Mt Magazine is the tallest mountain between the major western and eastern ranges. Rising from the planes of the southern Midwest, it is a dominating feature of the oddly located Ouachita Mountains and the highest point in Arkansas.
|A little alpine oasis in the Great Planes|
My explorations of the Ouachita Mountains would not be complete without a visit to Mt Magazine State Park
. This plateau-like summit has expansive views of all of the Ouachitas and most of the Ozarks which makes it a prime destination for outdoorsy types. Unbeknownst to me, there was also a massive lodge with full amenities. I came knowing the park would be pristine but I didn't know it would be posh as well. I'm all for the wilderness experience but I sure enjoyed the lodge...
Normally I don't like to hike mountains with parking lots and touristy type things at the summit but this state park was a nice touch. There was a full range of lodging and camping options. Staying in the lodge was obviously ideal but I noticed there were a dozen independent cabins which also looked appealing. Of course, there's also traditional tent camping and an RV site. Actually, the overflow area is cheaper and has better views than the formal campsite.
|View from just outside the lodge|
|The western edge of the plateau|
Despite the resort-like feel of the lodge and cabins, there's still lots of backcountry hiking and biking to be done. The best hiking/biking trail isn't even a trail though- it's a fire break! Brown Springs is an overflow camping and picnic area with a curiously unmarked trail leaving from the furthest parking area. The rangers told me it is one of the better trails because it has a dozen overlooks ending at the western tip of the plateau: a perfect sunset spot. It is a fire break but it feels like a trail and I had no problems mountain biking it. Most of the park's trails are only for hiking.
Mountain biking the fire break was a little precipitous in parts. Its only a few miles but I found myself stopping so much to take pictures that it took much longer than originally planned. The rangers gave me a trail guide which helped point out the better overlooks. I would like to come back during the wet season because there are several streams and waterfalls which were not running this late in the summer. Regardless, it was still pretty.
|Cliffs of Mt Magazine|
|Fire break hiking trail|
Another prime hiking trail is the trail to the high point. It doesn't have any expansive vistas that the other trails have but the satisfaction of summiting the Arkansas high point is enough. Well, it's also a nice walk through the woods. Like many isolated and relatively tall summits in the area, the "alpine" vegetation is stout and gnarled which is witness to the harsh environment. Its similar to the krummholz that is common at higher elevations in the northeast. At the actual high point, there's a rock-made map of Arkansas, a formal sign and a few trinkets from the Highpointers Foundation
|Summit of Arkansas|
The Ouachitas have been delightful. From here I turned north and toured through the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri. It was far too late in the season to do any serious rafting on the Buffalo River which was disappointing. I did get plenty of information for a future trip. I felt a little sad that I didn't plan out my Ozark leg of the trip as well as I should have but next time I'll be better prepared.
Read. Plan. Get Out There!