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Northwest Culture 4

Six Things to Do on a Weekend in Jasper

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Jasper became a weekend destination for Arkansans when Dogpatch, USA, a theme park based on the “Lil Abner” comic by Al Capp, opened in the 1960s. After Dogpatch closed in the 90s, tourism took a temporary hit. But the area is booming once again thanks to the reintroduction of elk and the beautiful setting. Fall foliage, motorcycle tourism and an exciting new development for Dogpatch are bringing people back to the area and reviving tourism throughout Jasper.

Whether you have a day, a weekend or longer, there is plenty to experience in the Jasper area. Book a room at The Arkansas House, Little Switzerland, or a local Airbnb and check out these six things to do in Jasper, Arkansas. You’ll leave ready to come back, and that’s always a good sign.

Elk near Jasper, Arkansas
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

1. Learn About Elk

The ​​Hilary Jones Wildlife Museum & Elk Information Center features six aquariums and a variety of educational exhibits featuring deer, duck and a variety of wildlife mounts. Kids will enjoy the hands-on displays as they learn about the elk. And don’t miss an opportunity to take a #selfiewithanelk.

If you plan to travel into Boxley Valley and Ponca during your stay, the Ponca Nature Center (formerly Ponca Elk Education Center) is an invaluable resource situated in the heart of the elk habitat. Located a short drive down Arkansas Highway 74, you’ll learn about the herd of nearly 600 elk. You’ll get tips on the best times and locations for viewing the elk while you relax in a rocking chair overlooking Ponca Creek.

Ozark Cafe in Jasper

2. Grab A Bite

Everyone has to eat, and there is no shortage of great food in the small town of Jasper. The Ozark Cafe is the second oldest restaurant in Arkansas and has been serving guests seven days a week since 1909. Known for their specials like a deep-fried hamburger, you will not leave hungry. Finish your meal with a milkshake from the old-fashioned soda fountain. And make plans to return in the morning for fresh biscuits topped with their world-famous chocolate gravy. Sharon K’s Cafe is open for lunch daily, or head up the hill for a great meal with an incredible view at the Cliff House Inn.

Photo courtesy of BuBubba’suffalo River Store.

3. Shop Jasper

Every great trip deserves a special souvenir, and if you don’t get the t-shirt, did it really happen? Bubba’s Buffalo River Store has some of the coolest t-shirts and caps around, and you can also pick up a copy or two of Tim Ernst’s books containing amazing Arkansas nature photography. Head next door and stroll through the eclectic collection of finds at Emma’s Museum of Junk or explore the collection of collectible vinyl records and vintage merchandise at The Funky Frog. Go to the Scenic Point Gift Shop at the top of Mt. Judea for kitschy souvenirs that the kids love.

Jasper - view from Mt. Judea
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

4. Go For A Hike

Some of the most incredible views in the state are in Jasper. There’s no better way to see them than on a hike. There are several trails with varying levels of difficulty within a short drive of downtown Jasper. The Round Top Mountain Trail is perfect for hikers who are comfortable with a moderate elevation change. You’ll be rewarded with picturesque vistas, especially from the North View Lookout Point.  Families and beginner hikers will enjoy the short easy hikes on the Koen Interpretive Trail and the Buffalo River Ponds Trail. Head northwest into the Buffalo National River Wilderness for more trails and hiking experiences than you can count.

5. Take In The Views

If hiking has you gasping for breath, have no fear. There are several scenic overlooks located along Arkansas Highway 7. They highlight incredible views of the Buffalo River Canyon from the summit of Mt. Judea. Soak in the beauty of more than 1.3 million acres. View Missouri 40 miles due north from the comfort of your car. Or climb a few stairs to the top of the observation tower at Scenic Point. The Arkansas Grand Canyon is the deepest canyon in the state, and while it isn’t quite like the Grand Canyon, it’s adding to your Arkansas Bucket List.

Mystic Caverns in Jasper, Arkansas
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

6. Head Underground

One of the best ways to beat the heat is to head underground. Mystic Caverns features both Mystic Caverns discovered in the 1800s and Crystal Dome, discovered in 1967. The caves are family-friendly, picturesque and the perfect way to cool off on a hot day.

Finally, fans of Dogpatch, USA, will be pleased to know that the old theme park will see new life as the Marble Falls Nature Park. Bass Pro Shops Founder and CEO ​​John L. “Johnny” Morris purchased the land in 2020. No opening date has been set, but construction is well underway. The park will focus on the history of Newton County. It is sure to be one of the premier nature park destinations in the South.

Jasper cover photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

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Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and virtual assistant while raising her young son. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas. Julie loves adventure. Not necessarily "scare-your-pants-off" adventure but the kind where you seek out new and exciting things. New foods, new places, new experiences. On her blog, Seek Adventures, Julie shares about the outdoor and travel adventures of her family as they camp and standup paddleboard across the South. You can also learn more about her writing on her site Seek Adventures Media.

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4 responses to “Six Things to Do on a Weekend in Jasper”

  1. Leslie Logan says:

    Wow the pictures taken there of the nature views are stunning. I’m so gonna plan a couple day trip there. I love too canoe, and horse back ride. Anyone know the canoe rental cost & the horsebackriding cost by chance? This beautiful Lil city is definitely worth the breathtaking views. Love it!

  2. Danielle says:

    You have it all wrong if the Low Gap Cafe isn’t listed. Clearly you don’t know what you’re missing. Let me prove it!

  3. Julie Kohl Julie Kohl says:

    Danielle, I absolutely agree that the Low Gap Cafe is amazing! Since we were focusing primarily on Jasper and the area around Judea Mountain I didn’t include it. I will be certain to mention it in a future article about Ponca since it’s on that side of the mountain! Thanks for reading and for the recommendation!

  4. Rose says:

    The Christian Bookstore of Jasper, located next to the Ozark Cafe, has some great books, patriotic t-shirts and gift items. And the coffee and hot chocolate is always on!

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