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Top 10 Scenic Drives in Arkansas

It won’t take long for visitors to Arkansas to learn why it’s called The Natural State, with all of its lakes, rivers, and mountains. In fact, the state is so full of natural resources, it is the only place in all of the United States that could be entirely self-sufficient if its borders were closed. Fortunately, such a border closing is unlikely, and anyone can explore the woods and water that are so plentiful in the region. In order to begin your own Arkansas journey of discovery, try one of these favorite scenic drives as a starting point to see the state in all its glory:

No. 10 – Caddo Gap

Caddo Gap Arkansas
Flickr user: Granger Meador

Starting Location: Glenwood, AR
Ending Location: Sulfur Springs, AR
Length: 216 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Passing the Crystal, Caddo, and Cossatot mountains, there are ample opportunities for travelers to stop at overlooks and enjoy the views. Stop in Caddo Gap to rent a canoe and explore the Caddo River, which is full of smallmouth bass and other finned creatures. At Albert Pike Recreation Area, athletic types may enjoy one of the steep hiking trails or give rock climbing a try.

No. 9 – Two Mountain Way

Two Mountain Way Arkansas
Flickr user: Texas Tongs

Starting Location: Mountain Home, AR
Ending Location: Mountain View, AR
Length: 48 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Traversing the hills alongside the White River, known throughout the state for its superior trout fishing, this drive starts in one mountain town and ends in another. Blanchard Springs Caverns draws many visitors to the area and offer tours of the underground caves, with stunning formations to behold. Norfork Lake has many opportunities for water-related fun, from swimming to boating, when the weather is warm.

No. 8 – Capital to Holla Bend

Capital to Holla Bend Arkansas
Flickr user: AR Nature Gal

Starting Location: Little Rock, AR
Ending Location: Holla Bend, AR
Length: 96 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Stretching from the eastern portion of the Ouachita Mountains to the Arkansas River Valley, this leisurely drive from Arkansas’ capital city to Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge has plenty to see and do. Stop at Pinnacle Mountain to see the city spread out below and hike a trail or two. In Holla Bend, explore the backwater areas to see bald cypress trees and maybe even spy an alligator in its natural habitat.

No. 7 – Mount Magazine Scenic Byway

Mount Magazine Scenic Byway Arkansas
Flickr user: Dan Thibodeaux

Starting Location: Petit Jean, AR
Ending Location: Magazine, AR
Length: 49 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

This byway between Petit Jean State Park and Mount Magazine has no shortage of scenic views as it climbs out and back into the Arkansas River Valley. The Post Familie winery is nearby and offers tours of its facilities along with samples. In Petit Jean, don’t miss out on the hiking trail to Cedar Falls and Blue Hole, where many visitors enjoy a refreshing dip in the summer months.

No. 6 – Crystal Trail

rich mountain arkansas
Flickr user: Granger Meador

Starting Location: Hot Springs, AR
Ending Location: Page, OK
Length: 100 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This trip through the Ouachita Mountains is a good length for a full day or weekend trip. Nature lovers will delight in the wide variety of flora and fauna, and hiking trails are never far to find. Stop in Mt. Ida to dig crystals to keep as souvenirs, or take a side trip up Hickory Nut Mountain to photograph Lake Ouachita from an aerial view.

No. 5 – Buffalo Hills

Buffalo Hills Arkansas
Flickr user: Noel Pennington

Starting Location: Harrison, AR
Ending Location: Jasper, AR
Length: 41 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Although this drive is relatively short, capable of being driven in about an hour without stops, the terrain along the way is quite varied. From plateaus to high mountains, travelers will never get bored with the view outside the window. The Buffalo River is the area’s prime attraction, which is renowned for its challenging kayaking and canoeing.

No. 4 – Pig Trail

Pig Trail Arkansas
Flickr user: Texas Tongs

Starting Location: Ozark, AR
Ending Location: Eureka Springs, AR
Length: 81 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

This beautiful drive winds through the Boston Mountains with some of the highest altitudes – up to 1,500 feet – in the state. The landscape is full of bluffs formed of sandstone bedrock, and native shortleaf pine thrive on the many slopes. Camping and hiking opportunities present themselves at nearly every bend, and many travelers stop at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, which is rumored to be a hot bed of ghost activity.

No. 3 – Lake Chicot Loop

Lake Chicot Loop Arkansas
Flickr user: Stuart Seeger

Starting Location: Lake Village, AR
Ending Location: Lake Village, AR
Length: 22 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Circling around a large portion of Lake Chicot, the largest oxbow lake in the United States and biggest natural lake in Arkansas, this route passes by farmlands, levees, and pecan groves. Stop to drop a hook and line in the water, and anglers may be rewarded with crappie, bass, or catfish. In Lake Village, don’t miss Lakeport Plantation’s 1850s Greek Revival home that has been converted to a museum covering local history.

No. 2 – Talimena Scenic Drive

Talimena Scenic Drive Arkansas
Flickr user: Susan Batterman

Starting Location: Mena, AR
Ending Location: Rich Mountain, AR
Length: 17 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This portion of Talimena Scenic Drive that actually stretches all the way to Talihina, OK is an ideal length to pass an hour or two while enjoying the natural beauty of the region. The route cuts through the heart of the Ouachita National Forest, which is known for its dense vegetation and plentiful wildlife. By the Arkansas-Oklahoma border, the Rich Mountain Tower provides panoramic views from 2,681 feet high to the public.

No. 1 – Scenic Highway 7

nimrod lake arkansas
Flickr user: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Starting Location: Hot Springs, AR
Ending Location: Harrison, AR
Length: 157 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Winding through the mountains with forests full of pines and hardwoods, Scenic 7 affords unparalleled views of the Natural State. It begins in Hot Springs National Park, known for its healing waters, pristine lakes, and lively historic downtown area. Once in Harrison, don’t miss the restored Lyric Theatre or the chance to taste the seasonal fruits and vegetables grown at Fenton’s Berry Farm.

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