Float Above the Ozarks in Arkansas

Soar to new heights on a hot-air balloon tour with an exquisite autumn view.
James T. Black

Your Mode of Transit: A Hot-Air Balloon
You wouldn't think that something 77 feet tall could fly. But as Mike Mills, owner of the Buffalo Outdoor Center (800/221-5514), slowly releases hot air from a burner, the balloon starts to rise, and soon you're 1,000 to 1,200 feet above the limestone bluffs and river-cut valleys of the Ozark Mountains. After an hour floating through the early morning sky, Mike cools the burners and brings the balloon back to earth. Soon you're at the Outdoor Center sharing a celebratory bottle of champagne. "That's the one thing I like about ballooning," Mike says. "It always ends with a bottle of champagne." The tradition started, so the story goes, in 18th-century France when balloonists would sometimes land in a farmer's field and have to appease the angry owner with a bottle of bubbly.

More Local Color
This summer Mike opened a 2,000-foot-long zip-line canopy tour–the first in Arkansas. It proved so popular he's keeping it zipping through November.

Getting There
The Buffalo Outdoor Center is located in Ponca, Arkansas, at the intersection of States 43 and 74. One-hour balloon trips, which take off at sunrise, must have reservations made at least one week in advance. The center also offers both two-person and eight-person cabins.