Welcome to another installment of our “Trail Town” series spotlighting Fayetteville, Arkansas: Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, this gem is a nature lover’s dream, offering scenic beauty and recreational opportunities like trail running, cycling, paddling and rock climbing.
Fayetteville offers visiting trail runners and residents a multitude of experiences. Here, culture and nature meet and free spirits thrive. It’s rich in arts, history and entertainment. Local gives this community its flavor, and there’s always something happening here – a good balance between the old and new to provide change in a familiar place. Upon visiting, runners are sure to find Fayetteville a funky place, which nearly 86,700 people, including the University of Arkansas campus’ more than 27,000 students, are fortunate enough to call home.
Fayetteville is also host of the 8th annual US Trail Running Conference coming up on October 21-24. This premier event covers four days dedicated to all things trail running. The first three days (Wednesday October 21 to Friday October 23) are focused for Trail Race Directors, combining interactive sessions covering specific subjects critical to holding successful, viable races that are also kind to our environment. The final day, Saturday October 24, is dedicated to Trail Runners, with guest speaker panels on a wide variety of related subjects, star athletes, interactive workshops, a full expo with trail running products and demo opportunities, and much more. Interested? It’s not too late to sign-up!
Fayetteville, Arkansas, is home to miles of great soft-surface trail systems. Built by local volunteers with multi-use in mind, these trails are ideal for running, hiking and mountain biking. Within the city limits are 38 miles of natural surface trails for trail running, hiking and mountain biking, and 43 miles of paved, shared-use trails. Just 1-3 miles from the downtown and heart of Fayetteville are diverse trail systems including:
- Kessler Mountain Trails: 8-9 miles of technical single-track with beautiful vistas and challenging climbs.
- Mount Sequoyah Trails: 5-6 miles of single track with a few loops or out-and-back options.
- Lake Fayetteville Trail: 6-7-mile loop of single-track circling the city’s scenic lake.
- Gregory Park Trails: With a 1-mile loop of single-track, it’s the perfect place for a quick mid-day workout on the trail or starting point for new trail runners.
Just a skip and a hop from Fayetteville is Devil’s Den State Park, which is claimed to be the birthplace of mountain biking in Arkansas. Additional trails, great for trail running, that make them home in Northwest Arkansas are known collectively as Oz Trails. The Razorback Regional Greenway is a 40-mile shared-use trail that weaves through several Northwest Arkansas cities, including downtown areas and nearby restaurants, historic sites, shopping and more.
Public Transit and Transportation
Bus service within the City is provided by Ozark Regional Transit, a public transportation service, and Razorback Transit, the University of Arkansas’ transportation service. All bus routes within the City of Fayetteville are FREE.
Fayetteville also offers a few bicycle and scooter sharing services throughout most of the city. They’re fast and easy — and non-polluting! The University of Arkansas, City of Fayetteville and Experience Fayetteville partnered with VeoRide to launch Arkansas’ largest bike share program. In its first year, 8,705 VeoRide users took more than 85,000 rides covering more than 18,000 miles — all with zero injuries reported.
Another fun way to experience the city is through one of the two e-scooter programs. Both VeoRide and Spin have e-scooters available to scan and ride in the downtown and entertainment district, as well as the University of Arkansas campus.
Arts & Culture
Entertainment is easy for trail runners ﬁnd here, and the arts, music, food, shopping and more are all wrapped up in the Downtown Square & Dickson Street Entertainment District for easy access and sampling. Among the many staples of this college town is George’s Majestic Lounge, the 91-year-old live music venue that opens only when there is live music – and whose doors are rarely closed. George’s is among the oldest live music venues across the country.
As homegrown as the mom-and-pop shops are, grassroots events exist in Fayetteville that envelop the food and culture of the community. The Fayetteville Roots Festival is an urban music-and-food celebration of roots music and regional produce, featuring acclaimed musical acts and world-renowned chefs — including James Beard Foundation award nominees and winners — who bring a dynamic and creative approach to food.
Experience Fayetteville collaborated with JustKids to curate Green Candy, an art action featuring six local and international artists, who worked in the public realm to create meaningful works of public art with a theme of sustainability. This led to a whole new growth in the public arts scene.
Fayetteville’s diverse culinary scene continues to grow. Unique culinary offerings include established and thriving farm-to-table restaurants, such as Mockingbird Kitchen and Farmer’s Table Café who exhibit a commitment to supporting local farmers. Restaurants with patios like Sassy’s BBQ, Hammontree’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Woodstone Pizza and more are serving up delicious meals al fresco. Long-time culinary staples, such as Hugo’s, Herman’s Ribhouse and Pesto Café, continue to invigorate palates. Places like Nomads, Petra Café, Khana and Arsagas at the Depot are dreaming up the newest vegetarian and vegan friendly meals around.
An impressive display of food trucks serving lunch, dinner, snacks and sweets can be found across several areas of town, like the Shulertown food truck court located on Dickson Street and the Yacht Club on College Ave. Whatever meal you’re looking for, or one that you didn’t even know you needed, you’ll find it in Fayetteville.
Like its booming craft-beer scene, Fayetteville has an amazing community of coffee roasters and baristas, whose skills take a cup of coffee to a whole new level.
Onyx Coffee Lab is a Northwest Arkansas coffee institution. Last year, it was named Imbibe magazine’s Coffee Bar of the Year. After only a few years since its founding, clearly the secret is out. Onyx’s location at the intersection of Gregg and Township in Fayetteville, like the others, lives up to the “lab” name. The owners “consider their business a blend of art and science — tinkering with brewing techniques and drink recipes, hosting public cuppings and inviting customers into the fold to learn everything they can about coffee,” Imbibe said. It collects diverse regulars, who sit at the high-top mosaic table or on the front porch.
Arsaga’s at the Depot is located on the Razorback Regional Greenway at the corner of West and Dickson streets in an old freight building. This unique spot offers pastries and functions as a full table service restaurant serving innovative crepes, salads and soups inspired by local food availability, as well as a thoughtful selection of wines and beers. The Arsaga’s Church & Center location (right off the Historic Downtown Square) serves several signature toasts, as well as an array of seasonal drinks and craft beers.
Little Bread Company is an artisan bakery, coffee and sandwich shop. They use coffee from Mountain Bird, a family-owned, small-batch gourmet coffee roaster in nearby Eureka Springs that utilizes sustainability practices for the best farm-to-cup quality.
Beer & Cocktails
Fayetteville has long been considered the entertainment headquarters of the region, and a huge part of that is the Downtown and Dickson street areas. Discover the eclectic sounds of Fayetteville at one of the many bars and restaurants offering live music almost every night of the week. From dancing to shooting pool, there is something for everyone.
Maxine’s Tap Room is another longtime local favorite serving up hand-crafted cocktails and mouthwatering popcorn in a historic brick building in downtown Fayetteville. They were named USA Today’s “10 Best Cocktail Bars,” and Esquire named them to 2019’s “Best Bars in America.”
A ﬁrst for Fayetteville, and a first for Arkansas, is the addition of the state’s ﬁrst bourbon bar, The Vault. The location of this basement bourbon bar on the Historic Downtown Square adds to its appeal.
The brew scene in Northwest Arkansas is now bigger and better than ever with 16 breweries and 1 cidery, each with their own unique brewing specialties, that are all part of the Fayetteville Ale Trail. Tour them all by picking up your passport and trail map at the Experience Fayetteville Visitors Center on the downtown square. Get it stamped at each brewery to keep track of your success, then return it for an awesome prize.
There’s no shortage of running clubs to connect with when you visit. Clubs like the Ozark Trail Runners Club, Mustache Running Club and others offer group runs and information about Fayetteville Trails along with several social media pages that update trail conditions regularly.
As you prepare for your trail run in Fayetteville, be sure to visit Rush Running Company, Pack Rat Outdoor Center and Gearhead Outfitters, who are not only experts in the gear you may need but also experts about the local trails.
When it comes to trail experts, it doesn’t get much better than Fayetteville Parks and Recreation. A resource for all trails, they also host events and maintain trails. Helping them are several volunteer groups like the Ozark Off-Road Cyclist who donate countless hours to building and maintaining the trails in Northwest Arkansas.
Visit the Experience Fayetteville website, and be sure to follow them on Instagram to get inspiration for your next trip. While you’re in town, be sure to stop by the Experience Fayetteville Visitors Center at 21 S. Block. Pick up your Fayetteville Trail Guide, take a selfie with our neon sign, gather your free info and chat with the staff who will help your curate your stay so that you can experience all that Fayetteville has to offer.
Since Fayetteville has a temperate climate year-round, trail runners get to enjoy a race calendar that includes events all four seasons of the year. Within a 25-mile radius of Fayetteville, there are a several annual trail running events that take place each year. Just listen to the locals when they recommend bringing an extra pair of gloves during the winter months, you are going to need them.
With so many options to choose from, you are sure to find a race that fits your skill level here. Whether your desired race is to run a small 5K event, or you would rather take part in Arkansas largest Trail Running Festival and test yourself against 600 runners, you’ll find them here in Northwest Arkansas.
Annual trail races in Fayetteville and the surrounding area include:
- The Frozen Toes 15K & 5K is perfect for runners looking to transition from a 5K or 10K to a longer distance. The single-track trails of Kessler Mountain are technical in most areas, but the views are worth every step of the course! This January trail race is followed by hot soup!
- Beer & Bagel Off Road Run is 4 miles of off road running over challenging terrain. Forget the crazy antics & insane obstacles. At Beer & Bagel they let Mother Nature do the talking: Rugged and untamed trails the way running was meant to be.
- Hobbs War Eagle Trail Running Festival (50K, 25K and 10K Distances) The Hobbs War Eagle Trail Running Festival began in 2006 as a 10-mile trail race with a couple dozen participants. Over the years the event has grown by leaps and bounds with more than 600 runners participating. The race has been recognized by Competitor Group as the Best Trail Race in the South Region four times.
- The Kessler Trail Run is a community event organized by the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association and partners to support land conservation efforts in and around Fayetteville, Arkansas. This is a self-timed 10K and 20K trail run with an after party that you won’t want to miss.
- Devil’s Den Trail Run (3, 5, 6- and 9-Mile options) The goal of the run is to introduce others to the enjoyment of the trails and, more specifically, trail running available in NW Arkansas. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Arkansas Children’s Hospitals Research Foundation.