Sitting on Top of the World in Arkansas

Cool off with a trip to a spectacular state lodge built atop Arkansas’s highest mountain.
Les Thomas

It’s pretty here all the time. Nighttime. Morning time--all day long,” a waiter says when he looks out the wall of windows in the restaurant at the new state lodge atop Mount Magazine.

The breathtaking setting draws sight­seers, hikers, cyclists, and rock climbers. Not all of the visitors are earthbound.

Birds, butterflies, and hang gliders all love to flock to the lofty summit, but you don’t have to go airborne to enjoy it. Just step out on your balcony at the lodge. You’ll feel as if you’re soaring in a hot-air balloon. A quarter of the state of Arkansas shimmers beneath you.

Ready, Set, Fly
The mountain towers high enough to launch some hang gliders on amazing airline-like rides to faraway places. Two years ago a flyer broke the state record when he soared 178 miles--all the way to Bolivar, Missouri.

Squadrons of butterflies put on their own aerial circus at the Mount Magazine Butterfly Festival, June 20-21, or anytime in the spring and summer (see box above).

Take a Ride
The lodge’s mountaintop setting makes it a breeze to enjoy the outdoors in comfort. Many visitors take the easy, half-hour hike to the state’s highest point. But you don’t even have to get out of your car to see the butterflies and wildflowers along the roadside. The best roads to drive are Scenic Highway 309 to Havana and the 4-mile loop up the mountain from the visitors center.

At the end of the day, relax in the comfort of the 60-room lodge or in one of the 13 cozy new cabins. (Hang gliders launch between cabins 7 and 8.) All of the lodge rooms have views--but when you upgrade from a standard room you get a balcony too.

Breathe the fresh mountain air. Soak up the heavenly view. Let your spirit soar. For a cool summer escape, nothing tops it.

Mount Magazine State Park: www.mountmagazinestatepark.com or 1-877-665-6343. Standard rooms start at $104 Sunday-Thursday and deluxe room rates are $154 Friday-Saturday with a two-night minimum. Cabins range $259-$439 Friday-Saturday. The park is on Scenic Highway 309, 16 miles south of Paris and 10 miles north of Havana.

Butterflies Galore
“The reason the park gets so many butterflies is because we have all of their host plants and we have the right habitat for them,” explains Lori Spencer. She directs the annual butterfly festival, June 20-21, and authored the new book Arkansas Butterflies and Moths (University of Arkansas Press, $27.95).

Walks, children’s programs, and other activities focus on the many types of butterflies that visit the 2,200-acre state park that surrounds the lodge.

"Sitting on Top of the World" is from the June 2008 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.