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The Ozark Mountains
Discover the Natural State's Most Scenic Stretches
A lush green in the spring and summer and a kaleidoscope of crimson and gold each fall, the gorgeous Ozarks are rugged mountains laden with broadleaved trees. How better to bask in northern Arkansas’ “Natural” beauty than by embarking on a driving tour along its winding roads and discovering communities like Bentonville and Clinton along the way?
Start in Fayetteville, in northwest Arkansas. The Land of Opportunity’s third largest city, Fayetteville is nestled into the Ozarks’ northwestern portion and is home to the University of Arkansas.
Fall visitors to Fayetteville won’t want to miss a chance to experience a high-energy University of Arkansas Razorbacks football home game at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, located on the UA campus. Of course, the university isn’t the only place where visitors can learn a thing or two. Check out the Clinton House to see where Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham lived while teaching at the UA School of Law. The house museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Head to the Fayetteville Downtown Square & Gardens to peruse a unique array of shops and boutiques before grabbing a bite at one of several locally owned restaurants. The square is beset on all sides by historic buildings, with colorful garden serving as its centerpiece. Catch a show while you’re in town. The Walton Arts Center is known for hosting everything from Broadway shows to concerts to wine tastings, and TheatreSquared promises a diverse calendar of off-Broadway stage productions.
Get out and stretch your legs at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park. Located just 20 minutes southwest of downtown Fayetteville, the park is one of the country’s most intact Civil War battle sites, hosting Arkansas’ largest battle reenactment biennially. If you’re just in the mood for a scenic stroll, look to the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, a collection of twelve themed gardens complete with a butterfly house.
Just over half an hour to the north via Interstate 49, Bentonville is known as the birthplace of Walmart. It’s also home to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, which serves much of the Ozarks region.
Apart from the Walmart Museum, at the site of the Walton’s original storefront, there’s much to see in order to truly appreciate Bentonville. The Museum of Native American History is an absolute must, as is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. And don’t forget to check out the Buckyball – located in front of the Crystal Bridges Museum, the glowing structure is an attraction in and of itself.
No matter the time of year, the Lawrence Plaza Ice Rink and Splash Park is a great place for family-friendly fun. Cool off with a frolic in the fountains when it gets hot, or lace up for some ice-skating during winter months – Lawrence Plaza’s got it all.
Right in town, Compton Gardens are a great place for a relaxing walk, while the Slaughter Pen Hollow Multi-Use Trail System, on the north edge of town, is ideal for mountain biking.
Travel an hour east on AR-72 and US-62 to reach Eureka Springs, where countless one-of-a-kind attractions await.
Eureka Springs lays claim to everything from the World's Largest Tuned Musical Wind Chime to a piece of the Berlin Wall and a 66-foot statue of Jesus Christ entitled “Christ of the Ozarks.” Summer visitors can walk with Christ in his final days at the Museum of Earth History, during performances of the Great Passion Play, the country’s best-attended outdoor drama. Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point, an annual fine arts festival, also draws big crowds each June and July.
To gain a sense of local lore while you do a little shopping or dining, check out the Eureka Springs Downtown Historic District. It’s home to a number of world-class restaurants, spas, boutiques, and more, all dressed in stunning Victorian architecture.
Anglers drop a line in Table Rock Lake, where rock shelters are famously full of striped bass, and adventurers young and old can choose between the Kings River and the White River for boating, canoeing, rafting, and kayaking opportunities. Of course if you’d rather stay dry, nearby options like Hobbs State Park and Devil's Den State Park boast large trails, perfect for hiking and biking.
Buffalo National River
Continue east on US-62 as the road becomes US-65 S and plan some extra time to stop off along the Buffalo National River. The 135-mile river is especially scenic and conditions are right for kayaking, canoeing, tubing, and more, virtually year round. Visit the Tyler Bend Visitors Center in St. Joe for tips on the best spots to stop along the river.
Less than an hour south of the Tyler Bend Visitor Center via US-65 S, you’ll find Clinton, one of the Natural State’s oldest communities and county seat of Van Buren County.
It’s easy for Clinton visitors to find a sense of the Old West. The Van Buren County Museum maintains a vast collection of artifacts, ranging from the prehistoric to the pioneer days and on through World War II. The spirit of the Old West lives on through the National Championship Chuck Wagon Races, held every Labor Day weekend, and the Van Buren County Fair is good ol’ fashioned family fun each September.
Clinton visitors will want to make sure they leave some extra room – in both their bags and their bellies. The downtown area is great for one-of-a-kind antique finds, and, to hear locals put it, October visitors have to be fools to skip the Annual Chili King Cook-off.
Of course, the region is rich with ways to work off a big meal. Explore Greers Ferry Lake. There, swimming, cliff diving, boating, and scuba diving are popular activities all year long, and it’s a great place to cast a line for rainbow trout, too.
Less than an hour to the northeast on AR-9 N, Mountain View maintains a uniquely Arkansas brand of Americana charm. The town also proudly wears the nickname “the Folk Music Capital of the World.”
The Ozark Folk Center State Park embodies the spirit of the region, boasting a living history museum, workshops, zip lines, a restaurant, and the Craft Village, which is open Tuesday to Saturday from April through November.
Considered the central meeting ground for Mountain View locals and visitors alike, the Historic Courthouse Square – also called the Historic Courtsquare – is surrounded by unique shops, performance venues, and eateries. The sound of bluegrass is always in the air, but on weekend nights, you’re liable to witness a live, impromptu jam session right out in the square.
Just to the north of town, Blanchard Springs Caverns are a place of otherworldly beauty. Feeding North Sylamore Creek, the springs are located within a three-level cave system adorned in colorful limestone. Venture along trails like the Dripstone Trail and the Discovery Trail to encounter highlights like the Giant Flowstone and more.