By: TJ Stallbaumer
Few Arkansas roads have garnered more fame than the Pig Trail.
It is a name that has inspired countless others in the area, including the Harley-Davidson shops in Rogers and Eureka Springs, and it is the subject of my favorite mural on the University of Arkansas campus. It is a road known for its beauty and for the experience it gives riders.
The “Pig Trail” is actually U.S. Highway 23, and believe it or not, there’s a great way to get there.
I began mapping the Pig Trail from a breakfast spot in Eureka Springs. I would suggest using Eureka as a starting point for any venture onto the Pig Trail, as it makes a perfect place to stop for food, cool off and prepare yourself for what is to come.
Getting to Eureka Springs via scenic Highway 12 was the subject of a past review, which you can reference here.
To get to the Pig Trail, simply leave Eureka Springs heading south. Highway 23 runs all the way out of Eureka, and the ride I’ve chosen to profile today will end in Ozark, Ark., which I’ll say more on later. But the real questions so far are these:
So what is to come? What really makes the Pig Trail so famous?
It’s impossible to identify a single factor of this road that makes it so stellar. So I’ve chosen to discuss a few.
Something that makes the Pig Trail unique is the way it wanders through such varying areas. The road, much like Highway 12, is rarely straight for long, but it takes the rider on a tour of Arkansas topography.
Notice as you ride the way the road seems to naturally divide itself into sections. One moment, it’s classic Arkansas — huge views, bails of hay and a home on the range — then, almost before you know it, the road changes.
In a matter of minutes, the rural lowlands disappear and you find yourself climbing through Ozark hills.
When you can see beyond the trees, you can see it all. But the trees add their own charm to this top-10 motorcycle road.
The Pig Trail is known for its beauty year-round, but if you have time to plan, ride this road in the fall. It’s practically its own arboretum, as the road rolls through the middle of the Ozark National Forest, highlighting some of the most spectacular natural views in a state already known for its nature.
The trees push the Pig Trail into a class of its own in terms of natural beauty. There are sections where giant pines line the road on each side, making the rider feel as though he or she is entering some sacred space or ancient kingdom.
But the coolest parts come as the trees form a canopy across the top of the road. There are sections that place the rider in shade even when the sun is at its highest point. Though I aim to avoid clichés, the fact is that the Pig Trail is magical in its own right. It’s the kind of road you would see in a commercial for Harley Davidson, turn to your riding buddy and then say, “We have to find where that is, and then go.”
A truly phenomenal motorcycle road must be more than just pretty. It must also be fun. In this regard, the Pig Trail also succeeds.
It isn’t quite as technical as some other roads in the area. If you begin your ride from Eureka Springs, you’ll notice that Highway 12 is curvier than 23, but that shouldn’t take much away.
Rather than being a road packed with technical turns, Highway 23 meanders. It features more drawn out curves, at faster speeds, than the roads that precede it.
Something worth noting about the Pig Trail is that you need to be prepared to ride for quite a ways without stopping. It has super narrow shoulders and, as mentioned above, it’s fairly rural for large sections.
The result here is that there are few good stopping places. There aren’t a ton of what one would consider “points of interest” once you really make it onto the Pig Trail.
The signage on the Pig Trail is solid in terms of suggesting cornering speeds to riders. If you find that you’re comfortable on Highway 12, you’ll be comfortable on Highway 23 as well. I think a good rider can confidently attack any corner on the Pig Trail that’s rated 35 mph and above. Take caution if any sign tells you to go 30 or below though, as the Pig Trail does offer the occasional piece of extremely technical riding.
There are two distinct sections on the road that feature a series of switchback turns, which occur as the rider is losing elevation. The result here is that you’re going downhill on switchbacks, some of which wind up being banked due to the fact that you’re on a hill. It is fabulously cool, but I would absolutely advise caution.
Something else worth noting about this road, while on the topic of caution, is that due to the regular changes in elevation, any intense rain or precipitation can have adverse effects on the roadway.
There is construction at various points along the route, where the road has been washed out or otherwise slid downhill. It’s always well marked, but if a sign says be prepared to stop, please take it seriously.
Though it’s well known that the ride should be about the ride, it’s also known that when the heat index is hovering around 103 degrees, it can be really nice to arrive somewhere.
Highway 23 provides a convenient stop in Ozark. It’s a small town, but it has charm — and food.
Full disclosure here: The only place I’ve ever eaten in Ozark is Rivertown Barbecue, and I can recommend it with complete confidence.
They have cold beverages and even better barbecue, with a true small town feel and some always unique options. If you’re feeling hot, hungry or adventurous, go eat there.
This route, like the last one reviewed, doesn’t deserve to be made into a loop.
When dealing with roads as good as this one, the discerning rider should want to return from whence he or she came. On a road like the Pig Trail, going home is nothing like getting there. When every right becomes a left, a new world opens.
Remember to grab some gas on the way out of Ozark, especially if you’re on a Sportster or anything with a small tank. As mentioned earlier, the Pig Trail gets relatively amenity-free for some periods of time, and it would be a particularly challenging place to run out of gas.
All told, the Pig Trail is a road deserving of its reputation.
Take the camera, and be prepared to experience every incarnation of “natural” this state has to offer, without leaving Highway 23.