Follow the Arkansas River through west-central Arkansas and you will pass through two large preserves--the Ouachita and the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests. In the middle of the latter lies a state park--Mount Magazine--with the highest point in Arkansas, Signal Hill, elev. 2753 above sea level.
For this short outing, we worked our way west, leaving I-40 to use Route 64 (the poor cousin of Route 66.) It was much quieter, less trafficky, with more to see.... There are a lot of sawmills--timber is big business--and lumberyards are plentiful. You also see a lot of stone houses; the other thing they have a lot of, besides trees: rocks. (Speaking of this route: every August there is a giant flea market called 'Bargains Galore on 64' and people come long distances to troll all of the yard sales from Fort Smith to Little Rock and beyond. I don't know how it went this year, with the brutal summer temperatures--we've never participated, either as sellers or shoppers.)
After crossing the river at Ozark, we followed the scenic byway to our destination.
View from the overlook: despite brilliant blue skies and apparently clear air, there was a lot of haze in the mountains. Sorry!
But if anyone doubts whether we still have plenty of wide-open spaces and untamed wilderness, send them here.....
This part of Arkansas has plainly fared better than mid-state and parts south, where the drought is severe. There are several hundred wildfires every week, and most counties have burn bans posted.
The northwestern quadrant of the state may be the only area that will have Fall colors, which are just beginning to emerge. Black gums, sumac, and some sweet gums are changing. The ranches we passed had good crops of hay. And folks' yards are green!
(Our yard in Conway is brown and crunchy.)
Like many of the state parks, Mount Magazine benefited from the work of the CCC and the WPA during The Great Depression. Bridges, trails, shelters,--many are still in use. This park has a lot of trails, ranging from easy 2 mile jaunts to strenuous back-packing treks. The latter trails continue into the surrounding national forest lands, and hikers are warned to wear bright clothing and look as little as possible like deer or bear. (Hunting is allowed in the national forests.) We took the loop to Signal Hill--surely one of the more anticlimactic 'high points' ever. There is no view, no overlook.....you're just waaay up, with land dropping away on all sides, surrounded by tall, tall trees. And there is a Department of the Interior National Geological Survey monument attesting to the elevation. Then you hike back down.
We stayed only one night, but the small, newly-modernized campground was peaceful and lovely-- mostly tent campers or very small trailers and motor homes. The 'land yachts' probably steer clear of the steep climb....plus, the word may be out that cell service is pretty spotty in such a remote area.