Spring Break Road Trip 2022 | Day 3 | Ozone, AR to Crystal, AR | Hiking in Mount Magazine State Park, the Highest Point in Arkansas | March 2022
On day 3 of our road trip, our main goal was to summit Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas, and to spend a little time hiking around the high point state park. There wasn’t a direct route to go from where we were to the high point, so we chose the route that would get us an extra county that would otherwise leave a pesky hole in our county maps. We enjoyed our early morning drive on AR-21 leaving the Boston Mountains and into the Arkansas River Valley. We took AR-21 to US-64, drove West to Ozark, then crossed the Arkansas River and took AR-309 South to Mount Magazine.
The road to the state park takes care of most of the elevation gain, but you still need to take a short walk through the woods to reach the highest point. There had been a snow storm here just 3 days prior, but by this point the roads were all clear and the snow only remained on North-facing slopes. We first stopped at the visitor center for a map and an AR state park passport book, then drove to the campground to park and begin our hike.
This was truly the perfect day to be enjoying this high point — we had yet to see a single other car in the park, there was snow on the trail but not too much to be a hindrance, it was sunny and very mild weather. Curtis planned to lead us on a loop trail up and around the peak, and we happily set off on the short walk up to the top. As we walked, we enjoyed each other’s company and the sounds of nature. Birds chirped in the trees, reminding us that despite the snow around us, spring was on its way. We couldn’t have been happier to be here enjoying this beautiful day!
We reached the top after our pleasant walk up, and shortly after heard the sound of voices coming from the other trail we had planned to take down to continue our loop. We looked and saw some teenagers approaching, and assumed it was a family making their way up to the top. But instead of adults following the teens, more teens continued coming up…and more…and more…and we quickly realized that a busload of high schoolers (or middle schoolers, we’re too old to tell the difference anymore) was on their way up to join us at the top. So much for a quiet and peaceful time at the summit!
Our first instinct was to run in the opposite direction, but we needed to get a picture to document our achievement. We asked someone to take a picture for us, then quickly made our return trip the same way we came. Even as we left more kids kept arriving and there seemed to be no end to either the large group or the now constant sound of voices. We fought the temptation to say that the day had been ruined by the presence of a hundred adolescents crashing our 26th high point party, and instead tried to remember how much fun we had on the ascent.
Curtis found a letterbox, then we went on a scenic drive around the park to enjoy the views to the North since there was no view at the high point. We then drove to the South side and went for another short hike offering more views to the Southeast and another letterbox. At least we were completely on our own for both of these ventures! After that we had a little picnic lunch and enjoyed the sunshine, as the day had warmed up significantly. When we were ready to move on, we continued our drive South to our intended campsite for the night.
We drove AR-27 South through Ouachita National Forest, then after driving through Mount Ida we took a forest road to Crystal Recreation Area. We were surprised to find there were actually people at the campground — it was the first night we’d seen anyone else camping since last October! But I guess it makes sense, since it was warming up quite a bit and we were now within an hour of a national park, and the campsite was free. We set up our site and settled in for the night, doing our usual routine of eating, playing games, reading, and retiring to the tent as soon as the sun goes down despite it being way too early to fall asleep.