Along the Back 40 Loop in Bella Vista, Arkansas, there is a stretch of trail dwarfed by 40 feet of limestone bluff, an imposing overhang that tethers cool air to the forest floor, waiting to take the edge off a sweaty summer ride.

Photocourtesy of

While there now exists a shortcut (the Buckingham Cutoff) to some of the more heart-stopping features of the loop, most riders will tell you they prefer to take the long way around, which brings them past one of the most impressive natural creations on this trail—the Back 40Bluff.

The bluff itself is the eroded remnant of a mountain range millions of years in the making, and riders will feel the weight of this history—and this ride—as they pass under its canopy. It’s also an attraction that has drawn visitors long before any mountain biking trail was cut.

A popular spot for riders and hikers alike to stop and take a beat, the shaded forest along the bluff line abuts a shallow cove of Lake Ann, the perfect location for lunch or a quick swim.

Photo courtesy of Charles Williams

The nearest point-of-entry to the bluff is at the Buckingham Trailhead, which offers parking and a water station. Take a right onto the loop and enjoy the ride through wide, flowing berms and rollers. The trail quickly transitions to some easy-riding narrow-cut single track, and less than a mile in you will find yourself at the bluff.

While the Back 40 Loop itself is rated intermediate, there is nothing preventing a beginner rider from enjoying this particular section—with a great line of sight and no tricky rock features that can’t easily be avoided.

MotherNature didn’t take any shortcuts when she carved out the Back 40Bluff, and it reminds us that when it comes to exploring the trails of Northwest Arkansas, sometimes it’s better to take the scenic route instead.