I came to Mount Magazine State Park to ascend Arkansas’s high point, 2,753 feet. (French trappers thought the mountain resembled a warehouse, a magasin.) I bagged my third high point at the park -- and I found a gorgeous, peaceful destination.
Shortly afterward, the tree canopy closed over my head. I felt as if I had entered an infinite, narrow, winding tunnel. Various trailheads branched off the road. And then the canopy opened. I stopped at the Petit Jean Overlook and walked down the steps.
Stunned by the beauty, I could hardly breathe.
I was standing on a magnificent cliff. The contrast between the confined tree tunnel and the expansive view overwhelmed my senses, a perfect example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s compression-and-release principle.
In the summer, escape the heat. Mount Magazine is a plateau in the sky, where temperatures are usually 10 to 15 degrees cooler on the mountain than in the valley below. In June, look for the rare western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum). The beautiful orange mustard plant grows only in three Arkansas counties, and swallowtail butterflies love them.
But the park is beautiful in every season. Fall paints the oak, hickory, dogwood, pawpaw, spicebush, and sassafras trees with red, orange, and yellow leaves; you can join the leaf-peepers in late October and November. The park is least crowded during the winter, which is usually mild in Arkansas; the lodge’s cozy amenities will keep you comfortable. And in the spring, the dogwoods bloom, and the waterfalls’ cascades are the strongest.
1. Orient Yourself At The Visitor Center
Look for the detailed model of Mount Magazine’s topography in the visitor center. The model helps you visualize the park’s layout and informs your activity choices. Examine the exhibits on the park’s plants, animals, geology, and history. Ask about trail and road conditions. Pick up or download (PDF) a trail brochure. The center is barrier-free. Follow the park’s regulations.
2. Summit Arkansas’s High Point
Lodge guests told me the 1.8-mile Signal Hill Trail is strenuous, but the trail was only moderate with 153 feet of elevation gain. The summit was anticlimactic. Yes, I had bagged another high point, but the tree canopy completely obscured the view. But the clearing included a high-pointers’ display and a beautiful 400-square-foot map of Arkansas. Wear good shoes because of loose rocks and long pants to avoid ticks.
Pro Tip: I wished for a drone to pierce the canopy. If you fly one, check for permit requirements with the Director of Arkansas State Park’s office. The official state parks site offers no drone information, but reports say the state requires permits.
3. Explore Cameron Bluff Overlook Drive
While trees constrict Signal Hill’s views, Cameron Bluff Overlook Drive, a short distance away, provides what Signal Hill lacks. A loop road surrounds Signal Hill. Enter the drive from the loop’s northeast quadrant. A short one-way drive includes seven stops. You’ll see the Arkansas River and the Ozark Plateau, plus the towns of Paris, Ozark, Subiaco, and Clarksville.
4. Hike Or Ride Mount Magazine’s Original Crest Road
A farmer built Will’s Apple Road to bring his produce to market. Hikers and mountain bikers share the easy 1.6-mile road past historic home sites, domesticated flowers, stone fences, and the ruin of a 1920s swimming pool.
Pro Tip: Bikers must signal their presence to hikers.
5. Hike To Waterfalls And More
On your way up the mountain, turn left on Cedar Piney Road at the sign. Hardy Falls is 2.1 miles down the road. Park on the roadside below the falls and walk down. If the stone culvert is dry, step into it for a classic photo opportunity.
Bushwhack down to Mount Magazine Falls from Overlook Drive. The falls plunge 28 feet on the 0.3-mile out-and-back route. Bring trekking poles for the 121-foot ascent.
The easy 2-mile Benefield Trail loops around the picnic area on Benjamin Benefield’s former homestead. The Benefields buried one of their seven children next to the entrance road.
On the East Loop, enjoy gorgeous Bear Hollow and stone fences. The West Loop visits a wildlife pond. Look for whitetail deer, black bears, and other animals. Blue blazes mark the trail.
Pro Tip: We also recommend these stunning Arkansas hikes.
6. Watch Birds And Butterflies
Cooper’s hawk, northern bobwhite, Acadian flycatcher, wood thrush, and various warbler species breed inside the park. During spring and fall migration seasons, up to 3,000 raptors traverse the park.
Migrating monarch butterflies alight on Mount Magazine in September. During the day, the butterflies feed on roadside wildflowers. Trees attract butterfly clusters as the sun goes down.
The large and beautiful Diana fritillaries are the state’s official butterflies. Females are blue and black, while males are brown with orange borders. Look for them during the summer.
7. Ride The Wind On A Hang Glider
Slip the surly bonds of Earth high above the Petit Jean Valley from the launch on the south side of the loop road. The mountain offers nearly perfect conditions for extended flights. Fliers must register daily and be rated Class 4. A Class 3 flier may ride with a Class 4. The landing zone is 7 miles west on Highway 10. Park at the launch site.
8. Climb And Rappel Arkansas’s Top Rocks
Rock climbers climb and rappel more than 100 routes on the bluffs west of the launch site, plus scramble up boulders. Climbers must register at the visitor center.
9. Practice For the Tour De France On A Classic Climb
Conquering Mount Magazine is the go-to bicycle climb in Arkansas. From Havana, the road rises 2,200 feet. After the first two miles, prepare for three mile-plus hills with grades north of eight percent. The last 4.5-mile climb will test your grit.
The reward is the blazing fast descent, reaching 40 miles per hour. Turn left onto Highway 29 in Magazine, then left again onto Highway 10 toward Havana. Highway 10 will have the most traffic.
Pro Tip: Rent bikes at the lodge, and always wear a helmet.
10. Accept The Huckleberry Mountain Trail Challenge
The Huckleberry Mountain Horse Trail connects Mount Magazine to Huckleberry Mountain. The trail follows an old wagon road, which drops 200 feet from the horse camp to the highway. Along the rugged, remote route, steep bluffs frame winding valleys, which open to spacious views. Numerous creeks offer water. Look for off-trail ponds, designated by signs and blue arrows.
The trail welcomes hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, and off-highway vehicles. The 37.3-mile multi-use trail includes three loops, with the longest, Huckleberry Mountain Trail, stretching 18.8 miles. If time presses, consider doubling back. The 6.6-mile Bell Springs Loop features relatively level terrain. Off-roaders should explore the 12.2-mile Apple Loop’s forest and old logging roads.
Bell Springs closes during April and May for turkey nesting and hatching season.
Camp in the backcountry at Sorghum Hollow Horse Camp, the Old Walnut Tree Camp, the Huckleberry Camp, or Quarry Camp.
Pro Tip: Register at all trail boxes. Orange diamonds or yellow circles mark the trails. Check conditions before you leave, and download a map (PDF).
11. Stay At The Stunning Lodge At Mount Magazine
The Lodge at Mount Magazine is like the Hotel California. You may check out, but you’ll never leave; your lovely lodge memories will follow you all your life.
Every one of the 60 guest rooms features spectacular views, no matter the weather. The vast hearth in the lobby invites you to contemplate the meaning of life or check all your thoughts at the door. Watch the hang gliders and rock climbers from the patio.
Some rooms are dog-friendly. Ask for them when you make reservations.
Settle into the hickory furniture at Skycrest Restaurant and savor the herb-crusted bone-in pork loin. Ask the host for seating near the windows.
12. Enter A Cozy Cabin Experience
At Mount Magazine, 13 is a lucky number because 13 cabins await you. Five have one bedroom, seven offer two, and one features three bedrooms. Each one includes a full kitchen and laundry room, and bathrooms for each bedroom. The best feature? Wraparound decks with outdoor hot tubs. Can anything be more relaxing than soaking while surveying gorgeous views?
Some cabins are dog-friendly. Ask for them when you make reservations.
13. Bring Your RV
RVers may choose from Class AAA (50-amp) and Class AA (30-amp) sites. Check the campground map and make reservations.
Visit Country Monks Brewing on Saturdays in Subiaco, half an hour north of the park. They sell house-made beer, wine, soap, candles, and more.
While you’re in the Natural State, consider:
- 4 Great Fall And Winter Hikes To Experience In The Ozarks
- Visiting Bentonville, Arkansas: The Best Things To See And Do
- Why Beautiful Eureka Springs Is The Perfect Fall Getaway
And for more on the history of Mount Magazine, head to Encyclopedia of Arkansas.