We’re kicking off our summer road trip series — Hit the Road — with an outdoor adventure-themed trip to Bentonville, AR. With elaborate hiking and biking trail systems, nearby lakes, and cafés in the middle of the woods, Northwest Arkansas is a great destination for experienced adventurers + novice nature seekers alike.
Before you start packing your bags, here’s everything you need to know about the area + our insider recommendations — City Editor Travis visited in 2020.
Drive time: ~3.5 hours
Est. population: 54,000+
Avg. high in June: 85°
🥾Things to do
37.5 miles of shared-use pathway connects a multitude of trail systems + attractions, including Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art + downtown Bentonville. Whether by foot or by bike, this is your non-car highway to Northwest Arkansas.
Bentonville is known for biking. This mountain bike trail flows alongside the Razorback Greenway + integrates with the community (literally alongside houses, apartments, and pedestrians). Described as a “living lab for trail advocacy,” Slaughter Pen is a result of $13 million contributed by the family behind Walmart.
This celebration of Ozark horticulture includes lush woodlands, native plants, and an on-site arboretum. It’s an urban oasis, named after Dr. Neil Compton — aka the “savior of the Buffalo River.”
🍽️ Fuel up after hiking
Fresh coffee + incredible tacos. Find it on 5th Street (just off the downtown square) or at Coler Preserve — an open air experience only accessible by walking or biking (see above for both the aerial view by @the_ryanc and the view from inside — yes those are swing seats — by Editor Travis).
This is where James Beard Award-nominated Chef Matt McClure pays “homage to the High South” — think: black walnuts, corn, hickory smoked hams, peaches, and sweet onions. Oh, and it’s right next to the Slaughter Pen trailhead.
Described by the owner as “lively food,” this restaurant serves a combination of Latin-style dishes — from ceviche + fajitas to Asian-Latin fusion. Find it on the Bentonville City Square.
🏕️ A cabin, a castle + a campsite
Oh, like dropping in on a bike, but also an inn like a place to stay. We get it. This “tiny home” is literally located on Slaughter Pen, including a private access trail. It has one bedroom + sleeps three for $184 per night. Features include an outdoor fire pit with twinkle lights.
For something a little bigger, this rental has four bedrooms + sleeps eight for $197 per night. It includes a rooftop terrace, a balcony, a turret, bike hooks, and even a suit of armor. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a five-minute walk from the square.
For a more immersive outdoor experience, pitch a tent at this lakeside campground with Beaver Lake overlooks, boat access, and a playground for the kiddos. Campsites start at $20 + sleep up to eight people. You’re only a 25-minute drive from the city square.
Bonus: Local food recommendations
Editor’s pick: Brooke Bierhaus is a documentarian + on-air host for Downtown Bentonville. Full transparency, I had already written my story today when her suggestions hit my inbox, and I had a deadline to make. However, here are some other recommendations from a true local.
- Brunch: Louise at Thaden Field
- Seafood: Blu Fish House
- Allergy-friendly: Crepes Paulette
- Barbecue: Wright’s Barbecue
- Food hall: 8th Street Market
Stay tuned for the July installment of our Hit the Road series. We’ll be highlighting a 30-mile road trip.