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Mountains, Music and (Being) Mellow
The Ozark Highlands Trail offers spectacular views of Central Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains.
Mountains, Music and (Being) Mellow
Mountain View, Arkansas
The Ozark Mountains are a 47,000-square-mile plateau of rock created by geologic uplift over 300 million years ago. Erosion has gotten the best of this plateau since then, and today it consists of rolling hills dissected by hollows, creeks and rivers. The Ozark National Forest, north of Mountain View, and its hundreds of singletrack miles is a veritable trail-running paradise.
If you ever think that life is too fast and frenetic, a trip to Mountain View, which is about as gentle as the mountains surrounding it, might be what you need. The economy is based mostly on tourism and you’ll instantly feel welcomed. In fact, the town’s vibe is so friendly that even the gas-station attendant waves when you pump.
Don’t think a visit will be all quiet, though. As the Folk Music Capital of the World, the good folks who call Mountain View home know how to get their party on. Live music livens the mood at local establishments most Friday and Saturday nights. Spontaneous street concerts can happen anytime. And about a half-dozen annual music festivals draw talented artists, thousands of fans and a huge passion for down-home, grassroots music making.
Three m’s seem to guide Mountain View life—mountains, music and (being) mellow. Ashley Nordell, a 32-year-old trail runner and mother from Sisters, Oregon, knows this well. “In 2007, I signed up to race the 3 Days of Syllamo, not realizing it would be the beginning of an annual pilgrimage to the Arkansas Ozarks.” Nordell is particularly drawn to the region’s remoteness, “The further north of Little Rock you drive, the more remote it becomes. Soon the communities are made up of just friendly people, a church and a gas station.”
By the Numbers
> 2748 folks call Mountain View home sweet home.
> In 2008, an F4 tornado tracked a remarkable and destructive 122 miles across north-central Arkansas, trampling Mountain View and its surroundings. You can still see swaths of downed trees in the countryside.
> Ozark National Forest encompasses 1.2 million acres of mostly northern Arkansas!
Get There. Fly into and rent a car at either the Little Rock National Airport, a two-hour drive, or the Memphis International Airport, a three-hour drive. You’ll need personal transportation.
Play Tourist. Embrace those three m’s! Stroll through downtown, view the historic courthouse and sit on a bench to watch the world go by. Tube the cool water of the nearby White River on a steamy summer day. Take a cave tour at Blanchard Springs Caverns in the Ozark National Forest. Seek out and soak up live music. Check out Ozark Folk Center State Park to learn about the region’s folk-music history. “We’re a small, slow-moving town,” explains Kirk, “you can still go to a drive-in movie!”
Take Note. Stone County, the county housing Mountain View, is dry. Plan booze acquisition accordingly.
Learn More. The Mountain View Chamber of Commerce calendar is the go-to online resource for tracking folk and other entertainment events. The Ozark-Saint Francis National Forests website provides all you need to know about the natural areas around Mountain View. This YouTube video from the Arkansas Folk Festival might inspire you to jig your way to Mountain View.
Jack’s Branch Trail Lollipop.
Begin and end this 13.8-mile run at the Blanchard Springs Caverns Campground and run it counterclockwise for a killer view of the White River from a bluff top at about the halfway point. Rolling grades and narrow-but-buff singletrack are just twice punctuated by full-attention-required rocky bits.
Ozark Highlands Trail point-to-point.
Arrange a shuttle for this 14-ish mile, point-to-point run from the Brush Creek Trailhead to the Matney Knob Trailhead. You’ll contour through thick hardwood forests and dip a couple times into damp hollows. “This trail is about as remote as northern Arkansas gets,” says Steve Kirk, the 52-year-old race director of 3 Days of Syllamo. Access both trailheads via Arkansas Highway 341 from within an hour of Mountain View. After your run, drive the short distance from the Matney Knob Trailhead to the White River and soak your bones.
North Sylamore Creek Trail out-and-back.
Run from the Blanchard Springs Caverns Campground to the Barkshed Campground and back. You’ll get 19 miles of quintessential Ozarks scenery. Says Nordell, “Begin by climbing up the cliffs above Blanchard Springs and glimpse North Sylamore Creek from the top. Later you’ll hug tight to rocky cliffs next to the creek. Spectacular stuff.”
Sylamore 50K and 25K.
Out-and-back February runs on the North Sylamore Creek Trail from Allison, a few miles north of Mountain View.
3 Days of Syllamo.
This three-day stage race at Blanchard Springs Caverns, about 20 miles north of Mountain View, features 50K, 50-Mile and 20K stages in March. Alternately, race any individual stage.