The Ozarks is one of those regions of the country that is diverse and interesting enough to be a tourism gold mine. From the bright lights and music of Branson, Missouri, to the gentle flowing current of the Buffalo River in Arkansas, there is something for just about everyone. Although there are no large cities in the Ozarks, there are towns with a few city amenities, like the restaurants, shopping, museums, and entertainment spots available in Springfield, Missouri and Fayetteville and Bentonville, Arkansas. On the other hand, Ozarks visitors can head off grid and commune with nature at any number of conservation areas, state parks, national parks and forests, national rivers, and wilderness regions.
Between those opposite ends of the destination scale, there are a few spots that offer a nice blend of the outdoors with the comforts of the built environment. One of those is the Lodge at Mount Magazine State Park near Paris, Arkansas. Located just below the crest of the highest peak in the state (2,753 feet), the lodge is situated on Mount Magazine’s south bluff overlooking the expansive Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake. Because this ridge is so high above the valley floor, the park includes a launch area for hang gliders within walking distance of the lodge. Other activities to enjoy include mountain biking, horseback riding, backpacking, and ATV riding. The park visitor’s center is within walking distance of the lodge on one of several nearby easily accessible nature trails.
The term “lodge” may be a bit misleading to potential vacationers to the site. Other than the rural setting, the exposed pine log beams, the nature-themed art, and the natural rock accents, the lodge has many of the comforts of a resort. The rooms are well appointed, many of which have a whirlpool spa. The indoor pool is spacious, and there is a fitness center and a game room too. There are multiple seating areas with large glass panels looking out over the valley. The dining room and bar are a real cut above what most guests would associate with a state park. Accommodations range from individual rooms and suites in the main lodge to cabins of various sizes flanking the building on either side, all overlooking the valley. Each cabin has a fully equipped kitchen, fireplace, and covered deck with an outdoor hot tub. The lodge also houses a conference center.
What attracted me most about the lodge and prompted me to book a room for my wife and me in the fall of 2022 was the view. It is magnificent. We spent many hours on the balcony of our lodge room looking out at that incredible vista. The pleasant surprise was how nice the whole facility was. The service was great. The food was quite delicious and plentiful considering the price and the somewhat rustic setting, with buffets offered for most meals, although ordering from a small menu was an option. The park is in a remote part of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, but there are small towns only thirty minutes away. It’s a great place for the family that enjoys nature but doesn’t want to sleep in a tent or camper, although the park has plenty of campsites. The lodge and cabins are also perfect for a romantic getaway, and we are always ready for that kind of excursion.