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The Boston Mountain Scenic Loop was once part of an old stagecoach route from St. Louis to San Francisco. There are actually two routes you can take, both of which are beautiful, US 71 or I-49. While I-49 does offer gorgeous mountain views, bridges, and a trip through the Bobby Hopper Tunnel, US 71 offers beautiful views with places to stop and explore along the way.
Starting out in Alma, if you’ve never shopped at any of the A to Z stores, including A to Z Furniture, it’s worth the trip! We didn’t realize it until we arrived, but they were having a celebration weekend with lots of great deals. We actually picked up bunk beds for the boys, since we’d so conveniently brought our trailer along for the drive (Mama may have had ulterior motives for bringing the trailer).
Once you leave the town of Alma and head toward Fayetteville, the drive becomes much more rural, winding through a couple of very small towns, including the town of Mountainburg. The town of Mountainburg has a city park with two very large dinosaurs. We definitely have to take another little drive down to Mountainburg, because I know one little boy who would absolutely love to get up close to those dinosaurs.
Lake Fort Smith Park is another destination along the route, and it turned out to be one of our favorite stops. Just a couple of miles off the main route, you’ll find the park with options for camping, cabins, and lodges. They also offer boat access and have a very nice Visitor’s Center with exhibits, including an old covered wagon. The lake is just beautiful, and I can only imagine what it will be like when the fall colors truly hit.
We’re considering heading back for a little weekend getaway, or maybe even a day trip, to rent a kayak or take a little hike through this peaceful, beautiful park.
A stop at Artist Point and Saddle Canyon is a must. The view allows you to enjoy distant mountain vistas and Lake Fort Smith off in the distance.
An overlook with telescope (takes coins) juts out over the side of the mountain. Anytime a telescope is involved, the boys are in heaven.
Vines, or kudzu, cover the side of the mountain, and it’s a breathtaking sight. Again, I can only imagine what the view will look like when leaves begin to change. The outlook isn’t the only attraction here, though. There’s also a gift shop/store, though it was closed when we traveled through.
In all of my reading, I’ve found that a trail behind the store leads a little over a mile to Artist Point Falls, a 15-foot waterfall/cascade.
Of course, there are other various gift shops and a couple of antique shops/flea markets along the route. We also noticed quite a few abandoned buildings, including this one with an observation tower.
Abandoned buildings have a story to tell; they once were bustling places full of business, I’m sure. The drive reminded me of a few places along Route 66 where abandoned buildings still stand, once busy along the well-traveled route. There are quite a few places where travelers could once rent cabins – places that looked to be travel courts at one time. Some look as though they’re still in operation.
Picnic areas make it easy to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Of course, you could also enjoy a picnic by the lake or even with the dinosaurs back in the little town of Mountainburg. Other attractions and places to visit in the Boston Mountains include Devil’s Den State Park, White Rock Mountain, Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, and more. As Fayetteville looms closer, you’ll pass by the Arkansas Air Museum, yet another location waiting to be explored on our many Arkansas travels.
Be warned that not many restaurants exist along the Loop, though there are a few, including Grandma’s House Café in Winslow. Having learned the hard way, I advise having cash on hand for said restaurants, as not all take credit cards.
Have a Sunday afternoon with nothing goin’ on? Maybe want to just get away from it all over the weekend? Take a little drive ’round the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop, taking time to stop wherever your heart desires. After all, that’s the beauty of a great family drive.
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