Chasing Totality in the Ozarks!

This past April, my husband Craig and I traveled to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas for some early-season mountain biking, and to experience the historic April 8th total solar eclipse. On August 21, 2017, Craig had the privilege of witnessing his first total solar eclipse in Nashville, TN. I remember hearing the excitement in Craigs voice as he spoke over the cell phone about his incredible experience. He said that everything went dark, the stars came out and the crickets started chirping! This was the first total solar eclipse visible from anywhere in the mainland United States since February 1979.

Solar eclipse photo during totality taken by Craig Rudd

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, completely blocking the latter from view. While the moon is much smaller, it’s closer than the sun and appears to cover it up entirely for those in the path of totality.

If you’re under the outer, lighter shadow called the penumbra, you will see a partial eclipse. Ideally, your goal should be to stand beneath the Moon’s darker, inner shadow — the umbra. That’s where day will turn into night, where several planets will become visible, and where the corona — the Sun’s normally invisible outer atmosphere — will shine forth in a glowing ring.

 When hearing about the upcoming solar eclipse in April, we jumped at the opportunity to head south to Arkansas. On average, it takes about 375 years for a total solar eclipse to happen again at the same location. By comparison, a total lunar eclipse, also known as a Blood Moon, can be seen from any location approximately every 2.5 years. The next total solar eclipses will be viewable in the continental US in 2044 and 2045. I was thrilled to be one of more than 31 million people to witness this spectacle in the sky!

We stayed at an Airbnb in Bella Vista within riding distance of our favorite trails on the Little Sugar Bush, Blowing Springs, and the Back 40 trail networks. I enjoy riding the other trail venues in Bentonville, but have found that these trails can get crowded. I enjoy the solitude of lakes, streams, woods and endless single track trails that can be found in the Bella Vista area. Just a short walk from our condo we could explore Lake Rayburn on our SUP and take a post workout polar plunge to restore our tired bike legs.

Back 40 Trail riding through overhanging cliffs and along lakes.

What I enjoy most about visiting the Arkansas Ozark mountains is the ample amount of trails that wind along caves, natural springs, creeks, lakes and tall forests. Bella Vista trails are located in a suburban area, yet when riding the single track, you experience solitude and wilderness as your bike crosses springs and creeks. One moment you are riding on the heights of a cliff and the next you are in the depths of the cool shaded canyon leading to a beautiful lake.

The first evening upon our arrival we enjoyed a sunset ride at the Blowing Springs Trail system. We took skyline sunset views from Sally Trail and descended the downhill flow trails starting at the camper trailer hub. Every year that I return to Bentonville, there are new trails and updated technical features along each of the trail systems. I checked out a new interior trail hub in the center of the Tunnel Vision loop called Huntley Gravity Zone. There is no need to attend theme parks when you have roller coaster trail systems to play on in the Ozarks! 

On the second day, we road the Sugar Bush Trails called Down Under and Tunnel Vision, which provide 25 miles of challenging climbs and descents. The following day we hit all the favorite trails near Bentonville at Coler Park Preserve and Slaughter Pen. In the afternoon, I road solo on the Back 40 trails taking in waterfalls, creek crossings, and beautiful forests.

Back 40 Trail waterfall crossing

The third day we decided to take a day trip to explore three trail systems in the Ozarks that we had not ventured to in the past. The first stop was in Rogers at the Lake Atlanta Trail system. I felt like a kid at heart riding on the man-made downhill flow trails at the Railyard Bike Park. We climbed and descended the flow trails above Lake Atlanta as we took in the aroma of the white and purple fruit tree blossoms. 

Kim Rudd enjoying an SUP adventure!

Over the last 200 years, Arkansas has built 1,251 dams to manage the rivers in the Ozark region. The many lakes that dot the Ozarks and the Ouachitas were created by man-made dams.  These dams were constructed to manage the rivers and streams of the state for flood control, power development, navigation, municipal water supply, recreation, irrigation, and for other uses. 

The next stop was at Lake Fayetteville. While my husband took a cat nap, I explored the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. Coming from Minnesota’s brown surroundings, the ample colors and aromas of the different flowers and plants brought joy to my soul. If you are looking for a low-key easy single-track trail, Lake Fayetteville has a lovely six-mile loop that rides along the lake and winds through the woods. 

The last stop of the day was at Centennial Park. We waited until the end of the day since there had been mountain bike races at this venue over the last three days. This trail system has something for every ability. We enjoyed the flowy descents on the blue-level Junk Drawer and Fayetteville Travers trails. We also tried some of the black-level World Cup courses which are used for World Cup mountain bike and cycle cross race events. The Trailblazers have built an impressive trail system with exhilarating descents and challenging climbs. 

Our friend Cory joined us Monday for our trek to Clarksville for the magical Solar eclipse event! On the drive south we stopped at Lake Fort Smith State Park for some mountain biking on a ten-mile loop. The trails were rated as blue and black difficulty but in my opinion they were more green to blue skill level. The only bummer of the park is that you cannot swim in the lake since it is a water source for the surrounding area. 

Kim Rudd and her sister Dawn Norman viewing the solar eclipse!

After an hour of shredding, we headed south to experience totality in Clarksville. We met up with my sister and thousands of others who had also made the journey to the same area. We arrived at Spadra State Park along the Arkansas River just in time to start viewing the partial eclipse. All along the river bluff, there were hundreds of people gazing up into the sky to marvel at the fast-moving solar eclipse.

Totality: From light to darkness just like that!

 When totality finally arrived with the moon covering the sun, we could take off our eclipse glasses and gaze directly into the glow of totality. As darkness fell upon us the air temperature dropped and the stars began to appear in the sky. For 2-3 minutes it was complete bliss! Everyone was shouting with excitement to be a part of this heavenly experience. 

Kim enjoying stream crossings along Buffalo Creek!

Full of energy we decided to take the scenic route back to Bella Vista through the remote mountains of the Ozarks. Trailforks mountain bike App led us to the Upper Buffalo Head Waters Trail system located about an hour north of Clarksville. We started our ride down Buffalo Creek Trail which provided some epic stream crossings.

 We climbed our way up Southern Slide to South Beach trail and ended on a challenging switchback climb filled with wild flowers on the Fire Tower Trail. Most people ride the trail in the opposite direction providing a long descent into the valley.

I am always up for a challenge and to my delight we found the most beautiful water hole for a quick cool-off dip! This trail was by far the most enjoyable riding experience I have had in a long time. I like to get off the beaten path of the regular mountain bike scene and explore the more hidden gems that provide both adventure and solitude. 

Little Sugar Trail

This was my third visit to Bella Vista, Arkansas and I still have not ridden all the trails! I am amazed at the amount of trail development along with new restaurants and museums to explore every year. I hope you are inspired to visit Arkansas or join Endurance Adventures on their next Women’s 2025 “Best of Bentonville” Mountain Bike Trip April 8 – 13, 2025!

Kim Rudd, Endurance Adventure Owner