Slaughter Pen At Night

By Scott SchroenPhotos By Novo Studio


It could be said that the heart and soul of mountain biking in northwest Arkansas is, and forever will be, Slaughter Pen Hollow. It’s the foundation from which our growing network of world-class trails has been built. It was the testing ground for an idea that the Ozark region could become a ride destination, not only for local enthusiasts, but for cyclists from all points of the globe. It’s the go-to spot for guests we’ve finally convinced to visit. It’s where many now-skilled riders experienced their first mountain bike ride and became life-long lovers of the sport. 

For those of us who ride this area regularly, every turn, every rock, root and detail is a known quantity—yet we still revisit the trail time after time. Slaughter Pen is like an old friend. Why does the trail have such a hold on us? Are the trails that much different when we go back? Certainly they’ve evolved since Progressive Trail Design laid down the first few miles of singletrack—but the bones of Slaughter Pen are relatively the same. Perhaps it isn’t so much the trails that are different on each visit, but rather our own personal evolution and perspective, and that keeps us coming back.

Each ride we get stronger and more confident. We go faster and farther. The trees move past us quicker and the rocks feel smaller. The miles go longer. Rock gardens that were once a sight of fear and frustration are now pedaled with a smile. And on a warm summer’s evening, fighting a threat of rain, we took a trip out to Slaughter Pen to experience it in a way we never had before—our bikes lined with multi-colored lights that made for rainbow streaks down the familiar nooks and crannies as the Ozark sun went down. 

When we look at familiar surroundings with fresh eyes and in new ways, we discover that the old can become new again, that fresh challenges arise—and we discover that the heart and soul of mountain biking doesn’t just exist on one trail, it’s something we carry with us everywhere we go.