Arkansas Graveler bike tour to showcase northern Arkansas

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,529 views 

Photo courtesy Caleb Yarbrough.

Arkansas tourism officials and Gov. Sarah Sanders announced Thursday (Aug. 24) a new in-state bike tour event to be called the Arkansas Graveler. The six-day, 300-plus mile bike journey across county and forest backroads in northern Arkansas and will take place in June 2024.

The inaugural event, founded by the Ozark Foundation, will begin in Fayetteville on June 23, 2024, and finish in Jonesboro on June 29. The ride will kick-off at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and conclude at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Approximately 400 touring and recreational cyclists from across the country are expected to participate in the 336-mile ride which will include five stops in host communities along the route.

Day 1 – Fayetteville to Oark (55 miles)
Day 2 – Oark to Jasper (56 miles)
Day 3 – Jasper to Marshall (55 miles)
Day 4 – Marshall to Mountain View (51 miles)
Day 5 – Mountain View to Cave City (49 miles)
Day 6 – Cave City to Jonesboro (70 miles)

“Arkansas Graveler will showcase and celebrate the best of Arkansas – its natural beauty and culture – in a most unique and magnificent way,” said Michael Spivey, executive director of the Ozark Foundation, a public charity in Bentonville formed in 2021 devoted to elevating outdoor recreation in Arkansas. “What’s more is that the route will present an incredibly epic challenge for cyclists from around the world.”

Spivey said local communities will benefit from cyclists experiencing food and lodging across the bike tour.

“By the time this event hits year five, the economic impact for the host communities will be exponential with restaurants, lodgings, and retailers benefitting,” Spivey said. “Additionally, Ozark Foundation will provide sizeable givebacks in each community to help address their respective needs.”

Arkansas has approximately 69,000 miles of unpaved roads, according to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. Gravel is one of cycling’s fastest-growing sectors.

Shea Lewis, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, said Arkansas can become a leader in this growing tourism field.

“Cycling, especially on unpaved surfaces, presents an outstanding way to grow the tourism and outdoor economy in some of Arkansas’ more rural counties,” said Lewis. “Our hope is that participants in the Arkansas Graveler event will grow to share our affinity for Arkansas and return to explore unpaved cycling options in other parts of our state and enjoy other recreational and cultural offerings.”

Gov. Sanders, who has emphasized more development of Arkansas’ outdoor economic offerings, said the event will showcase Arkansas’ rural and mountain regions.

“Riding a bike down Arkansas’ rural backroads gives you a one-of-a-kind view of the outdoor beauty and small-town charm that make the Natural State so special. The Arkansas Graveler invites cyclists from around the country to experience a rarely seen side of our state – and patronize communities all along the way,” said Sanders. “I’ve made growing Arkansas’ outdoor economy one of the cornerstones of my agenda and the Graveler offers a great new way to get tourists and locals alike biking through the Natural State.

Registration for the Arkansas Graveler event will begin on Jan. 1, 2024.

In addition to the Ozark Foundation, other partners for the event include Arkansas Department of Parks Heritage and Tourism, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas, Experience Fayetteville, Walmart, Arvest Bank, and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.