This MTB Trail Takes University Students Right to Their Campus Doors

University of Arkansas students can now shred natural surface trails on their way to the lecture hall.

The Fayetteville Traverse Trail is another opportunity for city residents and visitors to leave their gas-powered vehicles parked and opt for a mountain bike as a viable means of transportation.

The 18-mile natural-surface loop connects the University of Arkansas campus, the Markham Hill Nature Trails, Centennial Park on Millsap Mountain, Kessler Mountain Regional Park, Arkansas Research Technology Park, Tsa La Gi Bike Park, plus various neighborhoods and businesses along the route. A plethora of different interest groups have already incorporated the trail into their normal routine.

The University of Arkansas may be the only major school with a one-of-a-kind natural surface bike path weaving its way across campus. On breaks between classes, students and faculty can push their bikes out the door and immediately crank out miles of fun in the dirt.

The school’s Department of University Recreation (UREC) supports student cyclists with an on-campus, full-service, bike shop. They also have mountain bikes for rent to UREC members. The bike shop employs student mechanics who will repair bikes and allows students to watch and learn bike maintenance best practices. Bike stands and tools are available to members for performing their own repairs. UREC hosts regular rides for students to grow their cycling skills and familiarize themselves with area trails.

Caitlin Arnett, Coordinator for UREC Outdoors, said that in her four months as the full-time bicycle coordinator, she has witnessed increased participation in bicycling. In response to this growing interest, UREC has increased their bike activities from six last semester to thirty-one in the current semester.

“The visibility of the trail right on campus encourages people to get involved with bicycling,” Arnett explained. The organized rides attract a lot of attention for the Traverse too, she said.

Local mountain bikers are sure to take advantage of the Traverse. Gone are the days Fayetteville riders had to load up their bikes and drive to a trailhead parking lot.

Now, hop on your bike, roll onto the Traverse or one of many other trails feeding into it, and use good old, pollution free pedal power to reach Kessler, Centennial, Tsa-La-Gi, and any other bike parks along the loop.

The Traverse is a bonus for out-of-towners visiting Fayetteville’s mountain bike trails.

They are no longer limited to one park for the duration of a ride either. Cherry-pick your favorite trails: (Crazy Mary) at Kessler, hop on the Traverse, ride to Centennial, enjoy your favorite runs there, then back on the Traverse to reach Markham Hill for some old-school singletrack, then onto the Traverse once again, and pedal around Razorback Stadium to Tsa-La-Gi to log some big air time. 

If you crave some carbs during your ride, follow the Traverse into town for a wide choice of eats and beverages.

The Master Plan for the Traverse also includes camping at Centennial Park. Eventually, visitors will be able to park their motor vehicles for an extended weekend, shredding the same quality trails that host world championship competitions.

Not just for cyclists

The inspiration for the Fayetteville Traverse came when Steuart Walton and Tom Walton visited Duluth, Minnesota. They were impressed by the connectivity of the trails and believed this was something the Fayetteville community could benefit from.

The Walton brothers agreed to fund the creation of the Traverse, and the first year of maintenance expenses. They designated NWA Trailblazers as project developer, whose roles included design, easements, property acquisition, and management of the trail contractors.

The Trailblazers recruited the master trail crews from Progressive Trail Design, Rogue Trails, and Rock Solid to carve out the network of trails.

With the Traverse weaving its way throughout the Fayetteville area, you would think negotiating easements would be a monstrous undertaking. However, the Trailblazers designed a route that passed mostly through university- and city-owned property. 

For those easements involving private property, Erin Rushing, Director of NWA Trailblazers, said the owners were very cooperative. 

With the League of American Bicyclists recognizing University of Arkansas as a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly University 2019-2023 and the city of Fayetteville designated a Bronze-Level IMBA Ride Center, cooperation is the norm for this bike-friendly community.

The Trailblazers included many choice, wooded, sections to route the trail through, such as a 10-acre oak woodland savanna grove that is one of the few remaining upland prairies and savannas of the western Ozark Mountains.

Bird watchers, hikers, runners, and other outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate that their interests were included when designing the Fayetteville Traverse.

Ammen Jordan, the Active Transportation Coordinator for U of A, might have described the Traverse best:

“[The Traverse is a] string of pearls connecting the natural jewels of the Fayetteville outdoors.”