Even before you make it to the top of the mountain, the vistas on the way up to Queen Wilhelmina State Park are enough to make the trip worthwhile – a series of seven stops along Arkansas Highway 88 over the increased elevation of the route offer views, each more breathtaking than the last.
The view from the top, though, is far from anticlimactic.
The original lodge atop Rich Mountain close to the Oklahoma border was built way back in 1898. It fell to ruins after decades of disuse following its closure in 1910. A second lodge was built in the same location in 1963, shortly after the area was declared an Arkansas State Park. It burned in 1973. The third lodge on the spot was constructed shortly thereafter, and was open until the massive renovation project began a few years ago.
It’s been nearly a year now, and Queen Wilhelmina State Park’s Lodge is doing well. On our most recent visit, Hunter and I came in on a Monday night and the place was packed. We took the last of the lodge’s 40 rooms. Despite a call for thunderstorms, the lodge was booked.
There are a lot of cool things about the lodge. For instance, if you look out from the second-story conference room, you can see the solar panels on the roof. The hotel is served with solar hot water, and there’s a new energy-efficient heating and air system for the facility. Energy-saving light fixtures are utilized throughout the lodge. There are power outlets everywhere for every sort of clock, lamp, laptop or cell phone you may need to plug in.
The views, of course, are unparalleled, and the renovation takes advantage of that with larger windows covered by metal awnings. When there’s light in the sky, there’s a view to see, and it’s not uncommon to find people congregating on the large porch outside the lobby.
Mind you, when we were there, we woke to what we thought was fog. But that’s not the case. What we were experiencing was what it was like inside a massive cloud that blanketed the top of the mountain. At 2600 feet above sea level, spending time in the clouds is common for Queen Wilhelmina.
We expected the great views and the excellently renovated rooms. But there were still surprises for us – including at dinner, where I experienced the best roast beef I’ve ever had in a restaurant. I am not kidding. Moist, succulent, perfectly seasoned… the roast beef came with gravy on the side but that wasn’t needed.
We also tried the fried pickles, which quickly became a favorite.
Breakfast was also grand, and I rather enjoyed this vegetable omelet.
Hunter and I also enjoyed time in the Queen’s Room, the massive lobby off from the front desk with its welcoming chairs, sofas and tables. There’s an entire cabinet full of games, and we stayed up late playing Sorry on the couch.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge isn’t near much, and it’s 18 miles to the nearest gas station and grocery store in Mena. But if you’re looking for a great escape, this one is absolutely perfect. Check it out. Make your reservation by clicking on this website or learn more about the park by clicking here.