If you are seeking an Ozark Mountain get-away I think that you will find the quaint, town of Jasper, Arkansas to be a perfect base for both adventure and relaxation.
In these craggy hills the past and the present seem to meld and time slows down. You will find it easy to be fully in the moment while navigating winding roads or taking in stunning, yet intimate vistas, or waiting for elk to appear in a roadside field or photographing an old barn.
The Ozark Mountains just may be my favorite place in the world and Jasper, Arkansas is the perfect town from which to explore all that the Ozarks of Arkansas have to offer.
Location of Jasper, Arkansas
Jasper, Arkansas is situated near the center of Newton County and it also happens to be the county seat.
I think that most Arkansans would agree that Newton County has the some of the most iconic and gorgeous scenery in the state. It is the heart of the Ozark National Forest and the Buffalo National River.
Here are a couple of interesting facts:
- there is not a single stoplight in Newton County
- there has never been even a foot of railroad track constructed in the county
Jasper is also located along Scenic Highway 7 which happens to be the state’s first scenic highway.
Do be aware that there are no “easy” ways to get to Jasper, there are only slow and beautiful ways. The roads are often winding, often steep, and always stunningly gorgeous. However, you will need to drive carefully.
Why is Jasper, Arkansas a Perfect Town for Ozark Mountain Exploration
I think that this town is a perfect base for exploring the Ozark Mountains and the Buffalo National River because in addition to being right in the middle of some of the most gorgeous scenery in Arkansas it also has a grocery store and some excellent restaurants.
There is a quaint town square with a few opportunities for shopping.
You can even reach a Wal-Mart be in the larger town of Harrison, Arkansas in less than 30 minutes.
The population of Jasper is only about 600 people, but don’t let this number fool you. This is a tourist town so the population swells during the peak seasons. Summer weekends, holidays, and during the fall color change are the busiest.
It is also important to know that driving miles are much longer in the Ozarks than in the cities. The roads are winding and steep in this area.
Jasper provides great access to all the sights and activities and nature of the Buffalo River and the Ozark Mountains.
Best Time of Year to Visit Jasper, Arkansas and the Ozark Mountains
Personally, I think that EVERY time of year is beautiful in the Ozark Mountains. However, your favorite may vary depending on what you are wanting to do.
It is important to know that the Buffalo River and many of the streams in the Ozarks are rain dependent. If you want to “float the Buffalo” or see waterfalls then the best time to go is in spring or early summer.
This website will give you information about the water levels on the river to help you plan your float trip.
You might be interested in learning more about spring in Arkansas.
Arkansas summers are hot and humid but there are many swimming holes and caves in this area to escape the heat. Summers are also lush and green in the mountains.
Just be aware of your own personal tolerance for warm weather before you plan to camp or be out hiking especially during the really hot months of July and August.
Also, be aware that summer also tends to be the “buggiest” and “snakiest” season.
You might be interested in more things to do in Arkansas in the summer.
Many people would say that fall is their favorite time in Jasper, Arkansas. The vistas come alive with the fall colors. This is a great time to hike and to camp. Fishing is also usually excellent in the fall.
If we get some autumn rains then you might even be able to float the Buffalo river. However, this is not a guarantee and would not be typical!
I personally love crunching through the leaves on a fall hike, but do remember that fall is deer hunting season in Arkansas so always wear bright colors in the woods.
You might be interested in reading more about autumn in Arkansas.
You might be surprised to learn that winter is considered prime hiking season for Arkansans. In fact, many would say that winter is their favorite time to be out in the Ozark Mountains around Jasper.
Yes, the leaves have fallen, but there are no bugs and no snakes. Not only that but you can see endless vistas through the leafless trees.
We don’t often get a hard freeze in the winter in Arkansas but if we do you might even have the opportunity to experience the glory of a frozen waterfall.
You might be interested in learning about more things to do in Arkansas in winter.
Things to do in Jasper, Arkansas and the Surrounding Areas
Jasper has a cute and quaint downtown square. Many of the buildings date back to the 1800’s and the entire historic commercial area was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 2010.
Many of the buildings and structures are made of native stone and are the work of Charles Gould Jones. Mr. Jones was an entrepreneur who lived most of his life in Newton County.
His buildings use a distinctive blend of native stone, brick, and concrete. It won’t be hard for you to identify his work when exploring downtown Jasper, Arkansas.
You can’t miss the stone courthouse which was built in the 1930’s with locally quarried limestone using Works Progress Administration Labor.
There is even a building that was designed by renowned Arkansas architect E. Faye Jones. It is currently the Bank of the Ozarks building and made of orange brick.
You will definitely want to check out the historic Arkansas House. You will be able to tell that this was built by Gould Jones. He constructed it in 1933 using a mixture of buff brick, glazed brick and flagstone.
Don’t miss the beautiful shape of Arkansas on the front center of the structure.
Also, check out the old Newton County Jail which is right near the town square. It was built in 1902 of local stone and was used as a jail until 2009!
Mostly, just enjoy walking around the square and side streets. This is a charming little town.
You might be surprised to know that there are a number of good restaurants in Jasper, Arkansas.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- The Ozark Cafe is right on the town square across from the courthouse and is one of the oldest restaurants in the state of Arkansas. This is old-fashioned southern food; great burgers, breakfast with biscuits and gravy, cobblers, chicken fried chicken, and much more. Not only that but you can have a front row window seat on the activities of the town.
- The Cliff House Inn is only about a mile outside of town. This restaurant has, in my opinion, the best views of any restaurant in Arkansas. It sits on the edge of Scenic Highway 7 and hovers over the Arkansas Grand Canyon. Not only that but they have excellent steaks and pasta dishes.
- Some people claim that the Low Gap Cafe is one of the best restaurants in the state! It recently re-opened in a new, modern building in Jasper. This is EXCELLENT farm to table dining produced by an exceptional chef. The salmon with red bell pepper cream sauce is a personal favorite of mine.
- The Jasper Pizza Company is one of the newest restaurants in town. It is on the square near the Ozark Cafe. We ate there recently and were very impressed with both the food and the service. I know it’s a pizza place but you also need to try the cheese dip. Cheese dip is a thing in Arkansas, ya know. We had the hot honey pizza and it was very good!
There are some nice little shops in Jasper that you might enjoy!
- Bubba’s Buffalo River Store has a selection of Buffalo River apparel such as T-shirts, hoodies, socks, and more. You will also find some nice items for the home as well as gifts.
- The Crystal Cottage Rocks and Beads is a fun store with jewelry items made with natural materials including Arkansas stones.
- A Wild Hare Gifts is a sweet place with clothing, gifts, and home decor. But they also have a little coffee shop with muffins and pretzels and other great things to eat.
- Paisley Sister is a pretty boutique offering handbags, crafts, home decor, items from local artisans, and restored antiques.
There is also a Harp’s Grocery store in Jasper as well as a Dollar General and a couple of other “dollar” stores. If you need something bigger, like a Wal-Mart, there is one in the town of Harrison which is only about a 30 minute drive from Jasper.
The Buffalo National River
The Buffalo National River is truly an Arkansas treasure. In 1972 the river was saved from being dammed and became the first federally protected national river.
It flows freely for 135 miles and is one of the few remaining un-dammed rivers in the lower 48 states. More than that it is simply stunning and a place that is very near and dear to the hearts of most Arkansans.
The river flows along towering bluffs and fields, through running rapids and deep quiet pools.
Jasper, Arkansas is located near the Buffalo National River which means that there are a huge number of nearby recreational opportunities.
You can swim, hike, kayak, canoe, ride horses, camp, fish, or just sit by the river and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
It is important to know that the upper Buffalo River can only be floated if there has been sufficient rain. Also know that there is a point at which the river can be dangerous if there has been TOO MUCH rain.
I recommend the Buffalo Outdoor Center for planning your visit to the Buffalo River. They provide kayak rentals and shuttle services. They will keep you informed about which sections of the river are floatable.
Scenic 7 Byway
Jasper, Arkansas is located right on the Scenic 7 Byway. This route was the first nationally recognized scenic byway in the state of Arkansas.
It actually traverses 290 miles north and south across almost the entire state. The byway crosses through 4 of the states geographical regions as it makes its way from near El Dorado, Arkansas in the south all the way up to to Harrison, Arkansas in the north.
The section of the Scenic 7 Byway near Jasper is particularly stunning as well as steep and winding.
The 7 Byway is popular with both motorcyclists and drivers.
Overlooks on the Arkansas Grand Canyon
As you drive the Scenic 7 Byway you will see a couple of overlooks for the Arkansas Grand Canyon. It may not be as deep as the one out west but it is a beautiful place. Definitely make a stop and enjoy the views!
The Cliff House Inn and Restaurant which was mentioned above is an excellent restaurant with views of this canyon, but there are other stops including a tower that you can climb for even better views.
TIP: Because most of the overlooks face east the Grand Canyon is particularly beautiful at sunrise!
You cannot miss Boxley Valley if you are staying in Jasper, Arkansas. In my opinion, a drive through Boxley Valley is one of the premiere Arkansas experiences.
The valley is a serene area where you will see structures built by the original settlers. This includes homesteads, beautiful old barns and even the Boxley gristmill. (which is only open during ranger led tours)
Boxley Valley is the perfect place for photographers who love to take photos of barns and other structures in a gorgeous bucolic setting with mountains in the background.
Boxley Valley is also one of the best places to see elk!
Yes, there are elk in Arkansas! In fact, Newton County has been designated the elk capital of Arkansas.
Elk were originally part of the wildlife of Arkansas but were wiped out in the pioneer and early settlement days.
In 1981 the elk were reintroduced to the area and the first calf was born in 1982. Since then, the elk have thrived and it is estimated that the herd is now approximately 500 elk.
The elk have free range but you can often spot them in Boxley Valley along highways 43 and 21. There are many pull offs along the road where people park and then stand at the fence line to watch for the elk coming out of the woods to feed in the fields.
Autumn is a great time to see the elk especially at dawn and dusk. They put on an extra show because it’s rutting season and bull elk have large antlers to show off to their cow elk, other bulls, and you.
We were lucky to see a herd of elk at the Steel Creek Campground when we were visiting the area in the fall. They were there right at sunrise.
Ponca Nature Center
If you want to learn more about the elk in Arkansas stop by the Ponca Nature Center! Here you can learn more about learn more about this animals’ recovery, biology and history.
There are also plenty of other exhibits that will help you learn more about the flora and fauna of the Ozark Mountains.
Hiking Near Jasper, Arkansas
Do be aware that “near” and “x number of miles” can be misleading when driving the winding roads of the Ozark Mountains. You may have to drive a while to arrive at the trailheads of some of these various hiking locations.
I am not going to go into detail on this post about each of these hikes so I do suggest that you check each one before you go to determine if it is too strenuous for your abilities.
The Tim Ernst Arkansas hiking book is basically the bible for Arkansas Hikers and I highly suggest getting it if you plan to do much hiking in the Ozark Mountains.
I have provided the Amazon link but you can also find his books at many local bookstores and gift shops.
I also like to use the AllTrails app.
- Round Top Mountain Trail is one of the closest hikes to Jasper and has beautiful vistas.
- Triple Falls Trail will make you feel like you are in a tropical paradise when the water is flowing. Do know that there won’t always be three falls here are it is rain dependent. The hike is short but the drive is down and then back up a very steep dirt/gravel road incline so choose your vehicle appropriately.
- Hammerschmidt Falls is another shorter trail with a pretty pay-off at the end.
- Hemmed in Hollow is one of the toughest and steepest hikes on this list if you are hiking to it from the trailhead. However, it can also be approached from the river enabling floaters to more easily experience this gorgeous waterfall.
- Hawksbill Crag (aka Whitaker Point Trail) is probably the most photographed hike in Arkansas. It is a bit of a drive from Jasper, but is considered to be one of the best hikes in the state.
- Pedestal Rocks Loop has some of the most unique rock formations!
- Steel Creek is, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful camping sites in Arkansas and the Steel Creek Overlook is one of the most gorgeous places to view the Buffalo River from up high.
- Kyle’s Landing
- Centerpoint to Goat Trail is another tough hike with some of the most stunning scenery in the state. This one is definitely not for children or for those with a fear of heights.
Lost Valley isn’t a long hike and it isn’t a difficult hike, but it is in my top three favorite hikes in the natural state. I would say that a visit to Lost Valley is a must do when are are visiting Jasper, Arkansas and the Ozark Mountains.
There is a nice parking area and the trail is pretty easy but there are some amazing sights along the way. These include a stream, a natural bridge, a huge bluff shelter, Eden falls, and even a cave that you can enter that has a waterfall inside. Bring a flashlight if you plan to do a little spelunking!
Most of all the area is simply stunning. Eden Falls is aptly named. You will feel as if you are in the garden of Eden.
CLOSED: I am mentioning these caverns because the sign for Mystic Caverns still exists but they are currently not open. I wouldn’t want anyone to be disappointed.
I do try to keep all of my blog posts updated so please let me know if you hear that the cavern will be reopening.
You might be interested in our list of caves in Arkansas, many of which are in the Northwest Arkansas area.
Where to Stay in Jasper, Arkansas
Some of the links below may be affiliate links. If you book through the link I may earn a small commission but there is never any extra charge to you.
Most of the accommodations in Jasper are small motels, inns or cabins which can be rented through Airbnb or VRBO.
Here are some great ones:
Waterfall WIlderness Retreat:
Do you have an all wheel or 4 wheel drive vehicle and want to stay near a gorgeous waterfall? Take a look at the Waterfall Wilderness Retreat. This is seclusion with a spring fed stream. You have got to see this gorgeous location!
Unbelievable Views at Scenic Ridge
This is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Ozarks. The views are stunning from Scenic Ridge. Enjoy your morning coffee from the gorgeous deck or watch the stars in the evening from a bubbling hot tub.
Brick House off the square
If you want to be right off the square in downtown Jasper, Arkansas then check out the BrickHouse off the Square.
Only one mile from Jasper is this beautiful B & B cabin. It has everything you need for a mountaintop retreat and more. It will sleep 8 and has a wonderful view from the upstairs deck.
Cliff House Inn
We mentioned above The Cliff House Inn above when we were talking about restaurants in Jasper. In addition to the restaurant they also have rooms at the inn and some cabins.
We hope that this helps you plan your perfect Ozark Mountain trip to Jasper, Arkansas! Life is better in the Ozarks.