Arkansas Highway 7
Arkansas Highway 7 is a Scenic Byway that runs from just south of the Missouri border to Louisiana and is one of the best motorcycle rides in the country. Like most roads in the Arkansas Ozarks the scenery that surrounds you on this great motorcycle ride is at times breathtaking. Though Arkansas Highway 7 runs through the entire state the most entertaining portion of the ride is from Harrison in the north to Hot Springs at the southern part of the ride. The city of Russellville is about midway between Harrison and Hot Springs and can be used as a starting point as well. This is a 6-7 hour motorcycle cruise (no stops) that will take you through one National park and two National forests, roads that are filled with great scenery, curves, elevation changes and hairpin turns that will curl your toes. Take this ride in mid to late October and you’ll think the world is on fire with the trees all ablaze with fall colors.
Arkansas Motorcycle Cruise
If you start out your Arkansas motorcycle cruise using Harrison as a starting point you will find most any amenity available in Harrison. There is plenty of hotels, restaurants, and small shops to visit in town. It is worth taking some time to check out the town square. Heading south on Highway 7 for about 15 minutes you can catch a tour of the Mystic Caverns, famous for it’s crystal dome. If it is a particularly warm day and you’re looking to cool off take a detour on AR-74 west to the small town of Ponca. From here you can enjoy swimming or canoeing in the Buffalo River (the first National River in America). You can rent equipment here as well. If you have the time there is a trail north of town that will take you Hemmed-in-Hallow where 175 ft. tall waterfalls await you. Make sure you bring your camera with.
Work your way back to Arkansas Highway 7 south and head into the the small town of Jasper. Take the time to visit the Ozark Cafe in the square. It has been in operation since 1909 and has been remodeled to its 1930’s look. The company and food is great, especially their burgers.
From there plan to stop at Arkansas Grand Canyon about 15 more minutes south of Jasper. Similar to how the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Buffalo River did the same to the Arkansas Grand Canyon, leaving behind deep gorges of red rock. The Cliff House Inn is built right on a cliff (duh) of the canyon, offers spectacular views, and has an excellent menu and very nice rooms as well.
Heading south on Arkansas Highway 7 you will enter the Ozark National Forest. I must warn you that you may not want to leave this park. You can take weeks to explore the one million plus acres that offer waterfalls, streams, caves, and trails made for backpacking through the forests. Heading south again you head into Russellville, which has a population of approximately 30,000 and will have anything you may need to stock up on or just get a bite to eat. Another detour I suggest is just about 15 minutes south in Dardanelle. Catch AR-155W S to the Mount Nebo State Park. The closer you get to the town of Mt. Nebo the more fun the road becomes, with tight hairpin turns and elevation changes to challenge the most experienced rider.
Heading south again on Arkansas Highway 7 will bring you into Hot Springs, AR. Hot Springs has many things to offer, but I would suggest trying out a relaxing soak in the one of the bath houses in town or at the Hot Springs National Park. For bikers it is a simple matter of picking one of the seemingly endless roads and heading out…you can’t go wrong in Arkansas. But, make a point to ride up to the observation tower at the top of Hot Springs Mountain. Bring the camera.