Thanks to its location in the Ozark Mountains, Fayetteville is surrounded by outdoor beauty, which makes for spectacular cycling, river floats, hiking trails and pretty much everything you like to do in nature. This also includes scenic car and motorcycle rides, as Northwest Arkansas is home to some of the most memorable backroads and highways in the country.
While Fayetteville is filled with trails, parks and green spaces that allow you to enjoy the outdoors inside the city, within minutes from Fayetteville are iconic winding roads featuring breathtaking scenery of the Ozarks. It’s why so many people visit Fayetteville more than once a year, because the scenery changes with the seasons.
In the spring and summer, rides around Fayetteville are filled with an array of green hues, which become vibrant fall foliage in October and November. You’ll pass farms and old barns still standing from the region’s more rustic days. The area is interspersed with valleys and overlooks that are wonderful to take in whether it’s sunny or overcast, and especially if it’s foggy!
Bridges cross rivers, creeks and branches ideal for fishing. The sweet smell of the countryside and its regional wildflowers make driving with the windows down an even more memorable experience. Jettisoning rock formations reveal the mountain range’s ancient age, and small town stores scattered throughout the area are filled with hidden treasures.
Here are a few fun routes to get you started. (During the COVID-19 pandemic, please make sure any businesses listed are open.)
Fayetteville to Osage — 50 miles
From Fayetteville, take East Mission to U.S. Highway 412 and keep heading east. Along the way, you will cross over three iconic Northwest Arkansas streams: the White River near Goshen, War Eagle Creek near Huntsville and Kings River near Marble.
For a real Ozarks treat, plan on stopping at Osage Clayworks in Osage, which specializes in handmade pottery and offers demonstrations of their ceramic process. Located in the former Stamps General Store Building built in 1901, the store is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Each piece of pottery is handmade, fired at the store and unique with its own style.
On the way back, stop at Saddlebock Brewery between Goshen and Fayetteville, off Habberton Road. It is one of 15 stops on the Fayetteville Ale Trail, a self-guided tour that gives visitors a glimpse into the unique craft brewery and cider culture of Northwest Arkansas. Located on the shores of the White River, Saddlebock is known for its European-style beers. Food is available if you’re starting to get hungry!
Fayetteville to Ozark — 60 miles
If you’ve never taken the Pig Trail Scenic Byway, you have to! With its many steep inclines and hairpin curves, driving the Pig Trail may be likened to riding a rollercoaster. This scenic byway is a popular route for Razorback fans heading to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville for sporting events.
From Fayetteville, take MLK Jr. Boulevard / East Huntsville Road toward Brashears and head south on State Highway 23. Trees crowd the roadside, and the Pig Trail often runs through a tunnel of foliage during spring, summer and fall. Spring wildflowers and brilliant autumn foliage make the scenic route especially popular during those seasons of the year, whether you ride or drive.
If you find yourself needing to get back in a hurry, from Ozark you can always head west on Interstate 40 and take Interstate 49 north instead. In fact, the overviews on I-49 are some of the most breathtaking views in the region.
Fayetteville to Alma — 48 miles
Two roadways between Fayetteville and Alma make up the Boston Mountain Scenic Loop: I-49 and U.S. Highway 71 (that runs just east the interstate). The Boston Mountains are a subsection of the Ozarks, and they are home to some of the highest points in the mountain range — which includes some of the most amazing views!
Since the opening of this stretch of I-49 a little more than 20 years ago, Scenic Highway 71 has become a renowned ride for experienced cyclists, because it’s in great condition with not a lot of traffic, and because it includes several “categorized climbs” that are challenging without being too intimidating. So, please be mindful of cyclists and share the road. :)
If you take Highway 71, we recommend stopping at Artist Point. Along with the view (that will make for the perfect selfie), you’re sure to love all the homemade goodies in the souvenir shop: fudge, jams, jellies, butters, etc. If you have time — especially if you like to hike — we also recommend heading into Devil’s Den State Park on the west side of I-49 near Winslow.
Fayetteville to Siloam Springs — 28 miles
From Fayetteville, head west on West Wedington Drive. This drive will actually take you through the Ozark National Forest, which was created in 1908 by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt. The forest is home to over 500 species of trees and woody plants. Hardwoods, predominantly oak and hickory, comprise the majority of the forest.
Lake Wedington Recreation Area is located 13 miles west of Fayetteville. Along with fishing on the 102-acre lake, the campground features a lakeshore hiking trail and the North Twin 7-mile hiking and mountain biking trail.
At Siloam Springs, we recommend going to the Historic Downtown and shopping on Main Street, which is full of classic antiques, bath and kitchen stores, boutiques and more. We also recommend stopping by Ivory Bill Brewing, another stop on the Fayetteville Ale Trail. Housed in a 1930s Pontiac dealership, the brewspace and taproom embrace the building’s industrial aesthetic while inviting the warmth of conversation that comes around good, honest pints.