The Building of Little Sugar.

 The Building of Little Sugar.

Rock Solid Crew carving out Little Sugar. Photo by Eli Glessman

“I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.”


The geology where Bella Vista’s Little Sugar trail system is being carved out of the Ozark Mountains is not made of marble. It is most assuredly rock. The granite and rhyolite rock outcrops of the Ozarks are comparable to knobby rock islands in a weathered sea of sediments. These sediments consist of layered units of dolomite, limestone, sandstone, shale and chert. The variation in color, texture, and hardness of sediments offer a 3-dimensional canvas for an every changing, challenging and interesting ride.

Karst features such as springs, losing streams, sinkholes, and caves are common in the limestones of the Springfield Plateau where Bella Vista is tucked into the Ozark Mountains. 

Eighteen months to build it. Ninety minutes to ride it.

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“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Environmental backgrounds

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Water, water, everywhere.

Trail Builders

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Rogue Trails

Rock Solid

Jagged Ax Trail Design

Gravity Logic

11 Under, Almost

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Rogue Trails, led by founder/owner Phil Penny, is another homegrown trail construction company skilled in the design and construction of soft surface trails in Arkansas and other states. 

Penny began racing mountain bikes in 1991, a time when most trails were built and maintained by volunteers. Later, during his eight years as president of Ozark Off-Roads Cyclists, Penny became more involved with trail construction. He discovered that much of what he’d learned from his bachelor’s degree in environmental science and engineering, coupled with his hydrology training on the job at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, also applied to bike trails. When on any Rogue-constructed trail, riders appreciate the company slogan: “Putting science into the art of trail building.”

With his increased involvement in the mountain biking community, it was a natural evolution for Penny to migrate toward trail construction. Leaving Game and Fish, he accepted a position building trails for Crossland Construction Co. 

After almost two years with Crossland, Penny was offered an opportunity to build a new bike trail network at Siloam Springs. He decided this was a chance to transform his passion for mountain bike development into a business; the rest is history. When the Boy Scouts of America organization decided to add a mountain bike trail to its Camp Orr facility in Newton County, it contacted Rogue Trails. Rogue also constructed the Vian Lake Trail, along with the Monument Trail at Hobbs State Park, which opened in June. Later this fall, Rogue will be applying the finishing touches on the highly anticipated 11 Under Trail in Bella Vista. Rogue’s portion of the new trail system consists of 20 miles of tight single track, rock technical features, jump lines, tall berms and several miles of Rogue’s signature intimate hand-built trails.

Penny’s training in conservation and creating sustainable natural features carried over to Rogue Trails. His team of 23 employees includes three environmental scientists and two members with degrees in parks and recreation. This scientific approach to trail construction has aided Rogue when applying for government projects. But even when a project’s guidelines does not require him to follow strict conservational guidelines to build sustainable trails, Rogue still does, because as he says, “it’s the right thing to do.”


Aaron Rogers’ Rock Solid Trail Contracting enterprise was recruited from Copper Harbor, Mich., to assist with the numerous trail projects under construction in preparation for the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) World Summit held in Bentonville in 2016.

At one time, there were five separate trail construction companies actively working on trails in Northwest Arkansas. Rogers’ team brought with them a list of impressive credentials: Rogers himself had worked for IMBA, where he learned to construct, and train others to build, trails according to the association’s sustainable standards and techniques. His team also included members with bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and construction, with years of hands-on trail design and the creation of trail networks.  

Rogers brought a crew of 17 with him on that initial visit. They worked on the original Coler Mountain Bike Preserve trail system. The slabfest of a trail with the company’s namesake, Rock Solid Trail, contains the group’s signature rocky features. In addition to their work at Coler, the company has also reworked several of the Slaughter Pen Trails (Ozone Trail, Angus Chute and Schroen Train). That work, plus its work on the Back 40 trail system in Bella Vista, established Rock Solid as a builder of exciting and sustainable trails. 

Rock Solid’s relationship with Arkansas trail construction proved to be a great fit for the company and Arkansas has become a second home for Rogers and his crew. Trail crews were more than happy to be working in the mild weather conditions found in Arkansas’s fall and winter as opposed to those in Michigan and Minnesota.

The Lake Leatherwood Downhill Gravity Trails, with seven separate downhill runs ranging in skill levels from beginner green to double black diamond expert, has become a popular Rock Solid project. These downhill trails include high bank earthen berms, challenging rock drops, table-tops and gaping jumps. There is something to challenge all levels of riders.

Rock Solid will be returning once again this fall to put the final touches on the south section of the new 11 Under trail system in Bella Vista and the much-anticipated Mount Nebo Downhill Trail. Its 7-mile Monument Trail on Nebo opened in July.

Susan Kelley

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