Drive along just about any road in Arkansas on a warm and sunny day, and you’ll see motorcycles of all types and sizes. Cruisers, dual-sport bikes, dirt bikes, Harleys, Hondas, Yamahas … and the list goes on. The lure of seeing Arkansas’ beautiful landscape on two or three wheels is so strong that motorcycling, or “wind therapy” as bikers call it, has its own official state tourism guide.
“What’s really impressive to me is the sheer growth of riders in the state in recent years,” said Jim Dailey, tourism director for Arkansas. “For instance, Fayetteville’s annual Bikes, Blues and BBQ rally now brings 350,000 riders to the city. That makes it the third-largest bike event in the nation after Daytona Bike Week and Sturgis. Yet rallies don’t have to be that huge to make a difference — anytime a city like Fort Smith, Eureka Springs or Harrison hosts a rally, all those bikers bring a significant boost to the local economy.”
The motorcycling guide is available online at www.arkansas.com and at local outlets across the state. While riding routes, both paved and unpaved, are the major focus of the guide, you can also learn about places to eat and stay, sites to see and repair shops if your bike has a mechanical problem. And if you are looking for a rally, ride or festival, the 2018 Arkansas Motorcycling Guide has it all.
Hit the road
Get your motor runnin’ on that Harley-Davidson Road Glide or Honda Gold Wing and head for an adventure. Here are a few of the 2018 Arkansas Motorcycling Guide’s most popular routes.
Pig Trail Scenic Byway/Side trip to Oark: At the top of the guide’s list is Arkansas 23 north of Interstate 40, known best as the “Pig Trail.” This 23-mile route from I-40 to Brashears at the junction of Arkansas 16 was recently named the top motorcycle ride in the nation by USA Today readers. On this ride, motorcyclists will encounter challenging switchbacks, as well as beautiful Ozark Mountain scenery and the historic community of Oark.
Arkansas Scenic 7 Byway: This scenic route crosses the Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges, the Arkansas River Valley and southern Arkansas. It includes curves, twists and switchbacks, as well as more relaxing sections. Along this route is Hot Springs National Park, one of the nation’s top resorts.
Mount Magazine/Wine Country Loop: This route has 10 miles of hairpin curves covered with canopies of trees. It starts at Arkansas 309 at Havana and winds its way to the top of Mount Magazine, the highest peak in the state at 2,753 feet. At the top of the mountain is a state park with a lodge, restaurant and cabins. This loop also includes routes through the Arkansas Wine Country located in the Arkansas River Valley and Petit Jean Valley.
Talimena National Scenic Byway: Start at Arkansas 88 at Mena and climb the winding road with tight curves to the top of Rich Mountain, the state’s second-highest peak at 2,681 feet. Plan to stay the night at Queen Wilhelmina State Park’s lodge or have lunch in the restaurant. The guide notes that while the route provides beautiful scenery year-round, it is best known for its “flaming autumn foliage.”
Camden Campaign: Described in the guide as “a winding expedition through the heart of Arkansas’ timberland,” this route takes the rider along U.S. 278 from Camden, known for its Civil War history, to Warren, the “Pink Tomato Capital of the World” and then on to Fordyce, the hometown of the famous Alabama football Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. If you take the alternate route on Arkansas 189, you will pass through Kingsland, the birthplace of Johnny Cash, the legendary musician.
Petit Jean Mountain Climb: This 145-mile loop includes a trip to the top of Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas’ first state park. It includes portions of Arkansas 154, 7, 9 and 5.
Crowley’s Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway: The guide describes this route as “an easy journey across fertile plains and through lush timberland.” The focal point is Crowley’s Ridge, a rare geological formation that rises up from the Arkansas Delta. The byway runs across the ridge, alongside and even through the middle of it. The ride “is technically easy” and the roads are at points “very winding and scenic,” the guide says.
The guide also highlights several off-road routes for dirt bikes or dual-sport bikes, which can traverse either paved or unpaved roads.
Riders on a tree-lined road near Scott
Bikes, Blues and BBQ: The largest charitable bike rally in the U.S., the name says it all. Sept. 26-29, 2018, Fayetteville. bikesbluesandbbq.org
Hot Springs Open Rally: Central Arkansas’ largest annual motorcycle rally, with two poker runs, a parade and more. Sept. 6-8, 2018, Hot Springs. thehotspringsrally.com
Ride the Ozarks Rally: Guided rides through the Ozarks, poker run, vendors, beer garden and free live entertainment. Oct. 5-6, 2018, Harrison. ridetheozarksrally.com
Twin Lakes Thunder Rally: Breathtaking views, vendors, games, live bands, primitive camping and guided rides. Oct. 26-28, 2018, Mountain Home. twinlakesthunder.com
Steel Horse Rally: Tens of thousands of bikers attend. Includes a pro-am dirt bike race at Tri-State Speedway. May 3-4, 2019, Fort Smith. thesteelhorserally.com