According to the Arkansas Department of Transportation there are 12 designated scenic byways in the state of which Mount Magazine Scenic Byway is one. This road is also called Arkansas State Highway 309.
There is a long list of criteria that an Arkansas highway must meet in order to become a designated scenic byway. One of these criteria is: “the route’s corridor must contain abundant scenic, cultural, recreational, and/or historic qualities that would be of interest to tourists.”
I think Mount Magazine Scenic Byway certainly fits that bill!
It is both a lovely and an easy drive.
The Towns that Anchor the Mount Magazine Scenic Byway
Mount Magazine Scenic Byway runs between the towns of Paris, Arkansas and Havana, Arkansas. It crosses Mount Magazine which is the highest point in the state at 2,753 feet.
By the way the towns of Paris and Havana are nothing like their namesakes!
Paris, Arkansas is called “the gateway to Mount Magazine.”
This a town that played an important role in the mining industry in Arkansas. It was once a bustling place and boasts a town square centered by a lovely Georgian style red brick courthouse built in 1880.
As in so many small southern towns many of the shops around the town square sit abandoned and empty.
However, you will find some nice and interesting commerce. If you like shoes you will definitely want to stop in Warren’s Shoes. This is a shoe store which started 70 years ago right in Paris. It is very popular in Little Rock and other locations. (And one of our personal favorites!)
In November 2014, an eighteen-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower was dedicated in Paris, with a small park surrounding it. It is located on one of the corners of the town square with a pretty fountain flowing under the small “Eiffel Tower.”
The town of Havana, Arkansas which anchors one end of the Mount Magazine Scenic Byway is a much smaller, mostly rural place with only 300 or so residents.
What Attractions Will You Find Along the Mount Magazine Scenic Byway?
Starting just outside the town square of Paris you turn onto AR 309. The road immediately begins to climb and you will be passing farms, beautiful pastures, and houses with enviable views.
Cove Lake Recreation Area
As the road narrows and begins to gain in elevation you will come to the picturesque Cove Lake and the Cove Lake recreation area. This area surrounds the beautiful 160 acre lake.
You will find some very nice hiking trails here. The Cove Lake Trail is our favorite. It is about 4.4 miles and makes a loop around the lake.
In addition to hiking you can camp, fish, swim, boat, and picnic.
It is a lovely recreational spot.
After a stop at Cove Lake you will drive on across the dam and the road begins to gently climb and wind up the mountain. You will want to stop at the provided lookout points to enjoy the widening view.
The first lookout can be somewhat obscured with tree cover when the leaves are out. The second lookout is especially beautiful and the view is a little more open.
Mount Magazine State Park
At the top of the mountain the road will flatten and you will reach Mount Magazine State Park. The park offers a wide range of amenities; excellent lodging and wonderful vistas.
The Visitor’s Center is a really nice stop. You can pop in and learn about the flora, fauna, geology, and history of the mountain.
Plus…they have very nice bathrooms.
I would definitely recommend a stop at the lodge as well. It has a huge lobby with large windows and gorgeous views into the valley below.
Go out on the back patio and sit in a rocker while you enjoy the breeze, the birds soaring and gliding, and some of the best views in the state.
The lodge also has the SkyCrest restaurant where you can enjoy a meal along with the view.
There are some nice hikes on Mount Magazine as well and you can pick up a brochure at the Visitors center to get more information about those.
Mount Magazine State Park is only one of two of the state parks with areas for hang-gliding. Mount Nebo State Park is the other.
If the winds and weather are right you might even catch some hang gliders leaping off the mountain.
Not for the faint of heart that’s for sure.
Back down the mountain to Havana
After you leave the park you will begin the shorter and steeper drive back down the mountain to the community of Havana.
You will encounter what is, in our opinion, the prettiest of the overlooks just before you leave the state park grounds. Definitely make a stop here!
The rest of the drive down will wind through a heavily forested area with occasional spots where you can see the view.
When the land flattens and becomes pasture you are in Havana and have completed the Mount Magazine Scenic Byway drive
More Information About the Mount Magazine Scenic Byway
The route from Paris to Havana is approximately 28 miles.
The road is all paved and none of it would require a four wheel drive vehicle in normal driving conditions.
I most recently drove Arkansas State Highway 309 on a sunny and warm winter day in January of 2022 and the roads were not in great shape. They were a little rough and pot-holey. (Obviously this observation is subject to change depending on the whims of the Highway Department!)
This was really not a problem at all in a car, but I thought it was worth mentioning for those who might want to ride a motorcycle or pull a camping trailer on the Mount Magazine Scenic Byway.
I hope you enjoy your time on the Mount Magazine Scenic byway in Arkansas!
Thanks for stopping by!