- 35 miles (56 km)
- 1 hour to drive the byway.
The 35 miles of the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway treat you to winding roads that traverse the highland ridges between headwaters of lively streams. This striking byway serves as a major route for residents and visitors traveling north from Clarksville to well known recreation areas.
While walking or driving, catch a quick look at a white-tailed deer hiding among the colorful flora or witness the rumbling gait of a black bear as it forages for food. Lucky travelers catch glimpses of bald or golden eagles soaring overhead. The Ozark area, known for its scenic beauty, boasts rugged and varied landscapes of twisting streams and tree-covered hills. Park your car to take in the patchwork view of communities and farmlands visible at the escarpment overlook of the Arkansas River Valley.
Recreation areas are scattered along the byway's route, including the Alum Cove Recreation Area. Designed primarily to help visitors experience nature up close, you can enjoy the rustling of the wind through the overhanging branches of the trees as you hike along rock lined trails and enjoy your meal. While here, wander among the arches of the Alum Natural Bridge, a 130-foot natural bridge carved from solid rock by wind, rain and ice. Lace up your hiking boots and set off on the Alum Cove National Recreation Trail; a looping path that wanders past the natural arch, across a small stream and to the overhanging bluff line. If you're looking for a tougher challenge try the Ozark Highlands trail. Located in the historic Ozone Recreation Area and rated one of the most scenic trails in the United States, this trail covers more than 170 miles of the Ozark National Forest.
Adding to the natural scenery, old and new homesteads stand side-by-side in stark contrast. Old stone fences of various construction techniques are spread along the byway, giving a charming, rustic atmosphere to the area. Remaining homesteads from the earliest settlers are picturesque, though the homes were abandoned almost a century before. Dotting the landscape, they bear witness to the rugged, early times in the Arkansas Ozarks.
With rushing streams and twisting roads, the heart of Ozarks has invited and charmed people for centuries. Trailing over and through the Arkansas countryside, the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway gives you a glimpse into why so many people call this place home.
Points of Interest
Points of Interest Along The Way
Alum Cove Recreation Area (AR)
The Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreation Area is designed primarily for people who enjoy getting close to natural beauty rather than seeking it through the window of an automobile. No cars or other motor vehicles are permitted in the 220-acre area. Any motorized vehicle or mountain bikes must be left at the parking area at the entrance to the trail that leads to the Natural Bridge and points of interest along the bluff line. Along the 1.1 mile trail, benches provide opportunities for short rests amid scenic surroundings.
Visitors can best appreciate the Alum Cove area if they walk the entire length of the trail. In addition to seeing the rock formations along the bluffs, they will pass through stands of hardwoods and view the beautiful American beech in its silver-gray splendor. A number of wild magnolias grow on the north side of the bridge. They are called "cowcumber trees" by the natives.
Outstanding among the many natural attractions of the Ozark National Forest is the huge stone bridge at Alum Cove. The bridge, 130 feet long and 20 feet wide, was carved from rock bluffs by the erosive forces of wind and water acting through eons of time. The arch was actually used as a bridge by early settlers who moved their wagons and livestock across it rather than struggle through the stream during wet weather, and oldtimers recall seeing lumbermen drive loaded log trucks over the natural "roadway" atop the arch during the rainy season.
Water and wind also shaped other interesting rock formations along the bluff line across the cove, including the cave (or "rooms" as they are often called). Native Americans used these rock overhangs for shelter while on extended hunting trips. At one time, free-roaming goats inhabited the caves, giving the formations the local name, "goat houses."
Each season brings its special beauty to Alum Cove. Early wildflowers and flowering trees, including dogwood and redbud, add their color and charm in the spring. Summer brings other wildflowers and the cool, dense shade of the hardwoods in full leaf. Autumn blankets the forests with a variety of color. Even winter has its special attraction, for then the visitor can see clearly many of the rock formations hidden all summer by foliage. In mid-winter, small streams bounding over rocks create many unique ice formations.
Ozark Highlands Trail is a 165-mile hiking trail that crosses the Ozark National Forest and is recognized as one of the most scenic trails in the United States. Starting at Lake Fort Smith State Park on Arkansas 71, the trail crosses the forest to Woolum near the Buffalo National River. Trailhead parking is available at several locations along the trail.
The trail travels through a wide variety of forest landscapes ranging from lower stream side elevations to high ridges. Scenic bluff and rock formations along the high vistas are evident along most sections of the trail. Forest cover varies from newly established stands of pine and hardwood trees to older, mature stands.
Most of the trail is on National Forest lands, but some portions of the trail cross privately owned land. Please respect the landowners by staying on the trail and not trespassing on their private property. The western 6.2 miles are on Arkansas State Park lands and the eastern 8.4 miles are on Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and National Park Service lands. Please be careful crossing these areas and respect their regulations and guidelines. Remember, saddle or pack animals are not allowed on any part of the Ozark Highlands Trail.
The trail is divided into three sections, west, middle, and east. The Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway crosses the middle section of the trail. If you hike the entire section, you will cover 49.2 miles. The trail can be accessed from both Haw Creek Falls and Ozone Recreation Area.
Highlights of the Middle Section
Little Mulberry Creek - (Mile 58.0) This typical Ozark Mountain stream features a rocky bottom and short stretches of whitewater with long pools of deep, quiet water.
Rattlesnake Rock Overlook - (Mile 61.8) This point offers a clear and spectacular view of the Little Mulberry River Valley.
Ozone Recreation Area - (Mile 85.8) This Forest Servicerecreation area was originally the site of the Ozone Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in the 1930's. This area features camping, water, chemical toilets and trailhead parking north of the campground on the left (west) side of Highway 21. From Ozark, take Arkansas 21 (paved) north for 18 miles.
Cedar Creek - (Mile 98.4) A small, picturesque mountain stream with cascading falls and a large pool of water.
Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area - (Mile 104.0) The Forest Service campground is next to the waterfalls of Haw Creek. The area features camping, water, and chemical toilets. Parking is nearby (1.5 miles) at the Big Piney Creek Trailhead - From Hagarville, take Arkansas 123 (paved) northeast for 14 miles. From Russellville, take Arkansas 7 north to Pelsor; then left (southwest) on Highway 123 (paved) for 12 miles. Trailhead parking is on the south side of Highway 123.
Ozark National Forest (AR)
The Ozark National Forest covers 1.2 million acres, mostly in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas. You'll find the tallest mountain in the State, Mount Magazine, and an incredible, living underground cave--Blanchard Springs Caverns.
Ozone Recreation Area (AR)
Nestled amongst tall timber, The Ozone Recreation Area was originally the site of a CCC camp during the late 1930s and early 1940s.
The CCC, under Forest Service administration located at Ozone Recreation Area, built many local roads, fought fire, planted trees, built fire towers, and provided the basic management foundation for the National Forest to develop the outstanding scenery along the Scenic Byway.
Currently the campground and pavilion are next to the site of the CCC camp. Brush and undergrowth have been cleared so that some of the structure foundations are visible for visitors to see while strolling through the site.
Visitors can also access the Ozark Highlands Trail from here.
18 miles north of Clarksville on Hwy. 21