The Skinny – Arkansas Highway 7
Where: Nearly 160 miles running from Harrison, Ark., to Hot Springs, Ark.
Why: Great curves of all kinds, nice elevation changes, unbeatable views, and unique towns you’d never know were there.
Best Kept Secret: Eureka Springs, Ark., is located just over 40 miles to the west and north of Harrison, Ark., on Highway 62. A city that survives almost completely on tourism, it’s full of bed and breakfasts, hotels, restaurants and watering holes, and its main street shops are a great place to wander on foot.
Scenic Routes: Highway 7 is the scenic route. For more technical curves, try the piece of Highway 74 that heads West out of Jasper. Check the websites listed below for more.
Avoid:Branson, Mo. There’s plenty to do and it’s close by, but if you’re just looking for a place to stay, skip it. The traffic can be horrendous during the summer months.
There’s an old folk saying about the Ozarks: “It’s not that the mountains are so high, it’s just that the valleys are so deep.” They should coin another saying: “It’s not that it’s that far, it’s just that it takes so long.” The mountainous parts of Arkansas are chock-full of curvy roads that are great for motorcycling — as long as you’re not trying to get anywhere fast.
Highway 7 is located in west-central Arkansas, and runs from the southern shore of Bull Shoals Lake near Diamond City, Ark., approximately 20 miles north of Harrison, Ark., to its southern tip just over the Louisiana state line. It’s one of the best motorcycle roads in Arkansas, and has been noted in many sports car and motorcycle magazines over the years as one of the top 10 U.S. roads to travel.
Our favorite piece is between Harrison and Hot Springs. Though 7’s curves aren’t as technical as other Ozark roads, the scenery is some of the best the state has to offer.
Beginning in Harrison, Ark., and heading south is one of two obvious directions to run the route. Heading south, Highway 7 drops down a winding path, passing Mystic Caverns.
Jasper comes up next, and is a great place for a meal or just a little walk around town. Don’t miss Emma’s Museum of Junk, which is a great piece of Americana and an honest antique shop all in one.
Seven miles south of Jasper is another neat place to stop: the 1920s Cliff House Restaurant and Gift Shop. It sits out over a cliff with one of the best views in the Ozarks. In this area, the foliage and trees are often so dense that even on the tops of the mountains the view is sometimes obscured, but not from the Cliff House.
Traveling further south leads you into the Ozark National Forest, through Russellville and into Dardanelle. Highway 7 eventually passes through the Ouachita National Forest, and finally into Hot Springs. Visit the Hot Springs National Park and the Buckstaff, a working bathhouse, for a thermal mineral bath and a Swedish-style massage. It’s bound to work out all the kinks you got from riding all day. And, with any luck, maybe it will prevent some of the kinks you’d otherwise get the next day. After all, Ozark roads are like a drug — you won’t want to quit after just one day, no matter how sore you are.
Just remember one thing when you look at your map, trying to figure out how to get in some more good roads and still get back to work on time: Curvy roads are fun, but they take a long, long time to travel. Better tell the boss you might not be back for a few more days.
Harrison, Ark. — 158 miles north of Hot Springs, Ark. on Highway 7