12 Parks in Bentonville, Arkansas

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nestled in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas, Bentonville has emerged as a hub for outdoor recreation and nature lovers over the past decade. Once a quiet small town, Bentonville has experienced rapid growth thanks to its status as the home of Walmart. However, among the sleek new developments and influx of big businesses, Bentonville has maintained its connection to nature through its wealth of gorgeous parks and green spaces.

From massive mountain bike trails to intimate pocket parks, Bentonville offers over twenty parks ranging from rustic to modern. The city’s mild climate means its parks can be enjoyed year-round for hiking, biking, picnics and more. Crystal blue skies in the summer give way to a colorful explosion of fall foliage before the quiet chill of winter settles in.

In this article, we’ll explore twelve of the top parks and nature areas that make Bentonville an outdoor lover’s paradise.

Slaughter Pen Mountain Bike Trails

Spanning over 20 miles of winding singletrack trails, Slaughter Pen has earned national acclaim as one of the country’s premier mountain bike trail systems. Located on a rocky promontory with epic views, Slaughter Pen offers trails for every skill level across its 300 acres.

Beginners can practice on the relatively smooth terrain of trails like Bench Cut or Bobcat Flow. Experts can challenge themselves on the rocky ascents and descents of runs like Web Weaver and Dirt Diggler, which have hosted stages of the Epic Rides Oz Trails Off-Road race series. For less hardcore riders, Slaughter Pen still rewards with gorgeous vistas of the Arkansas hills blanketed in lush greenery.

The trails draw over 60,000 yearly visitors, but new trail construction ensures there is enough room for everyone to enjoy the outdoors. Whether you want an adrenaline-packed ride between craggy boulders or a pleasant pedal around pristine Arkansas countryside, Slaughter Pen has something to offer all mountain bikers.

“Hippie” Hole at Coler Mountain Bike Preserve

Tucked into a lush hollow along the Crystal Bridges Trail at Coler Preserve sits one of the most idyllic swimming spots in northwest Arkansas. Known as “Hippie Hole”, this swimming area gets its name from the 1960s era vans locals have spotted lingering there on hot summer days.

Surrounded on all sides by the verdant green slopes of northwest Arkansas, Hippie Hole’s emerald waters offer reprieve from the summer heat for families, kayakers, stand up paddleboarders and more. Sandy shores provide ample space for laying out towels and soaking in some sun. Tall limestone bluffs surround shallow water ideal for small children to splash safely. Visitors should keep an eye out for the preserve’s many species of birds circling overhead like red-tailed hawks, wild turkey and tufted titmouse.

Eclectic Rogers flea market vendors occasionally set up shop in the spacious parking area on busy weekends. Offering handmade crafts, artwork and vintage goods, these pop-ups let visitors enjoy browsing for one-of-a-kind treasures steps from swimming and hiking trails.

For a perfect summer’s day that blends swimming, nature and shopping, Hippie Hole is Bentonville’s best kept secret. The laid back atmosphere and stunning natural beauty cast a relaxing spell over all who dip their toes in its waters.

The Meteor Crater at Kessler Mountain Regional Park

Though it bears the look of an extraterrestrial impact zone, the 50 foot deep bowl shaped “Meteor Crater” at Kessler Mountain is actually an eroded limestone sinkhole formed thousands of years ago. Still, with its jagged rocky edges and otherworldly aura, the crater is an Instagrammable natural wonder perfect for photo ops.

Located just off the Razorback Greenway in Kessler Regional Park’s 640 acres of Ozark foothills, the crater has become popular with hikers and trail runners. Crushed gravel paths trimmed by natural stone walls make a 1.3 mile loop around the crater’s rim. The moderate hiking path winds through oak, cedar and pine trees as stunning valley panoramas open up at multiple vista points.

In addition to the main Meteor Crater Trail, over 15 miles of multi-use trails spiderweb throughout the rest of Kessler Mountain park. Mountain bikers can catch some air as they traverse rocky paths to grand views of the winding Crystal Bridges museum below. Leashed dogs are welcome in the park, but should be kept on red diamond designated trails to protect local ecosystems.

Thanks to its proximity to downtown, Kessler Mountain Regional Park is one of the most popular outdoor escape for Bentonville locals. Whether you’re seeking thrill-seeking singletrack or just want to gawk at the awesome power of natural erosion at Meteor Crater, Kessler has something for travelers of all kinds.

The Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel

Nestled on a scenic bluff overlooking crystal clear Lake Bella Vista, the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel offers spiritual nourishment to accompany the area’s natural splendor. Constructed in 1988 to honor the founder of Bella Vista, Cooper Chapel’s award winning design fully embraces its breathtaking natural setting. Soaring windows frame panoramic views of the rippling blue lake and forested hills, while native stone walls blend seamlessly with the promontory’s rocky terrain.

In addition to functioning as a non-denominational wedding venue, Cooper Chapel also holds weekly prayer services, concerts and seminars in its stunning nave. Hundreds flock to the granite cross-shaped chapel every Christmas Eve to sing carols as the sun sets behind the steeple’s stained glass windows.

Outside the building, the Jane Cameron Garden dedicated to Bella Vista’s co-founder provides a peaceful space for visitors. Winding gravel paths are lined with wildflowers and native shrubs, while secluded benches tucked into alcoves offer quiet nooks for reading or journaling. Many newlyweds and engagement photo seekers utilize the garden’s vibrant floral displays as an intimate backdrop that reflects the chapel’s connection to nature.

Whether you’re seeking spiritual refuge or just a quiet spot of natural beauty where blue skies meet even bluer waters, the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel is a can’t miss destination for locals and visitors alike.

The Razorback Regional Greenway

As the Northwest Arkansas region’s growing trail system expands every year, the Razorback Regional Greenway stands above the rest as the crown jewel connector tying the entire area together. Spanning 36 miles of multi-use trail from Bella Vista to Fayetteville, the Greenway serves as the backbone of NWA’s public trails, offering unmatched views of the natural beauty defining the Ozarks region.

Paved pathways catering to cyclists, rollerbladers and pedestrians wind through charming downtowns, quaint neighborhoods and unspoiled countryside. In Bentonville itself, the Greenway whips riders through downtown corridors lined with eye-catching street art and trendy galleries. Further south near Little Sugar Creek, quiet wooded sections appear untouched since indigenous peoples roamed the rolling foothills.

Due to its exceptionally flat grade that rarely exceeds a three percent slope, the Greenway provides a moderate workout even for casual weekend fitness enthusiasts while exposing them to a stunning tour of the Ozarks landscape. Mile markers dot the length of the trail to track distance, spurring many locals to undertake ambitious feats like marathon or 50-mile rides.

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll through culture-rich downtown centers or a quad-burning bike ride between scenic suburbs, the Razorback Regional Greenway has anything an active visitor could ask for.

The Downtown Bentonville Square

As the public centerpiece of historic downtown Bentonville, the Town Square has served as a lively gathering place and the heart of the community since it was first laid out in 1868 by town founder Osage Wilson. During the warmer months, residents flock to the shaded benches and emerald lawn fringed by antique lamp posts to catch up with neighbors over lunch or play a game of checkers at the concrete tables.

Kids especially love the Square, spending hours climbing the jungle gyms and whimsically carved sculptures scattered throughout the park. When the Saturday morning farmers market sets up on the east lawn, parents snack on freshly roasted coffees while children play tag amid stalls bursting with ripe produce and colorful bouquets.

In addition to offering green space for relaxation or playtime, the Bentonville Square hosts over twenty beloved community events every year. On summer evenings, locals break out picnic blankets to enjoy free concerts from the bandstand accompanied by craft brews and food trucks. As the crisp air of fall sets in, pumpkin patches and corn mazes transform the Square in anticipation of thousands gathering downtown for a festive Bentonville Halloween celebration. And nothing embodies small town Christmas charm better than the annual lighting of a towering tree shining over the central lawn.

For Bentonville locals, all community life revolves around their cherished downtown Square. For visitors, it offers the perfect place to witness Ozarks culture and charm firsthand while enjoying the outdoors.

Blowing Springs Park

Tucked away along Little Sugar Creek just north of downtown lays the secluded oasis of Blowing Springs Park. Encompassing eighteen acres of rolling green hills intersected by limestone bluffs, Blowing Springs provides a quiet natural retreat steps from the thriving Bentonville streets. Visitors entering the park pass through sculpted wooden gates evoking the forests ahead before concrete paths give way to rustic dirt trails.

Dense hillside woods filled with sugar maple, black walnut and eastern red cedar trees offer plenty of shade for hiking even on hot summer days. Follow the rocky banks of Little Sugar creek to discover gurgling springs emerging from mossy glens that rumor claims have mysterious air currents strong enough to lift ladies’ skirts. As the legend goes, offended nineteenth century women brought their umbrellas for modesty while visiting the springs, hence the name “Blowing Springs.”

In addition to verdant woods and charming local folklore, Blowing Springs hosts well-attended nature programs focused on education. Bentonville’s community garden club works with local students to study regional ecosystems hands-on while caring for tree saplings in the park’s nursery. Families can attend night hikes to observe nocturnal wildlife or peruse exhibits spotlighting the park’s fascinating plant diversity.

Whether you’re looking for an educational adventure or just a peaceful green getaway from downtown’s energy, Blowing Springs Park has something to offer nature lovers of all backgrounds.

Compton Gardens

Best known for its rapturous display of spring blossoms, Compton Gardens emerges every April as one of the premier spots in Bentonville to observe nature’s pageantry firsthand. As the hundreds of flowering bulbs scattered throughout the public park burst into vivid color, Compton Gardens becomes carpeted with vibrant tulips, daffodils and hyacinth contrasting against verdant beds of juniper and spruce.

Following a winding gravel path through the seven acre garden, explosions of fuchsia, lavender and butter yellow bloom from seemingly every bush, tree or plot. Visitors revel in the sweet aromas perfuming the air as local artists capture the dramatic colors flourishing across the landscape. Kids especially love discovering the secret fairy treehouse hidden off the main trail.

In addition to the bounty of blossoms by spring, Compton Gardens entertains guests year-round with whimsical sculpture installations dotted unexpectedly along its trails. Wandering through quiet winter woods, you may stumble across a fairy ring of mushroom houses, a pod of whales carved from tree trunks, or charming hobbit huts built at child’s height into the hillsides. Whether blanketed with kaleidoscopic flowers or offering discovery of handcrafted art, Compton Gardens delights all who enter its rainbow wonderland.

The Brightwater Culinary Institute

In addition to stocking kitchens with local ingredients, Bentonville’s culinary scene cultivates talent at the Brightwater Center for Arts and Innovation’s state of the art cooking school. The Brightwater Culinary Institute offers hands-on instruction for aspiring chefs of all ages looking to refine their skills in stunning facilities that fuse glass, steel and wood with the gorgeous natural landscape.

Floor to ceiling glass walls flood the Institute’s industrial kitchens with natural light while allowing uninterrupted views outdoors. Looking up from their cutting boards, students glimpse emerald hills, cotton clouds and blue skies for inspiration while learning culinary lessons. The outdoor patio’s grill stations, brick ovens and bar top seating merges indoor/outdoor spaces for an al fresco dining experience after working up an appetite.

Classes range from weekend sessions on regional specialties like hearty Ozark stew to intensive multi-week courses preparing students for careers in the kitchen. Budding chefs seeking particular skills can register for focused instruction that runs the gamut from cake decoration to sushi preparation.

For local foodies, advanced home cooks and aspiring professionals alike, the Brightwater Culinary Institute’s beautiful mountainside location makes honing your culinary craft a true delight.

The Circuit Trails

Consistently ranked among the top mountain bike trail networks on the planet, Bentonville’s Victoria’s Secret-branded “The Circuit” trail system showcases the area’s gorgeous scenery between handlebar-gripping single track exhilaration. With over 40 miles of trails offering ride options for every skill level, The Circuit weaves through the Peel Mansion estate’s rocky bluffs, photo-worthy vista points and lush hollows.

Wind through towering stands of tall pines and hundred year oaks on intermediate trails like French Dips or the technical rock gardens dotting Hocus Pocus. Expert riders can push themselves to the limits on punishing ascents up Vision Quest leading to breathtaking ridges with panoramic views. Even beginners can ripple through winding dirt paths tailored for novices on runs like Gravity Cavity.

While riding, don’t forget to stop at sights like the scenic balancing boulders on Boy Wonder or the Instagram-worthy drainage pipe known as the “selfie tube” along Joyride to capture social media content between hitting the singletracks. If mountain biking isn’t your speed, the Peel estate still entertains with nearly 20 miles of pedestrian hiking paths through gorgeous untamed Ozark wilderness with options to glimpse local wildlife.

From hardcore bike runs to family-friendly hikes, The Circuit offers limitless ways to experience the natural splendor and thrill of Bentonville’s beloved mountain bike culture.

Ozark Highlands Trail

Stretching nearly 230 miles through the Arkansas Ozarks from Lake Fort Smith State Park to the Buffalo National River, the Ozark Highlands Trail stands out as the state’s most iconic and challenging long distance hike. While most endeavor to tackle the entire route over weeks in remote backcountry, day hikers can access the trail inside Bentonville at Kessler Mountain Regional Park.

Starting at Kessler’s well-marked trailhead station, the OHT winds through rocky outcroppings dusted with fragrant cedar trees on the slopes of Pigeon Roost Mountain. Along the way, ruins of historic homesteads like the Civil War era Oliver Cabin offer glimpses into the lives of Arkansas hill folk shaped by the rugged and remote terrain. After 2.5 miles, the trail emerges onto open bluffs with commanding views of Bentonville’s skyline made tiny by the surrounding majesty of the Ozark hills before looping back to the trailhead.

Despite its peaceful natural beauty, tackling even a brief stretch of the storied OHT gives a glimpse of the grit required for the full traverse. But with its convenient access from downtown Bentonville, day trippers can capture a taste of the trail’s allure and scenery that draws outdoor adventurers from around the world each year.

The Peel Mansion and Gardens

Perhaps no site encapsulates the blend of pioneer history and natural splendor central to Bentonville’s identity better than the Peel Mansion and Gardens Historic State Park just west of downtown. As the impeccably preserved former home of Samuel West Peel, the 1887 Italianate Victorian mansion gives visitors a glimpse into the stylish lives of early town founders. Inside, lavish original finishes like plaster ceiling molding and marquetry wood floors illustrate the prospering family’s refined taste against the rustic backdrop of the rural Ozarks.

Outside the estate home, the mansion’s vast gardens sprawl over acres of vibrantly landscaped formal flower beds, babbling rock fountains and aged stone footpaths winding through the woodlands. Visitors can pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the sprawling lawn fringed by verdant forest. Kids love exploring trails past the apple orchards to visit the barn housing resident horses and chickens.

In addition to historic buildings and gorgeous grounds, Peel Mansion lies adjacent to the acclaimed Razorback Regional Greenway trail system. Outdoor enthusiasts can alight from the Greenway to hike miles of wooded trails threading through the estate’s rocky ridges. Mountain bike daredevils can test their skills on the nationally ranked single track downhill runs nearby as part of “The Circuit” trail network’s 40+ miles of terrain tailored from novice to advanced.

Whether you’re interested in regional history, gardens, cycling or just a beautiful natural setting for an outdoor meal, Peel Mansion State Park offers something to delight travelers of all types.

Conclusion

While often overshadowed by its big box stores and booming economy, a closer look at Bentonville’s many gorgeous parks reveals the Ozark wilderness still pulses strong through this growing hub of commerce and culture. Whether mountain biking through backcountry, attending a concert downtown or just picnicking lakeside at a peaceful chapel, Bentonville’s diverse green spaces cater to all interests.

Yet while ranging from rustic to modern, untouched to deliberately curated, a profound connection with the natural splendor of the Ozarks underpins every park experience in the area. Immersing into wooded hollows and rolling hills that have scarcely changed since indigenous peoples roamed reminds visitors of the region’s deep roots that ground even the most future focused endeavors.

With new outdoor attractions debuting every year as the city expands, the wealth of parks profiled above provides merely a snapshot of outdoor opportunities visitors will find across Bentonville. But whether you’re sampling a single site or striving to hit each park, there’s no better gateway than through nature to tap into what gives this thriving small town heart.

Leave a Comment