By: Malcolm Mayhew
Fixed between the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Appalachians to the east, Arkansas’ Ozark Mountain region is an often-overlooked part of the country where natural beauty, outdoor adventure and quaint mountain towns quenched in Southern charm flourish together in a densely forested expanse that occupies the northern part of the state. Like some secret stash of treasure in your grandparents’ attic, the Ozarks are a stockpile of fish-filled lakes and rivers, picturesque waterfalls, vast cavern systems and miles of backwoods trails, all waiting to be discovered.
A week in the Ozarks is loaded with adventure like world-class angling, hiking and biking beneath towering limestone bluffs, and canoeing on the Buffalo National River. But what really sets this mountainous getaway apart from the rest is its distinctive collection of lodging options with unforgettable charm like restored log cabins, working dude ranches, tree house cottages, mountain yurts and one lavishly appointed cave. And while these daring accommodations aren’t the typical high-rise hotel with bellboys and sparkling lobbies, they aren’t short on luxury either.
The Original Treehouse Cottages An Ozark Mountain getaway obliges a stopover in historic downtown Eureka Springs. And while there are plenty of fine rooms for rent here, few can compete with The Original Treehouse Cottages nestled amid a lush forest of soaring trees. Built as much as 26 feet off the ground, these skillfully constructed cottages, complete with vaulted ceilings, massive picture windows, luxury beds, Tiffany chandeliers and hot tubs, put you high up in the quiet, secluded canopy of trees overlooking your very own slice of nature. treehousecottages.com
Beckham Creek Cave House While it’s not exactly a day in the life of the Neanderthals, the 6,000-square-foot Beckham Creek Cave House in Parthenon is your best opportunity to sleep in the comfort of a four-bed, four-bath natural cavern perched high in a bluff overlooking a breathtaking Ozark vista. This vacation rental is packed with modern amenities from spa-like bathrooms and a gourmet kitchen to numerous lofts and balconies, all amid a world of exposed cavern walls and hanging stalactites. Outside, guests have access to a private 260-acre resort providing fishing, canoeing, horseback rides and helicopter tours. beckhamcave.com
Mulberry Mountain Lodge In the heart of the region, just off the Pig Trail National Scenic Byway in the town of Ozark, is 650-acre Mulberry Mountain Lodge, a resort overlooking the Mulberry River Valley. Accommodations here include beautifully restored authentic log cabins, a turn-of-the-century Sears-Roebuck farmhouse and a rustic river cottage with access to a secluded beach. With several outdoor sites set against stunning mountain backdrops and 6,000 square feet of reception space, Mulberry Mountain is a popular venue for outdoor weddings, reunions and conferences. mulberrymountainlodge.com
Stone Wind Retreats Can’t choose between a cabin and a tent? How about a mountain yurt at Stone Wind Retreats in Chester? Couples looking for unique but romantic accommodations blending elegance and nature will relish Stone Wind’s eight privately located yurts. In addition to a spectacular mountain setting, each yurt comes complete with a sizeable living space full of stylish furnishings and a hot tub beneath the stars. Relax with an “in cabin” couples massage, or get serious about stress with a course on meditation or qigong designed exclusively for guests by the Stone Wind Institute for Mind Body Medicine. stonewindretreat.com
Horseshoe Canyon Dude Ranch For a unique family experience on a working mountain ranch, visit Horseshoe Canyon Dude Ranch in Jasper. At this family-owned resort, spread across a verdant valley and surrounded by giant sandstone bluffs, you’ll begin the day in the company of horses and wranglers and end it with campfire stories in the cool night air. Accommodations are rustic-but-modern solid-log cabins, each with a sizeable porch for soaking in the views. The ranch features wagon and horseback rides, canoeing on the Buffalo National River, target shooting, archery, zip lining and miles of secluded hiking trails. horseshoecanyonduderanch.com
Gaston’s White River Resort For truly remarkable world-class fly and spin fishing for trout in the Ozarks, Gaston’s White River Resort in Lakeview, with a nearly 60-year history, is unsurpassed. This luxury resort sits on 400 acres of White River frontage with 79 cottages and more than 70 boats packed into their state-of-the-art dock. With a 3,200-foot Bermuda grass airstrip, Gaston’s is the best fly-in destination in the Ozarks. Guests will enjoy daylong float trips, gourmet meals at Gaston’s award-winning restaurant, and a long list of amenities topped off by a first-rate fly-fishing school. gastons.com
Longbow Resort Four private cabins on a remote resort spanning two square miles doesn’t sound unique until you learn that each cabin at Longbow Resort in Prim literally merges with its natural surroundings. Set beside a 30-foot waterfall, Longbow cabin lies nestled in a box canyon incorporating an 18-foot cliff wall into its floor plan; Bushmaster cabin stands tall amid a cathedral of towering oak, maple and hickory trees and mossy rock formations with a deck 30 feet up in the forest canopy; and the Sovereign cabin showcases an interior cliff supporting a second-floor loft. longbowresorts.com
Getting back to nature is easy in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountain region where rivers and caves and mountain trails abound in every direction. But your adventure shouldn’t end in the parking lot of some boring chain motel where ice buckets and instant coffee packets are the main amenities. Extend your adventure to the place you lay your head at night and the views that greet you in the morning. That’s experiencing the Ozarks in style.
By: Malcolm Mayhew