This region includes the southern portions of Missouri, from around Branson on down, and the northern regions of Arkansas from around Little Rock on up. Taking a trip there could make a great alternative to other more touristy regions, especially for those who would like to forget about fighting dense traffic in other parts of the country for a while.
This may be one of the few regions left that can still boast of tour-worthy areas where at times you could go for many miles and only see a few if any other motorists on the roads with you.
Branson is sometimes called the “gateway to the Ozarks,” and many desirable destinations are within a day’s ride in several directions, either within Missouri, or further down into northern Arkansas. The area also works well for scenic loops that can be done in a day or several, or longer.
Renting a motorcycle there is possible, or you could ride or even trailer your own in, then begin the tour. A couple of airports and rental car agencies are within one hour away, and a small private airport is in town.
People ride the Ozarks area year round, but the main season is spring through fall. Summer temperatures often hover around the 80s, and humidity can be high. In the fall, the trees look like they are on fire with colors as their leaves change. Mostly deciduous trees, such as oaks and maples are to be found in these parts.
The local populations are comparatively sparse, and the region is known for having hospitable people for the most part. Several of the area’s attractions and towns are billed as “family friendly,” and it has long been presented as a vacation spot for all.
This is one of those areas where most agree that a few days can make a nice visit, but if you can spare more time, there is enough to see and do to make spending much longer more than worth it.
A few prime destinations are listed below, but when you do more planning and investigating of the Ozark region, you will see there are many more besides.
Just 20 minutes above the Arkansas state line, Branson is also known as the “Live Music Capital of the World.”
While it was pointed out that some roads southwards are sparsely traveled, this town sees millions of visitors per year.
It is definitely set up for a good time. While Branson has a population of 7,435 in its 19 square miles, it has over 12,000 RV sites and campsites and 18,808 hotel rooms available. Even so, there are times in the peak season when hotel vacancy may be hard to come by. To feed all the tourists, music lovers, and any other hungry vacationers, there are 268 restaurants that could potentially seat 38,813. And if any are in the mood for a show, there are 53 theaters in town offering more seats than Broadway at 59,757.
Think of Branson as an ideal launching point for a tour. Less than an hour north is Springfield, the beginning of historic Route 66, but south is where the Ozarks lie.
Scenic Highway 7 heading toward Arkansas is one of those amazing roads, and it leads to many others just as good. It begins at nearby Bull Shoals Lake and is rated as one of the best through the Ozark hills.
Table Rock Lake Dam
This large dam, with eight spillways, separates the 43,100-acre Table Rock Lake and its 800 miles of shoreline from Lake Taneycomo, which actually is more like a river spilling out of the dam. The “tail waters” of Table Rock are very clean, providing cold trout water and great fishing.
Highway 76, the main road east from Branson goes 20 minutes to Bull Shoals Lake in Peel, Ark., which is one of the many lakes in the White River chain. It is a good ride and also popular for the antique – and free of charge – Peel Ferry that can draw you and your bike across the lake.
About one hour from Branson, this Arkansas town has many curvy roads leading up to it. Despite its name, it does not have any springs that it’s famous for, but still is a popular place to visit. It is actually a small village built into the side of a bluff. It has lots of good places to eat, and a great place to stay called the Basin Park Hotel.
Arkansas’ highest elevation point of 2,700-plus feet is on Mount Magazine. There is a phenomenal lodge that was just built in 2006 on top of the mountain with lots of luxuries.
The mountain is actually flat-topped looking out over the Ozark National Forest. On a clear day you can see 150 miles into the distance. It is so steep, they hang glide there like someone might jump of a front porch.
There are 18 campsites available, and among dozens of attractions there, the mountain boasts 94 species of butterfly.
A good drive to and from is a 10-mile trip from Havana, Arkansas, which offers spectacular views of Blue Mountain Lake.
About 30 minutes from Mount Magazine, Jasper, Ark. looks like a piece of Americana perched in Switzerland. It has not really changed a lot from the 1950s, with soda shops, and small merchants and eateries.
One of the best places to eat is the Cliff House Restaurant located off of Scenic Highway 7, south of Jasper. The place literally hangs off the side of a cliff. They make great food, and especially recommended are the chicken dumplings.
Visiting motorcycles often outnumber cars in this town.
Another motorcycle-friendly town, Harrison is linked by some amazingly perfect, twisty roads. Some riders head to Jasper and back for a 56-mile round trip with 316 curves in all. Another trip from Harrison could be to Mountain View and back which is 168 miles, yielding 602 curves.
The capital of Arkansas is three-and-a-half hours from Branson. A good route to take is Scenic Highway 7 which takes you first through Hot Springs, Arkansas where each year there’s a H.O.G. Rally, then to Little Rock.
If you like horse racing, you can bet on the thoroughbreds there.
In all, the Ozarks Highlands are stretched over close to 47,000 square miles. It is the broadest mountainous region between the Appalachians and Rockies, and actually extends into northeast Oklahoma and southeast Kansas.
As has already been alluded to, there are many lakes and streams throughout the region. They are often lined with limestone which, unlike mud, keep the waters clearer. Bass and Trout fishing are common, and some waters have fishing worthy of televised tournaments.
To make sure that this area is where you want to head, you will no doubt need to do more research. Tour guides and motorcycle rental facilities, such as the EagleRider agency in Branson, could prove helpful with lots of insider from a local perspective. So will state and local tourism boards which actively promote motorcycling touring.
The region is not far from the center of the U.S., and could also be a nice place to visit before heading elsewhere.
At any rate, if you’d like a getaway not likely to disappoint, look into a trip to the Ozarks.