There’s been a lot of attention recently on the Ozark region thanks to the TV show but if you look deeper, you learn that it’s a vast and ancient highland that covers multiple states and is dotted with many geological wonders. So what’s the best way to see the Ozarks, especially if you’re an adventure seeker?
We wondered the same thing and so with much care and research, we put together this 5 day Arkansas itinerary that gets you to experience what makes this part of the Ozarks an incredible outdoor playground that’s begging for you to explore.
Read more adventures in the USA
- 6 Day Smoky Mountains Itinerary
- Where to Stay In The Smoky Mountains
- 9 Day Northern California Road Trip
- Guide To Visiting Hawaii For The First Time
- Our Best USA Content
How to find the best travel deals?
- Hottest deals – Bookmark the frequently updated travel deals page.
- Car rentals – Save the most money through car rental coupon codes.
- Hotels – Use corporate codes or get Genius 2 tier with Booking.
- Flights – Try out the Skyscanner “Everywhere” feature to find the best deals.
- Insurance – Make sure you’re covered for all of your adventure activities with the best travel insurance.
Here's what we're covering:
- 5 Day Arkansas Itinerary in the Ozarks
- Map of Arkansas Ozarks Itinerary
- Closing Thoughts on Arkansas Itinerary
- Frequently Asked Questions
5 Day Arkansas Itinerary in the Ozarks
The Ozark region is a place that many know the name of, but most don’t necessarily know the vast natural treasures that can be found here that make it an iconic landscape.
If you’re interested in combining both states of Arkansas and Missouri, make sure to head over to our 6 day Missouri itinerary, where together, create an incredible 11 days.
Where is the Ozark Region?
If you’ve watched the show, Ozark, you’ll have a slight idea of what the region is about, but there’s more to the region than just having “more shoreline than the whole coast of California”. The Lake of the Ozarks, in which the show is based on, is just one section of the entire region.
The Ozark region is in fact quite expansive, and covers the 4 states of Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Covering 47,000 square miles (120,000 km2), this is the most extensive highland region between the Appalachians and Rockies.
The alternate names to the Ozarks – Ozark Mountains, Ozark Highlands, and Ozark Plateau, give a better clue of what makes this region unique. The topography consists of numerous plateaus, creating jagged wrinkles in the rock, resulting in river systems, caves, sinkholes, springs, forests, and lakes.
The sprawling beauty is what makes the Ozarks a favorite for many that know its secrets. With a majority of the region in northwestern Arkansas, this itinerary will give a good reason for why its nickname is The Natural State.
Day 1 – Dreamy Wanderlust Cabin
Your first day in Arkansas will be easy going as you’ll want to account for time to eventually get to the town of Ponca. Most of the day will be in transit and picking up supplies for the rest of the trip.
For those that are flying in, the most convenient airport is Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) which is located between Fayetteville and Bentonville. It’s a small airport but is quite new and efficient to get in and out.
You’ll be able to rent a car straight from the airport. There are counters that line one side of the arrival hall. Check-in with our favorites such as Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, Budget, and National, and you’ll be able to pick up the car from the parking garage across from the terminal.
TIP: When booking your car rental, make sure that it’s for Fayetteville in Arkansas and not in North Carolina.
Before you head out of town, you can drop by the Walmart Supercenter if you want to pick up any supplies you might be missing, snacks, and quick meals for the upcoming few days. Walmart did start in Arkansas after all, so it’ll be worth a visit.
Along the way, you can also make a pitstop at the roadside T&T Diner in Springdale for juicy burgers and fall-off-the-bone ribs.
The drive into Ponca gives you a glimpse of the spiderweb network of roads into the region and as you wind through the undulating roads, you’ll see groves of pines and oak, exposed cliffs, and mountains that continue out into the distance.
When you arrive in Ponca, head to the Buffalo Outdoor Center (BOC) to pick up your cabin keys. The outfitter is also well stocked with food and snacks in case you end up bypassing the earlier stops.
TIP: Buffalo Outdoor Center closes at 6PM. If you arrive after hours, they will leave your keys in an envelope pinned to a cork board.
True to its name, The Wanderlust Cabin evokes a sense of wonder and excitement for the adventure that’s laid out in front of your eyes. As a modern cottage, this is the ultimate accommodation.
The two-story A-frame roof lets in a flood of light, the kitchen is stocked what you need to cook if you so choose, the main bathroom features an literal waterfall shower, and there’s a jacuzzi on the balcony that overlooks the forest from an elevated vantage point.
After a long day of travel, get settled in, prepare the gear you’ll need for the next day, and get some early rest.
Day 1 Summary
Driving time: 1 hour 34 minutes
Where you’ll eat:
- Dinner – T&T Diner – You can either dine in or take something to go to eat in the car or when you arrive at Wanderlust Cabin
Where you’ll stay:
- The Wanderlust Cabin – A luxurious cabin on stilts at the edge of the Buffalo National River forest with incredible sunrise views. The modern cottage is equipped with high-class fixings, a true waterfall shower, and hot tub. A heads up that the Google Maps directions to the cabin are incorrect. Follow the paper instructions that BOC provides which has you turning left when you see “BOC Entrance 3”.
Day 2 – Impressive Buffalo National River
There’s a reason why they turned the Buffalo River into first national river in the country. This waterway is an iconic part of the Ozarks and the western portion is widely regarded as the most scenic. The best way to experience it is by float adventure.
To start the day off, head back to the Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca to get all of your paperwork sorted. Part of this is figuring out the logistics of their shuttle, a brilliant service where they drive your car from the launch site to the take-out point.
Try your best to get here early so you have time to fit in the Lost Valley afterwards.
While you’re here, we highly recommend that you grab a freshly made lunch from their kitchen which includes a sandwich/panini and a bag of chips. If you forgot to fill up your refillable bottle like the HydraPak Flux, pick up a drink to go as well.
In Canada, we’d call this a day out on the kayak but in these parts, we learned quickly that it’s called a “float”. Once you hit the water, you’ll find out why, as the steady current gently nudges you downstream.
Sitting back and legs stretched, watch as granite outcroppings, soaring eagles, thriving forest, and ochre cliffs pass by. That said, you will of course have to do some paddling, so don’t think you won’t have to do any work at all.
Midway through your journey, you’ll be able to pull off anywhere you wish and refuel with the hearty BOC lunch you picked up.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: Buffalo Outdoor Center (BOC) – 4699 AR-43, Ponca, AR 72670, United States
Hours: Buffalo Outdoor Center is open 8AM – 6PM daily. Earliest take-in is 8AM. Latest launch is between noon and 1PM depending on the year. Boats must be returned by 6:30PM latest.
Difficulty: Easy (little to no experience required)
Length: Day floats are 6.8 to 10.7 miles.
Duration: Most float day trips are 4-6 hours.
Floating prices and logistics:
- The float season is usually from March to June. Sometimes it can go as late as July.
- There is no official age limit but recommended to be at least age 6.
- Site launch and take out points are dependent on water levels and are determined on the day of at the store and on the River Levels page.
- Single kayak rentals are $70 USD per day ($75 on Saturday and holidays). They offer both sit-on and sit inside kayaks.
- Tandem kayaks (sit-on) are $85 USD ($90 on Saturday and holidays).
- Canoes are $80 USD ($85 on Saturday and holidays).
- Shuttle (valet) service – You drive yourself to the launch site and hand your keys over to their staff. They will then drive your car to the take out point and place your key in a designated secret area. There is an additional cost to this which can be found on their boating shuttle rates. As an example, Hasty to Pruitt is $46.
- Rentals include life vests, paddles, and a mesh trash bag. The rear of the sit-on kayaks also have bungee cords.
- Life jackets are provided. Legally, they are not required but are recommended. If water levels are low, the staff are okay with guests not wearing life jackets but they must be attached to the boat.
- For reservations, a non-refundable deposit of $10 per canoe/kayak per day is required. Remaining payment is made at the BOC. Taxes are in addition to the rates.
- You can cancel 48 or more hours in advance without penalty (minus the $10 deposit), otherwise, you will be charged the full remaining balance. They do offer a “Cancel It Now” insurance that you can purchase where if you cancel last minute, you’ll only have to pay 7% of the pre-tax account balance. Note that they add “Cancel It Now” automatically so you have to remove it manually.
Website: Buffalo Outdoor Center
- The most scenic and popular float route is Ponca to Kyle’s Landing as it includes Big Bluff and opportunity to hike to Hemmed-In Hollow. However, water conditions will dictate what’s available on the day of.
- Your feet are guaranteed get wet when putting in and taking out your kayaks so ideally wear something like the Keen Newport H2 sandals or Rainbow flip flops.
- With a sit-on kayak, expect your seat to be wet so we recommend that you wear swim wear.
- The hours listed on the One-Day Float Trips page are accurate. Expect to take the upper end of the duration listed unless you are paddling constantly at a good pace and not stopping for lunch.
- Water conditions change constantly which means the float experience is different depending on the day. That said, for the most part, the common stretches of the Buffalo National River are quite gentle and shallow. Officially, the river is a Class I river which is the least difficult river rating.
- Reservations are highly recommended especially on weekends and holidays.
- This river can be easily done on your own because the river does not have any forks and is easy to navigate.
- Basic paddling skills are required although novices should be able to get by on the river as it is very easy.
- You will likely need to bring your own lunch of buy a lunch from the Buffalo Outdoor Center (their sandwiches are delicious!).
- We recommend that you bring your own dry bag (20-30L bag is a good size).
- If you want to take photos with your phone, get one of these waterproof phone pouches.
- It’s pretty safe to bring a camera on the kayak since there is little to no chance of flipping over.
- Prepare a towel and change of clothes ready in the car.
- If you’d like to use your GoPro or Insta360, remember to ask the staff at the put-in point for a kayak with a mount (the outfitter office won’t know). The only ones that have them are the Jackson Kayak’s Rivera model (sit-on) and there aren’t many of them.
- The Buffalo National River is a national park and managed by the National Park Service, as a result, drones are not allowed.
- Music is not allowed while on the river.
Food options: Below are photos of the sandwich options from the fixed menu and also the daily specials since they aren’t posted on their website.
While the Buffalo National River is the jewel of the Ozarks, we think Lost Valley is just as impressive and unmissable in our books. On this hike, follow the trail that follows up a creek that takes you on an adventure to discover its source.
The reason why you want to get a head start to your float is because you want to make sure you have enough time to do this hike. On paper, Lost Valley looks quick, but can easily take 2 or more hours.
The early section of the hike is easy so you can breeze through the first walk until the rock-strewn canyon meets with the first sight called, Natural Bridge. This marks the gateway into Lost Valley and where Clark Creek supposedly gets “lost”.
This is the most photogenic part of the hike with limestone looming overhead and a trickle of waterfall that fills a shallow pond. If you have good shoes, you can easily make your way into the Natural Bridge.
Continue along the well-marked trail towards Cob Cave. The scale of the rock overhang that drips ever so slightly and the massive ancient shelter is jaw-dropping.
From here, there’s a strenuous climb up towards Eden Falls Cave. At the mouth of the cave, there’s a small cascade that drops to the right and it seems like that’s the end – but there’s more!
Flicking on our headlamps and dropping our backpacks, we climbed and squeezed through the cave’s narrow crevices. The space continued to tighten until we had to get on all fours towards the dark unknown. Following the thunderous sounds of water, you emerge in a pitch-black chamber with an astounding 25-foot waterfall underneath the mountain.
Take a moment to soak in the magic of Eden Falls.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: Lost Valley Rd, Kingston, AR 72742, United States (Google “Lost Valley Trailhead”)
Hours: There no gates here so you can come at any time. It is recommended that you come here when there is daylight.
Difficulty: Easy (Moderate if you are hiking into Eden Cave and the opening through Natural Bridge).
Length: 2.3 miles round trip.
Duration: Officially the average is 1.5 hours but we recommend budgeting 2 hours.
Parking: The gravel lot for Lost Valley is quite large but can be quite full on a busy Saturday afternoon.
Trail Map: Buffalo Outdoor Center Trail Map (better than NPS)
- This hike is available year round.
- There are bathroom facilities near the beginning of the trail.
- The pool of water in front of Natural Bridge is incredibly slippery because of the algae on the rock. We are not exaggerating. Be very careful. Strangely, the rock is quite grippy when climbing up and into the cave at Natural Bridge.
- While you can walk all the way through the opening at Natural Bridge, we recommend that you climb up to take a look and come back out the same way you came as the other side doesn’t lead to an easy trail.
- The small waterfall to the left of Cobb Cave is not Eden Falls. Eden Falls is inside the cave.
- Cobb Cave is quite photogenic when shooting it as a silhouette photo. The photographer needs to be on the back side of the cave.
- If you plan climbing up into the cave at Natural Bridge or into Eden Falls cave, bring a headlamp like the one we have.
- Follow the trail sign towards Eden Falls and you’ll eventually reach the mouth of the wild cave. You’ll be able easily find your way the entrance of the cave, following the water. You’ll soon reach a bit of a fork in the cave. The easier path is to the right and not the left which requires you to crawl for a longer stretch. Eventually, you will have to get down on all fours and make your way into the waterfall room. It’s quite spacious in this room and can easily fit 4-6 people inside.
- Expect your knees and hands to get dirty if you go into Eden Falls Cave.
- If you have a large backpack, you’ll likely have to leave it near the entrance of the cave.
- Since you do have to crawl through the final stretch, it won’t be easy to bring a camera into the waterfall room unless you have a smaller sling.
- Look out for bats that might be hanging overhead in the cave.
- Lost Valley is still within the grounds of the National Park Service, and as a result, drones are not allowed.
- Pack a tripod if you’d like to try to get those milky waterfall shots.
- The best time to go is on a weekday and in the mornings or late afternoon.
Depending on when you finish the trail, you can consider making your way over to Ozark Cafe in Jasper for huge portion home cooked classics. However, keep in mind that it’s a 26 minute drive to get to there.
If timing seems tight for dinner, it might make sense to pick up another sandwich at the BOC before you start the Lost Valley hike.
Day 2 Summary
What you’ll do:
- Floating on the Buffalo National River
- Hiking the Lost Valley trail
Where you’ll eat:
- Breakfast – In the cabin – Plan to make your own breakfast at the cabin with either supplies purchased from Buffalo Outdoor Center the night before or somewhere along the way from Fayetteville.
- Lunch – Buffalo Outdoor Center – When checking in for your float, remember to buy a packed lunch. Their sandwiches are made fresh in the kitchen and the “Best of the Buffalo River” sandwich is to die for.
- Dinner – Ozark Cafe – This will largely depend on when you finish hiking the Lost Valley trail and the energy you have left to travel out to Jasper. This is by far the most popular restaurant in the area with a rustic and home-cooked vibe.
Where you’ll stay:
Smoky Mountains Road Trip Between North Carolina and Tennessee
Another epic road trip in the southern states of the US is a trip to the famed Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles North Carolina and Tennessee.
Day 3 – Eclectic Eureka Springs
For the third day of this Arkansas itinerary, you’ll head into one of the most eclectic towns in the state. Eureka Springs has a little bit of everything, from beautiful 19th and early 20th-century Victorian architecture, historic hotels, boutique shops galore, clean mountain air, to the spiritual and paranormal.
After breakfast, you’ll have to check-out of Wanderlust Cabin by dropping your keys off at the BOC.
On your way out of Ponca, see if you can catch elk emerge from the morning fog. They’re not always there but it’s worth checking. On Google Maps, look for “Elk Watching Pulloff” for the exact coordinates.
Start your day in Eureka Springs by exploring its fabulous outdoors. The first stop is Thorncrown Chapel, a sanctuary that’s uniquely designed in the middle of the Ozark woods. Whether you’re religious or not, you can definitely feel the connection with nature here.
Next is is Lake Leatherwood, an urban park just outside of the city and features numerous hiking trails, mountain biking, playground, recreational lake, cabins, and campground. For an easy trail to do, you can take the Shoreline Trail but instead of crossing the dam, loop back around with the Beacham Trail.
You’ll undoubtedly have the munchies after all of that hiking, so grab a bite at Local Flavor Cafe in downtown Eureka Springs. They have a lovely outdoor balcony that overlooks Main Street and have a wide range of dishes that will surely delight.
TIP: If you’re coming here during high season, parking in the downtown area will fill up quickly. As an alternative, consider taking the Eureka Springs Transit trolley where an all-day pass is only $6 for an adult and you can park at larger lots such as at Planer Hill Park & Ride.
After lunch, you’ll be in a prime position to explore Eureka Springs’ charming downtown. Spend the afternoon to stroll its streets, pay attention the details in the architecture, and drop inside its many independent art shops.
This area was booming in the late 1800s and as a result was constructed during the reign of Queen Victoria. This is why you’re able to see all of the styles of that era including Gothic-Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Folk Victorian. It’s truly a step back in time.
Before you hit the main intersection where you’ll find the famed Flatiron Building, make sure to explore Basin Springs Park, a reminder of how the city was built around its unique geological formations and mineral springs. It’s a relaxing park to visit and where you’ll sometimes find art installations and live music.
Make your way up the hill and to the historic hotel, 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, where you’ll be staying the night. Check in, and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring its grounds.
Registered as a Historic Hotel of America, this property has quite the storied past. Once built, this was the “symbol of hospitality” in the state of Arkansas and the kind of place that was the swankiest place around. The Great Depression brought on significant change and it turned into infamous place when it became the Baker Hospital. More on that in a bit!
As a guest of the hotel, you’ll have access to the Frisco Sporting Club, a space for fun outdoor activities with friends and family. Here, you’ll find everything from yard games, life-size chess, big blocks of Jenga, a firepit for s’mores, a bar for adult drinks, and axe throwing.
As the sun starts to set, a different type of atmosphere emerges from the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, which has the distinction of also being America’s Most Haunted Hotel. It was Norman Baker who scooped up the hotel and turned it into a cancer treatment resort with promises of a magical cure.
Through the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour, you’ll learn the stories of ghost sightings, the rooms that are the most haunted, and eventually descend into the bowels of the hotel where the morgue was located.
The hotel is so well-known for its paranormal activity that ghost hunters come to stay here specifically with their own special meters, magnets, and audio equipment to try to pick up on ghoulish energy.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 75 Prospect Ave, Eureka Springs, AR 72632, United States
Tour Hours: They fluctuate throughout the year. They normally run 3-4 tours a night. Earliest tour is 6:30PM and latest tour is 9:30PM.
Tour Length: 60 minutes
Price: $28 USD + tax for earlier time slots and $29.50 USD + tax for time slots after 8PM.
- Do you need to be a guest to do the tour? No, anyone can do the tour.
- Are masks required? No, they are no longer required.
- Are photos and videos allowed? You are allowed to but make sure to ask for permission if you are capturing anything of other guests and the guide.
- How many people are on the tour? Tours have a maximum of 10 people.
- Are kids allowed? Tours are intended for kids 8 and up. On Friday and Saturday, they also offer ghost tours just for kids at 5:30PM.
- Are reservations required? No but they are highly recommended as they do sell out.
- You can save money by booking a Spirits of the Crescent package that includes a night, breakfast, ghost tour tickets, and ghost t-shirts.
- If you’re really interested in ghosts, they offer Paranormal Weekend packages. They are also planning on building a tour where they provide Ghost meters and paranormal tools.
Conveniently located in the hotel is the SkyBar Gourmet Pizza restaurant that can be found at the top level with superb views of the sunset from their outdoor balcony patio. Their pizzas are massive and feature a thick and fluffy crust that’s perfect for dipping.
Hopefully you’ll get a good night’s rest here, although we certainly had a lot on our minds after the ghost tour.
Day 3 Summary
Driving time: 1 hour 5 minutes
What you’ll see:
What you’ll do:
Where you’ll eat:
- Breakfast – In the cabin – Plan to make your own breakfast at the cabin so you can get an early start in Eureka Springs.
- Lunch – Local Flavor Cafe – One of the best restaurants in town, serving a great mix of salads, pasta, sandwiches, and various house specialities.
- Dinner – SkyBar Gourmet Pizza – Retro-vibe pizza shop at Crescent Hotel & Spa’s rooftop with indoor and outdoor seating that overlooks Eureka Springs. Their pizzas are huge and feature a thick, chewy, and seasoned crust.
Where you’ll stay:
- 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa – A historic hotel perched at the top of Eureka Springs that features a spa, the Frisco Sporting Club, and 2 restaurants. Rooms are classically decorated in a Victorian-style. Be forewarned that this is one of America’s Most Haunted Hotel and so you may or may not experience paranormal activity.
Day 4 – Razorback Greenway in Fayetteville
So far you’ve explored Arkansas by foot and kayak but an important part of the fabric of Northwestern Arkansas is their bike culture. Here, it’s not just for transportation but also recreation and innovation. You’ll see this first hand in Fayetteville.
Kick start your day with an early drive into Fayetteville and a delicious farm-to-table breakfast at The Farmer’s Table Cafe. Don’t miss their pancakes!
You’ll head north of the city to Pedego Electric Bikes. While most people think they only sell their house-brand electric bikes (e-bike), the secret is that they also rent e-bikes – perfect for visitors that want to explore the Razorback Greenway trail.
Completed in 2015, Razorback Greenway connects the hubs of Bentonville and Fayetteville and all of the burgeoning communities in between. Spanning nearly 46 miles, what makes this trail so brilliant is that it is almost entirely off the main road. It’s a shared-use trail that urban planners can only dream about and they’ve made it a reality here in Arkansas.
With your comfy e-bike cruiser, you’ll join the Razorback Greenway conveniently from just behind the Pedego Electric Bikes shop and make your way south into the downtown area.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: Start at Pedego Electric Bikes Fayetteville (1550 E Zion Rd #7, Fayetteville, AR 72703, United States)
Price: A cruiser e-bike starts at $100 for 6 hours and $200 for a full 24 hours. This includes helmet and bike lock.
Website: Razorback Greenway
- If you’d like to be able to mount your phone on your bike if you’re using an app like Ride with GPS, make sure to pack an out front bike mount that works well with the Peak Design Mobile ecosystem.
- Make sure to have handlebar gaskets on hand to handle all thicknesses.
- To extend the distance you can cover in a day, an e-bike is recommended.
- Along the Razorback Greenway, there are rest stops that have restrooms, bike repair equipment, and water filling stations.
- Pedego in Fayetteville is a convenient location to rent an e-bike because it is located right next to the Razorback Greenway Trail.
- Note that Pedego Fayetteville is closed on Tuesdays. Also, their shop closes at at 6PM on weekdays, 5PM on Saturday, and 4PM on Sunday so make sure you time your ride accordingly.
- There is ample parking at the bike shop and it’s in a safe area so there are no issues in leaving your car there.
There are lots of stops you can make in Fayetteville along your ride including several breweries, restaurants, urban murals, historic districts, and the University of Arkansas campus.
For those that are looking for a more challenging route that takes you around the main parts of the Razorback Greenway and also loops back around other extremely bike-friendly trails to take you back to the bike shop, take a look at this 27 mile route on Ride With GPS.
TIP: Download the Ride With GPS app and download it for offline use.
One suggested turn-around point is the Arsaga’s Coffee Roasters at Mill District. They serve fabulous coffee, soups, salads, sandwiches, appetizers and hearty plates no matter what time of day, making it a great rest stop before heading back.
For dinner, make your way to Wright’s Barbecue, an institution in these parts for their no-nonsense smoked meats. When you arrive, you can tell that they started off as a humble mom and pop food truck but have since grown to have a loyal following for those that love barbecue with serious flavor and tenderness.
We recommend that you get their Texas Trinity plater which includes brisket, ribs, and sausage. Also, don’t forget to try their homemade BBQ sauce.
After dinner, you make the short drive up to the city of Bentonville where your next two nights are at one of the rental units in a townhome area called Trailhead Mews. The modern home will blow you away while also strategically setting you up to be right next to the most incredible collection of mountain biking trails in the world.
Day 4 Summary
Driving time: 1 hour 7 minutes (to Fayetteville) + 32 minutes (to Bentonville)
What you’ll do:
Where you’ll eat:
- Breakfast – The Farmer’s Table Cafe – Excellent breakfast spot in Fayetteville that cooks pancakes just like grandma did.
- Lunch – Arsaga’s Coffee Roasters – There are several locations in town but choose the Mill District location which will be near your turnaround point on the Razorback Greenway. More than just a cafe, they have gourmet sandwiches, oysters, burgers, healthy plates, and more.
- Dinner – Wright’s Barbecue – Just outside of Fayetteville is a the famed BBQ outpost in Johnson that started as a food truck and is now an institution in these parts. Their classic trays of smoked meats and sauces are to die for.
Where you’ll stay:
- Trailhead Mews – These rental townhouses are located in Bentonville and immediately adjacent to the Slaughter Pen trails. Lifted straight out of home design magazine, this is a 3-story, fully-furnished townhome, complete with 3 bedrooms, and garage. This is perfect for anyone that’s planning on doing any mountain biking in the area.
Continue your Ozark Itinerary in Missouri
Make sure to read our Ozarks Missouri itinerary which covers adventure in the region, the perfect companion to this road trip through Arkansas.
Day 5 – Epic Mountain Biking in Bentonville
With your legs warmed up from the day before, you’re going to be ready to tackle what’s proudly the mountain biking capital of the world. Bentonville further cements the Ozarks and Arkansas specifically, as a cyclist’s dream come true.
You’ll need all the energy you can get for your final day of this 5 day Arkansas itinerary. For breakfast, we recommend walking over to The Hive inside the 21c Museum Hotel.
If you’re a novice like us, you’re going to want to find someone that can shoe you the ropes and also guide you through the various mountain biking trails you’ll be visiting. Women Of OZ offers trail guiding for a minimum of 2 hours, a great way to efficiently explore the best of Bentonville in a day.
What about renting mountain bikes? One shop to consider that’s right by the city square is Phat Tire. They have a wide range of bikes available for rent including the electric full suspension variety. You can set things up so you meet your guide here or at your next stop.
Coler Mountain Bike Preserve is an all-in-one kind of park. It’s best known as a place where you can go shredding with your mountain bike but it’s also a place that’s great for running on the trail, strolling on the walkway, training on a massive exercise staircase, camping, and relaxing with the whole family. It has it all!
With your electric mountain bikes, spend the morning picking and choosing which of the 19 miles of flow, cross country, rock, dual slalom, and flyover trails you want to do, depending on your skill level.
You can easily spend a full day here but if you had to pick, a few of our favorites were Thunder Dome, Good Vibrations, and all of the trails that sprawl from The Hub. If you’re looking for a challenge, Rock Solid is an amazing downhill trail with technical, rocky goodness.
Joining it all together is the fascinating design of Airship Coffee. It’s a futuristic concrete box that has a wide-open porch with swings, tables, and chairs. It’s the kind of place that encourages you to slow down and enjoy the view of woods, feel the energy of the mountain bikers passing through, and enjoy a fresh brew of their latest roast.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 2500 NW 3rd St, Bentonville, AR 72712, United States
Hours: Always open
Website: Coler Mountain Bike Preserve
- If you’re looking for a guided experience, the Women of OZ offers private instruction and trail guiding.
- Esthers Loop and Good Vibrations are easy trail to follow if you’re a beginner.
- Thunder Dome is a popular dual-slalom downhill track that’s one of the local favorites.
Bentonville is ridiculously bikeable and from Coler, you’ll be able to ride straight back into town. The next stop you’re about to make might seem unusual but is actually pretty cool.
In the heart of the city, you’ll find the first-ever bikeable building with 6 levels of switchbacks on its exterior. The Ledger is a quick little detour, but an unexpectedly thrilling one. Who said buildings can’t be bike-friendly?
Riding north, you’ll eventually connect with the Razorback Greenway and make a turn into the grounds of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Spearheaded by the Walton Family Foundation and the daughter of Walmart founder, Sam Walton, this is a museum that focuses on American art with a stunning design that is symbiotic with the Ozark ravine, with a consistent interplay of nature, art, and bold architecture.
You can ride straight into the parking lot of the museum or you can walk with your bike as you weave through the Art Trail, highlighted by spectacular pieces by Yayoi Kasuma, Dale Chihuly, and Louise Bourgeois.
From the main foyer, head over to Eleven, the stunning restaurant with its warm wood arches, curved glass that lets in beams of natural light, and the beckoning gold heart pendant at its center. They serve an array of delicious and modern American comfort food.
Spend part of the afternoon to explore the Crystal Bridges’ art collection which is free for all visitors.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, AR 72712, United States
- Mon, Wed: 11AM – 6PM
- Thurs, Fri: 11AM – 8PM
- Sat, Sun: 10AM- 6PM
- Closed on Tuesdays
Summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day)
- Sat – Wed: 10AM – 5PM
- Thurs, Fri: 10AM – 8PM
- Is parking available? Yes, there is a parking lot connected to the museum and is complimentary.
- Where is bike parking located? There are bike racks in the main parking lot that is connected to the museum.
- Is the museum accessible? Yes, all interior spaces of the museum are fully wheelchair accessible.
- There are 5 miles of trails outside of the museum itself and they are worth exploring. The Art Trail is an easy one to incorporate, especially if you’re coming from the Slaughter Pen Trails.
- The museum offers drop-in tours and audio tours if you’re looking for something that’s a bit more guided. Both are free!
- Larger backpacks (including tripods) aren’t allowed in the museum. Self-serve checkrooms and their lockers are provided free of charge.
- Drones are not allowed.
Once you exit out of the south entrance (the same way that you came in), you’ll be back on the Razorback Greenway and also right in the heart of the legendary Slaughter Pen mountain biking trails.
With 40-plus miles of single-track flow, this is a trail system that firmly plants Bentonville as a leader in mountain biking in the United States, if not the world. With the full dynamic range of difficulty from beginner to expert and terrain from clean flow, major downhills, technical rocks, and huge berms.
For beginners, the All-American is superb. A lesser-known trail that is unbelievably scenic is Black Apple Creek which is also categorized as a green trail. If you’re looking for a challenge, The Masterpiece is an exciting and visually stunning downhill trail that incorporates industrial-sized chains, a large sprocket as a bridge, and some of the biggest boulders you’ll find anywhere.
The combination of Coler Mountain Bike Preserve and Slaughter Pen makes Bentonville the Disney World of mountain biking.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 203 NE 3rd St, Bentonville, AR 72712, United States
Hours: Always open
Website: Slaughter Pen Trails
- Contact Women of OZ for private instruction and trail guiding.
- The trails are extensive and broken into 3 areas (called phases).
- An easy trail to follow is the All American Trail.
- A hidden gem trail that’s green, scenic, and quite varied is the Black Apple Creek.
- Another option for a guided experience is this half-day private tour in Bentonville.
From one epic experience to another, you’ll head to the critically-acclaimed restaurant, Conifer. As a 100% gluten-free eatery, this is a true farm-to-table experience, bringing in the freshest ingredients from surrounding farms, and incorporating them in an frequently changing menu.
Chef Matt Cooper uses his French, German, and classical training to create surprising dish after dish where you always come back to the same thought, “I can’t believe there’s no gluten!”
Our favourites include their cast iron cornbread, lions mane mushrooms, whitefish, and tri-tip.
Visiting at the end of April, we were lucky enough to be able to catch the immersive light-and-sound experience called Listening Forest.
Created by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, the entire North Forest at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is transformed into a whimsical wonderland where your body heat turns into fiery projections, your arm and leg movements control a giant light robot, your heartbeat is projected into the night sky, and your footsteps splash away an alphabet soup of letters.
You’ll find a total of 8 installations here and is a must-do if you’re in Bentonville when they’re running.
Day 5 Summary
Bike rental options: Be aware of their opening hours as your 1 day rental will be bound by these times.
What you’ll see:
What you’ll do:
Where you’ll eat:
- Breakfast – The Hive – A trendy restaurant inside the C21 Hotel that has great ambiance and tasty dishes from the High South.
- Lunch – Eleven – A gorgeous setting inside of Crystal Bridges with glass windows flanking both sides and a large heart pendant in the middle. As both a cafe and restaurant, they serve modern American comfort food.
- Dinner – Conifer – Chef Matthew Cooper has created truly an intimate dining experience with an innovative 100% gluten-free menu that changes seasonally based on their connection with local farmers and businesses. Reservations are highly recommended.
Where you’ll stay:
Map of Arkansas Ozarks Itinerary
The below is an interactive Google Map with every location featured in the Arkansas itinerary pinned which will help with your trip planning.
TIP: Expand the map and create a copy in your logged-in Google account. With this copy, you’ll be able to access it in your Google Maps app under Saved. Scroll to the bottom and look for “Maps”.
Closing Thoughts on Arkansas Itinerary
All of our expectations of the Ozark region of Arkansas were blown away from day one. From this 5 day Arkansas itinerary, here’s what stuck out to us the most.
Biking – Biking is a huge part that defines this region where I could see us going all-in on getting the best bikes if we moved here. As a visitor, we were amazed by how well they’ve done with integrating this incredible lifestyle into its cities and was happy to be in their shoes for a few days.
Floating – Buffalo Outdoor Center makes it so easy to take in the beauty of the Buffalo National River. Floating and occasionally paddling here while being surrounded by so much of the Ozark natural beauty, made us glad that it is protected and remains one of the few undammed river systems in the country.
Ghosts – We learned that sleeping in the same hotel as the one that you just did a ghost tour of might not be the greatest idea if you’re looking for a good night’s rest. The silver lining was that we were told by our guide that our floor was mainly inhabited by friendly ghosts.
Thinking through all of the days we spent in Arkansas, our biggest revelation was how there was so much to discover here. Our 5 days was enough to get a taste of the Arkansas part of the Ozarks but we knew there was so much more to see and do.
Frequently Asked Questions
Considering that the float season in the Buffalo National River is March to June because it is water level dependent, and how hot it can get in the summer, May and June are the best months to enjoy the Ozarks of Arkansas.
Yes, you can find a wide range of bikes including e-bikes, mountain bikes, cruisers, and electric mountain bikes from bike shops where you can find trails whether it be near the Buffalo National River, Lake Leatherwood, along the Razorback Greenway, or in Bentonville.
The Arkansas state Use Tax/Sales Tax is 6.5%.
What you should read next
Travel Resources For Your Next Trip
If you’re in the process of planning your trip and putting together your itinerary, these are genuinely the best resources that the Going Awesome Places team stands by 100%.
Airport Parking: You’ll need a spot to leave your car at the airport so why not book a spot at a discount. Use code AWESOME7 to get at least $5 off at Airport Parking Reservations or Park Sleep Fly packages.
Hotels: Our go-to is Booking.com because they have the best inventory of properties including hotels and B&Bs. The exception is Asia where Agoda always has the best prices. TripAdvisor is also useful for reviews and bookings.
Vacation Rentals: Airbnb is the market leader but you’d be surprised how you can find cheaper deals on the lesser-known VRBO.
Travel Insurance: Learn how to buy the best travel insurance for you. This isn’t something you want to travel without.
- Insured Nomads – Popular insurance provider for frequent travelers and comes with great coverage and special perks.
- RATESDOTCA – Search engine Canadians looking for the cheapest insurance including multi-trip annual policies.
- SafetyWing – A perfect fit for long-term nomads.
- Medjet – Global air medical transportation.
- InsureMyTrip – Best for seniors, families, and those with pre-existing conditions.
If you need more help planning your trip, make sure to check out our Travel Toolbox where we highlight all of the gear, resources, and tools we use when traveling.