Mount Magazine Hiking & State Park Guide – Arkansas State Parks

View of the road up to Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas

Arkansas State Parks: Mount Magazine Hiking & State Park Guide

At 2,753 feet Mount Magazine is Arkansas’ highest peak that offers breathtaking views and an abundance of nature to enjoy. While most people come to Mount Magazine to enjoy the scenery, this Arkansas State Park has even more to see and do. In this guide, we’ll cover places to stay in Mount Magazine State Park plus a number of activities such as scenic overlooks, trails for hiking and biking, rock climbing areas, and more. 

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Where is Mount Magazine State Park?

Mount Magazine State Park is located within the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests in Paris, Arkansas. It is not too far from the Altus Wine Trail and Fort Smith, Arkansas.


Places to Stay at Mount Magazine State Park

The most popular place to stay at Mount Magazine State Park is the Lodge at Mount Magazine which has 60 guest rooms, a wonderful indoor swimming pool, conference and business centers, and Skycrest, a full-service restaurant. Each of the rooms at the Lodge at Mount Magazine offers fully-equipped kitchens, fireplaces, outdoor hot tubs, and covered decks that have gorgeous views of the Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake. All of these features make this the perfect place to stay for a romantic getaway, business conference, family retreat, or even a wedding.

If you want to stay in a spot that’s a bit more private but still has indoor amenities then consider booking one of the cabins at Mount Magazine State Park. The cabins are 1-3 bedrooms/bathrooms and some are even dog-friendly for an additional fee of $40. All of the cabins have views of the bluff and outdoor hot tubs!

In addition to the Lodge and cabins, there are also 18 campsites on Mount Magazine for those who are wanting to experience Mount Magazine camping whether it be by RV or tent. There are two class AAA and 16 class AA with tent-only options. Because spots are limited we recommend booking your campsite far in advance. 


Tips for Visiting Mount Magazine State Park

  • Download offline maps. Although we had service in some areas of Mount Magazine State Park on some of the trails it was a bit more spotty. Make sure that you download offline maps on either Google Maps or Apple Maps so you can always have access. In addition, I recommend getting park maps from the Visitor Center before hiking any of the trails.
  • Stay on marked trails. Whether you are hiking, biking, ATV riding, or horseback riding make sure you stay on the marked trails in Mount Magazine State Park (or any other park for that matter). While it might seem like a shortcut or easier path, going off trail can highly disrupt the delicate ecosystem and cause erosion in our state parks. 
  • Wear proper hiking shoes and watch your step. While we feel many of the Mount Magazine hiking trails are fairly easy or moderate, they are still quite rocky and at times can be slippery, even more so if there was recent rain. Make sure you wear good hiking shoes with grip and watch your step especially when close to the bluffs on some trails.
  • Pack a daypack for necessities. Anytime we are hiking we bring a daypack with a few necessities inside. Some of these items include a small first aid kit, a light jacket, headlamp or flashlight, water bottle, and snacks.
  • Do your best to leave no trace. I know this is a common phrase used when referring to outdoor activities but it’s an important reminder to not create new trails, pick wildflowers, leave garbage, or any other things that might disrupt the natural beauty of these trails. In fact, all animals and plants within the park are protected because they are within the national forest.
  • Be alert and aware of bears. Black bears are common in many Arkansas State Parks but especially so in Mount Magazine State Park. While they usually avoid humans, they are attracted to food so never bring food into your tent or feed bears. If you do happen to encounter a bear while hiking, slowly back away and keep your distance.

Things to Do at Mount Magazine State Park

Enjoy the Visitor’s Center

I always recommend checking out visitor centers at every state and national park we visit and this one is no different. Inside you’ll find public restrooms, a souvenir shop, and a museum to learn more about Mount Magazine State Park. But there are also trail maps and a plethora of other useful information that you can get to make navigating the trails and other sights easier. This is where you can get your Arkansas State Parks Passport stamped too!

Location: // MAP


Scenic Overlooks at Mount Magazine State Park

View of Cameron's Bluff at Mount Magazine State Park - Arkansas

Being the highest peak in Arkansas it’s evident that Mount Magazine would offer some fantastic viewpoints. In fact, on a clear day, it’s been said that you can view at least a quarter of the state! While many of the hiking trails in Mount Magazine State Park offer terrific viewpoints there are a few drivable viewpoints within the park as well. One of our favorites is the Petit Jean Overlook and the Cameron Bluff Overlook which has a parking lot that is right next to the viewpoint.

Location: // MAP or MAP


Mount Magazine Hiking

The network of Mount Magazine hiking trails is quite diverse! Here you’ll find trails for mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, backpacking, and ATV riding.


Bear Hollow Trail

Distance: 2.8 miles
Approximate Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Trail Type: Day Hike

Bear Hollow Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Mount Magazine State Park because it offers some of the best scenery. Along this path, you’ll find many points of interest including Inspiration Point, Bear Head Bluff, and Shoal Creek. In fact, the trail crosses a number of creeks that lead to stunning water features and waterfalls given the right time of year and recent weather. The upper part of the hollow is home to one of the last remaining untouched hardwood forests in Arkansas. Although this hike is around 2.8 miles you can also make a shorter loop by connecting to the Benefield West Loop west of the main trail junction noted by orange blazes. 


Benefield Loop Trails 

Distance: 2 miles
Approximate Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Trail Type: Day Hike

The Benefield Loop Trails consist of two separate loops centered around the Benefield Picnic Area. These trails are popular day hikes for those visiting Mount Magazine because they are relatively leisurely and have an abundance of nature to enjoy. During many times of the year, you can see an array of Arkansas wildflowers and plant life, and learn about the history of these trails.

As previously mentioned, the East Loop follows a path originally constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1938 and leads to Bear Hollow and a scenic overlook of the Petit Jean River.

The Benefield West Loop Trail leads across the highway to a wildlife pond then connects to the Mossback Ridge Trail (yellow blazes). It then returns to the picnic area entrance road where you can pass the grave of one of the children of Benjamin Benefield, a homesteader who once owned 160 acres here in the 1880s.


Cove Lake Trail 

Distance: 9.7 miles, 0.5 miles is within the state park boundaries
Approximate Time:
5 hours
Difficulty:
Moderate-Strenuous
Trail Type:
Day Hike, Backpacking

Cove Lake Trail starts in the Cameron Bluff Campground and descends over 1,500 feet to Cove Lake. Although this is considered to be a hiking trail within Mount Magazine State Park only half a mile of this trail is actually within the boundaries of the park. We haven’t personally hiked this trail yet but from what we’ve read, it is best enjoyed at a slower pace and is great for those who are beginner backpackers because overnight camping is allowed within the forest. 

Keep in mind that this is a national forest area and at certain times of the year, hunting is allowed. Because of this be sure to wear bright-colored clothing so hunters can see you clearly.  In addition, I’d also recommend informing someone outside of the park and the Visitor Center if you plan to hike this trail. As you get closer to Cove Lake, you’ll find some additional trail circles and camping, picnicking, and swimming areas within the Forest Service Recreation Area.


Greenfield Trail 

Distance: 0.9 miles
Approximate Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Moderate
Trail Type: Day Hike

The Greenfield Trail starts at the Greenfield Picnic Area and Visitor’s Center, crosses the highway to Big Shoal Creek where it meets Mossback Ridge Trail. Many people consider it to be a great place to start a longer, 14-mile hike to Cove Lake (green blazes) but you can also do the short distance down an old wagon road to what’s known as Turkey Springs.


Huckleberry Mountain Horse Trail 

Distance: 34 miles, only .6 mile is within the state park boundaries
Difficulty: Moderate-Strenuous
Trail Type: ATV, Backpacking, Day Hike, Horseback Riding, Mountain Biking

Huckleberry Mountain Horse Trail is the only multi-use trail in Mount Magazine State Park that allows horses and motorized vehicles such as ATVs. It is also a great trail for those interested in mountain biking. 

Map to Huckleberry Mountain Horse Trail 


Mossback Ridge Trail 

Distance: 2.1 miles
Approximate Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Trail Type: Day Hike

The Mossback Ridge Trail is primarily a trail that is utilized for connecting to some of the other trails in Mount Magazine State Park such as Benefield West Loop, Greenfield, North Rim, and Signal Hill. However, there are still a number of beautiful sights to see on this trail including a variety of wildflowers and this is one of the trails that is famous for spotting black bears. Just remember to keep your distance if you come across a black bear.


North Rim Trail

Distance: 2.2 miles
Approximate Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate-Strenuous
Trail Type: Day Hike

The North Rim Trail starts just west of the visitor center and follows the north rim of Mount Magazine to Cameron Bluff Overlook Drive. While on the trail you’ll pass through hardwood forests of a variety of trees and a few creeks. Once arriving at the bluff you can have a spectacular view of the Arkansas River Valley and the Ozark Plateau before heading back either the same way you came or on the Mossback Ridge Trail making a 4.4-mile loop (red blazes).   


Signal Hill Trail 

Distance: 1.5 miles
Average Time:  2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Trail Type: Day Hike

Like Bear Hollow and the Benefield Loops, Signal Hill Trail is another hiking trail in Mount Magazine State Park that is not to be missed. While there are a lot of beautiful plants, wildflowers, and other scenery to enjoy on this hike, the main attraction is Signal Hill for which the trail received its name. Signal Hill is the highest point in Arkansas and at the very top, you’ll find a large stone map of Arkansas to view while peering off the hill.


Will Apple’s Road Trail

Distance: 1.6 miles
Average Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Trail Type: Day Hike, Mountain Biking

Will Apple’s Road Trail was the first road that led to the crest of Mount Magazine. It became a prominent road during the 1800s because it allowed wagons to haul produce from the mountaintop to the valley. Today it serves as a hiking and mountain biking trail that starts just east of the visitor center and ends at the horse camp field. Logan and I have yet to mountain bike at Mount Magazine State Park but this is one of the trails that I look forward to trying first.

While on this trail you can enjoy domestic and wildflowers, historic home sites, birding, and the old 1920s swimming pool that is no longer in operation. Because it is a shared trail for hikers and mountain bikers be sure to stick to the designated paths and signal to hikers if mountain biking.

READ MORE: A Complete Guide to Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas


Rock Climbing at Mount Magazine State Park

Mount Magazine State Park is considered to be one of the most dramatic locations for technical rock climbing within Arkansas’ state park system. You can find traditional bouldering and sport climbing and at the mountain’s south bluff there is a designated area for rappelling. There are over 100 routes up to 80 feet high ranging in difficulty from 5.5-5.12c. Before beginning make sure you register at the visitor’s center which is required by the state park. 


Hang Gliding at Mount Magazine State Park

In addition to rock climbing, Mount Magazine State Park is one of two Arkansas State Parks that offers hang gliding launch areas! While my fear of heights has kept me from trying natural rock climbing and hang gliding, many hang gliding enthusiasts flock to this area because of its beautiful setting overlooking the Petit Jean River Valley. 

Before you take flight you are required to register at the visitor center and show proof of Class 4 Certification if you plan to fly alone. It is important to keep in mind that hang gliding can only happen at Mount Magazine State Park during optimal weather conditions. For now, I think I’ll keep both of my feet planted and watch the hang gliders take flight from a distance.


Enjoy Seasonal Birdwatching and Wildlife Migration

Box with pinned butterflies and information about butterfly migration at Mount Magazine State Park

For years Mount Magazine State Park has been a popular spot for viewing wildlife such as butterflies, birds, white-tailed deer, and black bears. The two most prominent are butterflies and birds. The best time of year to see birds is during the spring and fall. The migration of birds typically starts during the spring storms when birds will seek shelter from the rain before continuing their migration north. This is the best time to see woodland songbirds.

However, there are a number of bird species that stay to nest in Mount Magazine State Park. A few of these include Black-throated Green and Hooded Warblers, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Indigo Bunting, Ovenbirds, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Broad-winged Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks.

Another popular time to visit Mount Magazine State Park for wildlife migration is during September when the great Monarch Butterfly migration takes place. During the day you’ll often see a few monarch butterflies on wildflowers but as the sun sets, they gather together in groups!


Enjoy Park Programs at Mount Magazine State Park

Because Mount Magazine State Park is located within a national forest area and has a partnership with the USDA Forest Service there are a lot of conservation efforts in place creating a vibrant wildlife dynamic. This federal and state partnership allows guests to experience nature in a new way through park interpreter programs. Some of these programs include nature walks, identifying plants and birds, and learning more about the area’s butterfly migration.

A Complete Guide to the Altus Wine Trail and Other Arkansas Wineries


Like all Arkansas State Parks, Mount Magazine is yet another wonderful place to get outside while in the Natural State!

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