Eureka Springs is preparing to host the first round of the North American Series
The inaugural EWS North American Continental Enduro Series kicks off in an unexpected place: the Ozark Mountains that surround Eureka Springs. The trail systems that will challenge racers over the course of the weekend didn’t exist just two years ago. In that time, Rock Solid Trail Contracting and Jagged Axe Trail Designs have put down miles of gnar and flow that are quickly turning Eureka Springs into a town where vehicles with out-of-state license plates and loaded with mountain bikes are making regular appearances.
The trails are famous for their variety
The trail networks at Lake Leatherwood City Park and the Great Passion Play traverse some of the steepest and most rugged hillsides in the region. Although the Ozarks don’t have nearly the elevation of some of the mountains on the west and east coasts, the builders more than made up for that when they wove in features that rival those found at coastal bike parks. There are stacked rock kickers, natural drops, off-camber rock gardens, huge berms and plenty of flow, so riders can expect a variety of terrain during race weekend.
The seven downhill trails at Lake Leatherwood emanate from north and south hubs that sit just on the outskirts of the 1,600-acre park. The hubs are built out of stacked stone and serve as the launching pads for each trail. The trails range in difficulty from smooth, flowing trails for beginners, rocky and technical descents for intermediate riders, and optional massive jumps and drops for the experts. There are an additional 20 miles of technical cross-country trails, which are also used for hiking, that weave up and down the hillsides and take riders across the 1940s limestone dam that created the lake.
The Passion Play trail network sits on land that is part religious attraction and now, part mountain biking paradise. The 66-foot-tall Christ of the Ozarks statue that overlooks downtown and an outdoor amphitheater where live actors perform the Great Passion Play from April to October are surrounded by trails with names like Deliverance, Rapture and Atonement. They drop into valleys where riders will find technical rock gardens, challenging natural features, 11 percent grade descents and the biggest jump line in the region.
The race will also include an urban stage through a portion of downtown Eureka Springs that starts at the Crescent Hotel, which dates back to 1886 and is believed to be haunted after having been turned into everything from a girls’ school to a hospital run by a charlatan doctor. From there, the race will take full advantage of the town’s steep, crooked streets and the stair sets and stone walls tucked between Victorian-era homes. This stage is bound to be a favorite among both racers and spectators.
The city of Eureka Springs is part bohemian shops and art galleries and part motorcycle bars and barbecue with a New- Agey population that welcomes all. Non-racers can have just as much fun exploring the town as the riders have exploring the trails. Aside from the haunted hotel, there’s an in-town trail system that takes visitors to pocket gardens throughout the city, a chapel made of timber and glass called Thorncrown that was designed by famed architect, Fay Jones, and a wildlife refuge called Turpentine Creek that takes in tigers and lions.
Aside from kicking off the EWS North American Continental Enduro Series, the Eureka Spring Enduro is also the first race of the Arkansas Enduro Series. The series includes races at Mount Kessler in Fayetteville, on trails in Bella Vista, through the backcountry of the Buffalo River headwaters and at Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville.