Where Is The Sylamore Ozark National Forest
In the northcentral Arkansas Ozarks, between Mountain Home and Mountain View, Arkansas.
It's close to Norfork Lake and the White River, and about an hour from lower Bull Shoals
Lake. On maps it's the Sylamore Ranger District of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest.
The area includes the Leatherwood Wilderness Area, and the North Sylamore Creek National
Scenic River Corridor. The small towns of Norfork, Calico Rock, Allison, Fifty Six, and
Mountain View Arkansas border the Sylamore National Forest. Sections of private property
are intertwined within the Forest.
What's The Sylamore Area Driving Tour Like?
It's a mixture of small town America and National Forest in one of the most
scenic areas of the Ozark Mountains. There's 147,000 acres of public forest land mixed in
between four small towns. You'll see hill country farms and pastures, forests, rivers, and
Norfork Lake. Creeks flow beside paved roads were you can stop to enjoy them. You'll drive
past vast tracts of forest. Sprinkled all along the way are historic sites, attractions,
cafes and restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations, antique and art stores, and
rest rooms. You'll enjoy the right blend of Wild and Creature Comforts.
What Is The Best Way To Enjoy The Sylamore
It depends on how much time you have. If all you want is a quick driving tour, you can run
the main tour loop in about 2 hours. From there it depends. Stop for meals, a little
shopping, an attraction or two, and before long you've spent a whole day. Not including
back road tours, it takes at least two full days to visit everything that is on pavement
and not rush it.
What About Sportscar & Motorcycle
Several sportscar and motorcycle clubs tour this area spring, summer, and fall. There are
restaurants and lodging facilities in the area that can handle groups. Performance cars
and motorcycles crave these roads, it is what they are made for. A blend of straights,
sweeping "S" turns, and tight downhill and uphill turns combine into
several "dragons" and "snakes". Roads are banked in many places. The
key to safe driving on these roads is ALWAYS stay in your lane, stay on your side of the
road. Crossing into the on-coming traffic lane endangers your life and others.
Combine Outdoor Recreation With Driving Tours
Combine paved roads with back country roads and you get over 45 different road loops. In
many locations along the 2Cooleys tour you can stop for a walk in the woods and beside
creeks. Hiking trails with numerous trailheads allow for short day hikes to long treks.
Old logging roads are all through this area. They are easier to walk down for birding,
wildflower walks, and just plain walking than hiking trails. Whether you stick to the
paved roads or hit the back country, all of these things are easy to find on our tour.
What Are The Roads Like?
Our paved Sylamore tour comprises a 72 mile loop of smooth paved roads on three
Arkansas State Highways. Drive one, or all three highways. They'll all beautiful,
especially during fall foliage and during the spring when redbud and dogwood trees are in
bloom. You'll experience wide-open views as well as get right up close to hardwood
forests. And since there are so many people who enjoy driving the area's forest back
country dirt roads, we've included 55 miles of back roading loops.
Dining, Gas, Shopping, & Restrooms
There is no shortage of any of the above. They are all marked on the 2Cooleys Tour
Summaries. No matter where you are, back country included, you are never more than an hour
from a town. In most locations you are never more than 30 minutes from a town. Along the
2Cooleys main tour loop are some 17 restaurants, 8 little cafes, 14 gas stations, 4 liquor
stores, 9 banks with ATMs, 4 pharmacies, 4 grocery stores, and 9 convenience stores.
They're all along the border of the Sylamore Ozark National Forest.
What Are The Back Roads Like?
There is a big difference between "back roading" and "off roading".
Back roads can be driven in a standard automobile. You don't need four-wheel drive or high
clearence. Off roading is done on old logging roads and you very definitely need four
wheel drive. Back roading is a lot of fun for most people. You can't drive safely much
over 15mph to 20mph. Your car will rattle, bounce, and bump from time to time, but nothing
that causes any damage. The back roads are just like back roads all over rural America.
These roads are patrolled by law enforcement.
You can participate in some 16 different outdoor recreation pursuits at several points
along the tour. Enjoy 61 miles of mountain bike trails, 54 miles of hiking trails with 12
trailheads, 75 miles of horse trails, or run your ATV. Swim in creeks and the lake. Canoe,
fish, and boat in lake or river. Hunt for whitetail, bear, and turkey - all present in
good numbers. There's even a nice shooting range with covered shooting benches.
Camping, RV, Lodging
Several campgrounds and RV parks are in the area, as are several small resorts, motels,
cabins, and B&Bs. Three creekside campgrounds are inside the Sylamore Creek National
Scenic River Corridor. Another is beside Norfork Lake. And still another campground and RV
park is beside the North Fork River.
Blanchard Springs Caverns has as much above ground as below ground. In addition to some
awesome cave tours, they have camping and RV sites, trout fishing in Mirror lake, hiking
trails, mountain bike trail access, swimming, picnic sites, a historic site, and
accessible board walks. The Ozark Folk Center has a large store filled with authentic
Ozark arts and crafts, a restaurant, a live music center, and some 20 live displays
showing how the Ozark Pioneers lived and survived in these tough, rugged hills. You can
tour the Norfork National Fish Hatchery, the largest trout hatchery in America.
Start with the Wolf Settlement, a group of log cabins built in 1829 and still standing. In
Calico Rock you can walk around (but not go inside) the Peppersauce Industrial Ghost Town.
Calico is on the National Registry of Historic Places, and they have a historic district
and a little museum. There are two old fire towers from back in the 1950's before
satellites and GPS systems. And if you take the Culp Loop Tour, you'll see off-the-beaten
path historic relics.
We're going beyond Walmart and Dollar General, even though those stores are here. By
shopping we are referring to true Ozark art and crafts. Pottery, baskets, jewelry, soaps,
candles, iron works, paintings, photography, foods, and a long list of other locally
hand-made items. You'll find unique gifts here than are very hard to find anywhere else in
America. Antique and collectable stores, old-time country stores, even an old-time drug
store complete with the old-fashioned soda counter.
Seasonal - What's The Best Time Of Year To
That's a tough decision. Our personal favorite is during fall foliage. Not only can you
enjoy great color in a good year, but the weather is cool, not too hot. Fall weather here
is typically from mid October through mid December. January and February are our coldest
months. The first wildflowers start blooming the last few days of February. Early spring
is typically March through April 15. The first trees to bloom are the redbuds followed by
the dogwoods. These two blooms are over and trees are nearly fully leafed out by April 15.
Our second personal favorite is May and the first two weeks of June. The weather is clear
and cool, and everything is incredibly fresh and intensely green. July and August are just
plain too hot. This is not the time of year for hiking, biking, etc. It's the time of year
to spend out on the lake!
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