Talimena National Scenic Byway

Heaven On Earth

The Talimena Scenic Byway is a treasure for two states; Arkansas and Oklahoma. When you ride this stunning byway you will think you have died and gone to heaven. Throughout the 50 mile plus ride you will travel through breathtaking vistas, while passing through historic towns. This wonderful ride could be a day trip or a weekly excursion. Normally we start this ride from the Mena, AR at the east end of the Byway. This ride will take about 1 1/2 hours without stops. I suggest you plan for at least 4 hours on the ride out.

This will allow frequent stops you will want to make to appreciate the stunning views and picnic grounds at Old Military Road and Horsethief Springs. A must stop is at Queen Wilhelmina State Park and Lodge that sits atop Rich Mountain. The amenities include a lodge with 38 rooms, campsites, restaurant, and a gift shop as well.  

At the west of the ride lies the small town of Talimena, OK. One can find lodging, gas, and restaurants here. We normally stop in town for gas and grub to relax and before the trip back east. At this point we are now ready for a more thrilling ride as we have familiarized ourselves with the road and we can pick up the pace some. If however you just want to crash in Talimena there are multiple bed and breakfasts options, cabins, and the Sassafras Inn & Suites for your lodging needs.

We start his ride at the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 71 and AR-Hwy. 88. We head north at the intersection (88E) and this will turn into OK-Hwy 1 at the border. The Talimena Scenic Byway actually ends at the intersection of Hwy 1 and U. S. Hwy 259. Stay on Hwy. 1 until it dead ends into U.s. Hwy. 271. Turn south and this will take you through the Talimena State Park and bring you right into the town of Talimena.

The road quality is a 4 out of 5. Traffic has been light anytime we have made this ride. If you have ridden the Blue Ridge Mountain area in North Carolina you will experience similar scenery.

The Arkansas Dragon Hwy 123

Fire Breathing Excitement

The Arkansas Dragon

The Arkansas Dragon is one of the best motorcycle trips in the entire state, or in the country for that matter. The readers of MotorcycleRoads.com ranked it at #40 in the country. I really don’t understand why the Arkansas Dragon is not in the top ten, unless it‘s due to lack of amenities on the route.

The Arkansas Dragon is a 19 mile adventure that runs between the towns of Piercetown on the north to Lurton on the southern end. You can take Arkansas Highway 7 north from Russellville about 30 miles to the intersection of AR-123 and head north. I am usually coming from the north out of Harrison so I take AR-7 south to Jasper and grab some breakfast at the famous Ozark Café. They have been Selected by New York Magazine’s Grub Street blog as Arkansas’s entry in their list of the Top 50 foodie destinations. Delish.com named the cafe’s chocolate gravy as Arkansas’s Must Try Foods from the 50 States. After breakfast I catch AR-74 east from there to Piercetown and AR-123 south.

Like every road in the Arkansas Ozarks the scenery is drop-dead gorgeous. But, on this ride all your attention is on the next curve, switchback, or hills, which continually comes at you for nearly the entire ride. This Arkansas motorcycle ride should be avoided by the inexperienced rider. Because of the switchbacks and hairpin turns truck traffic is not allowed on this road, which makes it great for us riders.

The road conditions are excellent, as are most of the roads throughout the state of Arkansas. The fact that Arkansas is lightly populated and enjoys good weather makes for quality motorcycle trips throughout the state. As I mentioned earlier there are no real amenities to enjoy on the Arkansas Dragon itself. But Jasper has small shops and the Ozark Café, and there are multiple places of interest on Arkansas Highway 7 as well
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Arkansas Highway 16

The Secret Gem For Bikers

Arkansas Hwy 16 is one of the hidden gems I discovered years ago and tried to keep quiet simply for the fact that I wanted it all to myself. And, it is not uncommon to travel this great motorcycle road without seeing another vehicle on the road. What I love best about this ride is that it ties in the Pig Trail with the Arkansas Dragon and makes for a great day trip. So I usually will start this at the west end of the ride at the north end of the Pig Trail at the intersection Hwy 23 and Hwy 16. Turning right on Hwy 16 you are in for about an hour ride that will make you feel you are in the land that time forgot.  Along with this comes the lack of amenities so bring your own refreshments as needed. The ride ends at the intersection of famous Highway 7 Scenic Byway.

If you are adventurous and don’t mind a two mile hike I suggest a detour to see the famous Glory Hole Falls waterfall. If you have never heard of it you have probably seen photos of it. The trailhead is at the intersection of Hwy 16 and Hwy 21. It’s hard to spot so keep an eye out. It’s all downhill to the fall which makes the hike back somewhat difficult. Make sure to bring water and your camera. You’ll need the water and you will kick yourself in the butt if you forget a camera.

After you get back to the road it is just about a 15 minute ride to Hwy 7. At this point I will usually stay on Arkansas Hwy 16 to Hwy 123 (The Dragon). From this point I head north and follow Hwy 123 to US Hwy 65. I will turn left onto Highway 65 and head into Harrison to complete this ride.

Arkansas Highway 7 Scenic Byway

An Ozark Treasure

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.

Push Mountain Road

Arkansas Highway 341-The Snake

Push Mountain Road, referred to as “The Snake” by local riders, is arguably the best motorcycle road in the state.  Without question this is a 5 star road equal to any in the country. With over 100 curves, switchbacks and elevation changes this 25 mile Arkansas motorcycle trip will challenge any rider and thrill the adrenaline junkies. This road sees very little traffic. Located in North Central Arkansas, Push Mountain Road is best accessed through the towns of Mountain Home in the north and Mountain View in the South. 

If you are coming from Mountain Home head south on AR-201 from the AR-62 bypass for 10 miles. Look for the AR -341 signs right   before the intersection. Look for the Push Mountain Road street sign at the intersection (if it hasn’t been stolen as memorabilia). You’ll know you’re in the right spot when you see it. Coming out of Mountain View you want to head north on AR-87 for approximately 12 miles to AR-14. Head west for 10.3 miles to PMR. Again look for the AR 341 signs.

Amenities are scarce. On the road itself is a small convenient store where you can purchase drinks, snacks, smokes and gas. Bikers are a boon to their business so stop in and say hi and take a break. Lodging, restaurants, and shopping can all be found in Mountain Home. If you are coming to Arkansas to experience the best motorcycle roads Mountain Home would make a good base of operations.

One of our favorite day trips involves Push Mountain Road and if you are out for a leisurely cruise or a more challenging ride you will enjoy this one. We start out taking Hwy 5 south from the bypass for about 14 miles to the town of Norfork where we stop for breakfast at the small diner Norfork Cafe. The food is nothing to brag about but the breakfasts are okay and the staff is very friendly.

We don’t want to hit PMR too early or you can run into fluffy critters on the road. After filling the bellies we head south on Hwy 5 for about 30 minutes and turn right onto Hwy 14 just before Mountain View. We head east for around 20 minutes until we hit the intersection of AR Hwy 341 (PMR) where we turn right (north). You can stay on 5S for a few more minutes to Mountain View where they have a variety of neat shops before heading heading west on Hwy 14.  

And then the fun begins. This is the first run of PMR we will make and on this one we take a leisurely ride around 45 MPH to get the feel of the road and enjoy some stunning scenery. This will take around 30- 40 minutes to reach the north end of the road. At the north end we pull up at the White River bridge to take a breather and to sit a spell by the river. Now we head back south on PMR for a more sporting ride. It usually takes us around 20-25 minutes to make this trip. I have to caution riders who have never been on this road that this approach is the only sane way to challenge it. This is not a ride newbies should be taking.

When we hit Hwy 14 again we turn right on Hwy 14 to US Hwy 412 in the town of Yellville. This will take you around 80 minutes. Turn left at 412 and about 2 blocks or so on the right is Razorback Ribs.  This is no fancy restaurant but the ribs melt in your mouth. After lunch we take 412 back east for around 7 minutes to AR- Hwy 178 (1st Street) in Flippin, AR. Turn left onto 178 and this takes you through Bulls Shoals and over the Bulls Shoals Dam. Take 178 to Hwy 5 South back into Mountain Home.  This will take about 45 minutes unless you stop at the James A. Gaston Visitor Center which overs great views, the history of the dam and a gift shop. We usually top this ride off with a beverage at the Arena Sports Grill in Mountain Home where you can get good grub, drinks and tune into the many TV screens showing sporting events.