The Best Things to Do in Mountain Home, Arkansas

How to explore this sweet small town, from fishing to shopping.

Mountain Home Twin Lakes Thunder Motorcycle Rally

Will Newton

For more than a decade, Oklahoma City resident Heather Popowsky and her family have made a pilgrimage deep into the Ozark Mountains of Northern Arkansas for what could arguably be some of the best trout fishing in the nation.

At least once, if not twice, a year, Popowsky loads up her three children and all the fishing gear to take to the icy waters of The White River near Mountain Home, Arkansas. She calls it her “special getaway” and a “magical place to escape.”

“I was first attracted to Mountain Home because of its proximity to where I live and the gorgeous Ozark Mountains,” she says. “I first heard about it when I was researching trout fishing, which is cold water fishing.”

Home to the Bull Shoals Lake, Norfork Lake, and the White River, this Arkansas town holds an almost mythical attraction for fishing and boating fans. With long, deep pools, shallow, oxygen-rich riffles, and colder temperatures that stay at 52 degrees almost year-round, the White River is thick with four species of trout: Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Cutthroat Trout, and Brook Trout.

Bass, walleye, crappie, bream, and catfish all make their home in the waters of Bull Shoals and Norfork Lakes, but this little community offers more than just fishing—it’s a small town getaway in one of the prettiest and cleanest outdoor areas in the nation.

Mountain Home, AR White River Gaston's Bird Sanctuary

Will Newton

Mountain Home History

Mountain Home was originally called Rapp’s Barren after an early settler who established a trading post in the area in the early 1800, officially incorporating as The City of Mountain Home Arkansas on July 2, 1888. Mountain Home remained began to flourish with the construction of the Bull Shoals and Norfork Dams, which created massive lakes of the same names. The Norfork Dam was completed in 1944, and the Bull Shoals Dam was finished in 1951, and since then, Mountain Home has become synonymous with water recreation, boating, some of the best trout fishing in the nation and outdoor serenity.

Now with roughly 67,440 acres of open water nestled in the Ozark Mountains, Mountain Home and Bull Shoals-White River State Park became the first retirement and water resorts in the state. But for many, the friendliness and beauty of the tucked-away town is the real magic.

Mountain Home, AR White River Bird Sanctuary


Get Outside

Bull Shoals-White River State Park is known for its world-class trout fishing, but it also weaves through the beauty of the Ozarks with six trails, including the Gaston Wildflower Garden Trail, Heritage and Habitat Trail and the three-mile Oakridge Mountain Bike Trail.

Cycling fanatics also enjoy Syllamo Mountain Bike Trail system. Less than an hour South of Mountain Home, it is internationally recognized for its 50 miles of interconnecting loops in the Ozark National Forest.

The Push Mountain/Sylamore Scenic Byway, which runs south and west of town, is also a draw, as is the lower section of the Buffalo National River, the nation’s first National Scenic River, which is just southwest of Mountain Home.

Mountain Home, AR Plaza


Explore Downtown

With so much water, it’s no surprise that people flock to Mountain Home for boating, fishing, canoeing, and camping. But Mountain Home’s historic downtown also lures visitors with shopping and dining.

Like many of the surrounding small towns that flourish alongside the Buffalo and White Rivers, antiquing is an artform here. Earl’s Antique MallRemember When Antiques & More Mall and Rusty Rooster Flea Market & Antique Mall are popular antique stores. Mountain Home’s downtown hosts a bevy of locally-owned boutiques and gift shops as well as outdoor outfitters and fishing gear.

Fans of historic architecture find Mountain Home’s downtown fascinating as well. From the 1941 WPA-built  Baxter County Courthouse—listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995—to several other original structures built between late 1800s to 1930s, the community celebrates its history and reminders of the humble past.

Mountain Home’s Hickory Park also hosts live music on its central stage on weekends. 

Gaston's Resort, Mountain Home, AR


Where to Stay

Although Popowsky says her favorite resort is the White Buffalo Resort in nearby Buffalo City, she has also stayed at cabins and campgrounds in Mountain Home, which teems with lakeside resorts, cozy little inns, bed and breakfasts, and traditional hotels. With two lakes and two rivers surrounding the town, however, lakeside resorts are the most popular places to stay.

“The White Buffalo Resort is named appropriately because its location is right where the White River meets the Buffalo River,” Popowsky said. “The fishing there is wonderful. The river and scenic area are so easy to access for kayaking, boating, hiking, and other outdoor activities.”

Nestled along the shores of Norfork Lake, Teal Point Resort has hosted fishing enthusiasts, boaters, and vacationers in Mountain Home for more than 45 years. With 24 different cabins, condos, and vacation houses overlooking Norfork Lake, the resort also offers rental boats.

The Edgewater Resort and Lodge on Bull Shoals Lake Bull Shoals Lake features one-, two-, and three-bedroom cottages steps from the water and boat docks, and Gaston’s White River Resort even has its own air strip in its 400 acres. The resort also rents out 79 cottages and has an award-winning restaurant, a tennis court, three nature trails, a swimming pool, a conference lodge, and fly fishing school.

Mountain Home, AR
Mountain Home Twin Lakes Thunder Motorcycle Rally.

Will Newton

Where To Eat

Mountain Home became the first city in Arkansas to create an entertainment district in 2019. Visitors and locals can purchase drinks from restaurants and bars in The City of Mountain Home Downtown Entertainment District and walk around freely from 4:30 p.m. through midnight.

Playing on Mountain Home’s original name, Rapp's Barren Brewery and Gastropub makes the entertainment district more the merrier with a wide selection of craft beers, such as the Arrowhead APA, the Buffalo Blonde, and the hearty dark Twin Lakes Imperial Stout. Owned by locals Russell Tucker and Chris Gordon who expanded their home brew operations into the brewpub in 2017, Rapp's Barren is located in the oldest commercial building in the city. It dates back to 1892.

The menu includes traditional and non-traditional bar snacks like the shrimp and grits stack, street tacos, and salads, as well as a Sunday brunch with apple-and-brie empanadas, flapjack chicken tacos, and carnitas bowls. Complete the experience with an order of warm mini-chocolate chip cookies or house-made donut holes.

Other popular eateries in town include Fred’s Fish House, Holy Smokes BBQ, Dusit Thai Cuisine, and Cooyons, a local favorite for traditional Cajun-style dishes like shrimp and grits, corn fritters, and gumbo.

For a high-end meal, Gaston’s on the White River Resort in Lakeview is famous for its Saturday-only prime rib special, while The Grill at Whispering Woods on Lake Norfork excels at steaks, grilled lamb chops, fresh fish, and pastas.

“You have to want to come to Mountain Home. There’s no interstate to get you here. It's tucked away,” says Bob Zdora, a Chicago native who retired to Mountain Home in 2003 with his wife. “Without any major highways, Mountain Home has to be a destination. I tell people you can come and stretch your eyeballs here. You can see so much farther than just across the street.”

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