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Central Allison Edgemont Fairfield Bay Greers Ferry Mountain View Shirley
Central Travel 0

Greers Ferry to Calico Rock: A Treasured Road Trip

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Greers Ferry Lake is a favorite destination for many summer travelers, but when it’s time for a break from the sand and the sun, it’s time for a road trip. The road from Greers Ferry Lake to Calico Rock is full of hidden treasures and off-the-beaten-path destinations that are fun for the whole family.

There is something adventurous about climbing into the car with a final destination in mind but no time constraints to get there. Being able to stop as you please, take a detour, or check out places you may usually drive right past can be exciting and enjoyable. In the past year, we’ve tried to take at least one day a month to explore a section of road and let the road lead us.

Greers Ferry Lake was formed in 1954 with the construction of the Greers Ferry Dam. The result was a 40,000-acre lake that has become a prime destination for hikers, campers, boaters and anglers, and that is where we begin our trip.

Today we’re leaving our campsite at the Narrows Recreation Area in Higden, packing a picnic lunch and hitting the open road. We’re traveling sections of AR 16, AR 9 and AR 5. We’re looking for scenic spots, restaurants, shops and trails. Brown signs and historical markers are a must as we search for treasures along this section of Arkansas Highways.

Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Higden/Greers Ferry

Sugar Loaf Marina – The Sugar Loaf Marina is one place where you can gain access to Sugar Loaf Mountain Island. You will need a boat to access the island, and the area is one of our favorite places to paddleboard in the fall.

Narrows Bridge (Narrows Bridge) – The cantilever truss design of this bridge built in 1961 is rare in Arkansas, and it is a picturesque sight.  The bridge replaces a swinging bridge built in 1912 to withstand the rising water that resulted when the Little Red River was dammed to form the lake.

Bentley’s Restaurant – Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. They also have an all-you-can-eat salad bar.

Q, The Restaurant – If you love hickory-smoked barbecue, Q is the place to stop. They offer take-out food with a few picnic tables.

Devils Fork Recreation Area – This campground includes waterside sites, swimming and picnic areas.

Edgemont/Fairfield Bay

Built as a recreational and retirement community in 1965, Fairfield Bay has flourished in the last few years and is well on its way to becoming one of Arkansas’s premier lake resort destinations.

Janssen’s Lakefront Restaurant – The food is excellent; the view is gorgeous, and the desserts are to die for! We’re talking house-made 6-layer chocolate cake with luscious chocolate buttercream.

The Little Red Restaurant – The Little Red has a tasty variety of wonderfully presented food, and the Friday night and daily special are always delicious.

The Log Cabin Museum – This small but well-appointed museum was built in 1976 as a gift celebrating the county’s bicentennial. The museum includes several displays and artifacts that celebrate the history of Fairfield Bay and the surrounding communities, including those that were lost when the lake was formed.

Indian Rock Cave Fairfield Bay

Indian Rock Cave – Indian Rock Cave is the largest bluff shelter cave in Arkansas to contain documented petroglyphs. Take a short hike from the Log Cabin Museum to view the cave. During operating hours, golf cart rides are available for those not wishing to make the short hike.

Fairfield Bay Marina – The Fairfield Bay Marina is a hot spot for activity in the area. The fully equipped marina offers boat rentals, including pontoons, kayaks, paddleboards and the super fun Craig Cat. The marina also hosts a variety of themed events throughout the year. They are currently expanding their camping area, which provides access to miles and miles of ATV trails.

Sugar Loaf Mountain Island – Pack a picnic lunch and plenty of water and ride the Fairfield Bay Marina shuttle to Sugar Loaf Island. This 1.5-mile island trail is only accessible by boat and offers a gorgeous view of the lake. The trail is moderately difficult, but as one of the nation’s first National Scenic Trails, the view is well worth the work. You can check out my video from one of our trips to the island.

Photo via Kimberly Mitchell

Shirley

Arkansas Quilt Trail – As you pass through the area, there are several stops along the VanBuren County Quilt Trail. My son is a lover of all things trains, so the train quilt located in Shirley was a must-see site.

Little Red River Outfitters – Because it’s off the beaten path, Middle Fork Little Red River is often overlooked as a river float destination. It’s also an excellent area for fishing. Grab your rod and reel and rent a kayak complete with shuttle service. It’s sure to delight the more adventurous members of your family.

The Mona Lisa Cafe – The cafe has an enormous selection of hamburgers, sandwiches and a daily special. They also have a great selection of baked goods, so stop by to see what’s available today. Mona Lisa Cafe has received several People’s Choice awards.

Note: As of publication, the Mona Lisa Cafe is open for curbside service only while working on a remodeling project.

Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Vintage Red Rooster and ReMade Arts – This one-of-a-kind vintage store is one of the coolest shops I have ever visited. Even if you think you are not into antiques and art, you need to stop by. You won’t be disappointed.

Cottrell Wilson Historic Trail – This 2-mile trail is easy to hike. It ends at the historic Cottrell Wilson cemetery, which contains many Cottrell Wilson family members, 10 Native Americans and a Bulgarian worker who died while building the railroad. The trail meanders along the river, and many hikers have found railroad spikes from the old railroad.

The River Road – This trail is popular for ATV and horseback riders, but hikers also enjoy the gravel potion along the river. Old ghost towns such as Oakvale, Arlberg and Lydalisk are located along the old railroad bed.

Turkey Creek School – The area between Shirley and Mountain View is rural and consists of only a few small unincorporated towns. Along the route, you can view the historic Turkey Creek School. The school was built in 1925 and was used until 1949.

 

Mountain View/Allison

Known as the Folk Music Capital of the World, Mountain View is a destination in itself, and we’ll be sharing a complete guide to spending the weekend in Mountain View very soon. For now, as you pass through on your day trip, be sure to check out these must-see sites in the area.

Mountain View Music – This store/Airbnb/pickin’ porch is a must-visit spot for music lovers. The Pool family purchased a struggling music shop and turned it into one of Mountain View’s most favored destinations.

The Stone Amphitheater – This picturesque backdrop hosts concerts, weddings and is the perfect place to sit and enjoy nature. The park has picnic areas and several hiking trails.

The Dulcimer Shop – The shop has been handcrafting McSpadden Mountain Dulcimers since 1962. The shop is full of a wide selection of instruments, music and gifts.

Loco Ropes – Head to Loco Ropes if you want to experience Mountain View from the treetops. Loco Ropes has several ropes courses of varying difficulty. They offer a zip line and a free-fall experience that are so much fun!

Sylamore Swinging Bridge – The Sylamore Creek is a popular spot for camping, fishing and floating, but you must see the Sylamore Swinging Bridge. With a history dating back to the early 1900s, crossing the swinging bridge is like stepping back in time.

JoJo’s Catfish Wharf – Expertly fried catfish, unlimited hushpuppies, a salad boat and a waterfront view make this restaurant worth working up an appetite. Come hungry!

Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Calico Rock

Calico Rock is named for the surrounding bluffs that are layered in tones of blue, black, gray, orange and red and is one of Arkansas’s most notable geological formations.

Printing Press Cafe – Located in historic downtown Calico Rock the Printing Press Cafe combines sophistication and elegance with Southern hospitality and historic charm. Enjoy a vast sandwich and then choose from their selections of shakes, malts and yummy sundaes.

Calico Rock Museum – The museum celebrates the history of the area and contains artifacts that date from prehistoric times through 1967.

Tomlinson Art and Science Center – The Art and Science center provides a place for local artists to exhibit their work and includes several hands-on exhibits that children and science and history buffs will love.

Photo courtesy of Talya Tate Boerner

Ghost Town – No trip to Calico Rock would be complete without visiting the ghost town. Calico Rock is the only town in America that has a ghost town within its city limits.

The next time you visit the lake and look for a unique way to spend the day or just want to get out for a scenic drive while checking out the local sites, travel from Greers Ferry to Calico Rock.

Did we miss one of your favorite spots along this drive? Tell us in the comments so we can check it out the next time we are in the area.

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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