The entire project calls for an impressive 21 miles of professionally-built singletrack once it’s completed.

This new Northwest Arkansas trail system is far from ordinary. The singletrack runs into a canyon lined with impressive rock cliffs and freestanding formations scattered on the canyon floor.

“So there was this stack of rocks that essentially got turned into a tunnel,” said Adam Munich, Digital Marketing Coordinator for Rock Solid Trail Contracting. “When I walked the flag line, I could barely fit through this gap with my camera bag on. I have a photo with it with a flag on it. And then afterwards, I have photos of a machine running through it, and then eventually a trail builder riding their bike through it.” Rock Solid intentionally took “these really big rock features and [turned] them into this intimate ‘I’m riding my bike through a cave’ experience.”

The new trails were constructed using a “machine-assisted handcut” methodology. Basically, “we didn’t run a machine all the way through the tread,” said Munich. “So there are areas that are more what we would call a ‘scratch and sniff’ type trail where there’s some rock texture, root texture left in the trail to be more of like a hand cut, weaving through the rocks.”

Compared to riding in Bentonville, the trails at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch provide a very backcountry feel — and with the rock formations, it’s quite similar in flavor to the renowned Devil’s Den State Park.

The new trail development at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch has been funded by “the Waltons,” according to Munich. At this time, the new owners of the property have not been named, but the ranch is now being managed by Ropeswing Hospitality.

Despite being funded by the Waltons, most people will still need to purchase a $10 day pass to the ranch in order to ride the trails. However, residents of Newton County can access the trails for free. The ranch also rents Specialized Turbo Levo eMTBs for $50 for a half-day or $90 for a full day. 


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