A three day experience, the Buffalo Headwaters Challenge is an annual mountain bike ride around the Ozark Mountains with camping areas available overnight. You have to be a member of the OORC to register, but don’t let that deter you–signing up online or onsite will be well worth the adventure. The event starts off with a bonfire and dinner together with everyone participating. Starting early the next day, the company rides out onto the Upper Buffalo Mountain Bike Trail. Rides can choose between the full 40 mile Challenge, a 26 mile Half-Challenge, or a simpler 17 mile ride. Food, water, and entertainment wait at the finish line as well as each break point. On the final day is an endurance downhill challenge on the Fire Tower Trail with a shuttle service for repeat riders.
Though it’s not a race, this ride definitely lives up to its title of a challenge. Only riders at the intermediate level and above should attempt this adventure. The trails are remote and cut through forests and cliffs. Several streams and small rivers require bikes to be carried through, and the inclines range from the gradual Sidewinder Trail to very the steep and rocky Azalea Falls Trail. Descents can be especially difficult with many sharp turns on the Wildcat Trail in particular. There are more relaxing sections of the ride that wind gently through dense trees and beautiful paths as well as short distances over smooth road. On average, it takes around two or three hours to complete the full challenge.
Starting a little over a decade ago, the Buffalo Headwaters Challenge is a recent event. The trails that make it up were all built and mapped out by local logging businesses in an attempt to make traversing the mountains easier for logging and sightseeing. After that industry died out, most of the trails were professionally reworked and recognized as official bike trails by the US Forest Service. This was only just a few years ago and thanks to the upgrades, the trails are becoming more and more popular. Each passing event draws in more participants eager to join the community and take on the Challenge.