I was returning home to Missouri after a Christmas trip to the southland, so I decided to "bag" Mount Magazine in Arkansas, weather permitting, on the way. The previous day I had "bagged" Driskill Mountain in Louisiana.
I left El Dorado, Ark., early in the morning and, driving though a steady rain, reached Mount Magazine by late morning. The drive up State Road 309 from Havana is very scenic, rising about 1500 feet in 10 miles, as you climb above the Petit Jean River valley. A short paved spur from 309 takes you near the summit. Fortunately it stopped raining as I approached the top. I saw a sign for the trailhead and parked across the road. According to a message posted on the trailhead sign it's about half a mile and 150 vertical feet to the summit.
On the way up I met a family of four coming down, but saw no one else while I was there. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow. At the summit there is the usual sign and box containing a registration notebook. There's not much of a view, though, even during leaf-off, but the drive up to and around the summit has many spectacular views. There appear to be several trails that reach the summit, and a campground is nearby.
It was windy and cold at the top, and I was glad that I wore a hooded parka for the brief (10 minutes) climb to the summit. It was my 14th state high point.
Did Magazine Mountain today. Visited originally in 1997. The State Park system has a done a great job of improving the site. They have a great visitor center - they sold Don Holmes' book in the souvenior shop. There is construction going on near the trailhead parking lot. The ranger said a "lodge" is being built at the site that overlooks the river valley.
In addition to Magazine, we also did some short, not so strenuous hikes of Hawksbill Crag (Whitaker Point) & Kings River Falls up in the Boston Mountains. There was another couple hiking from the DFW Metroplex & some folks from Mississippi at the Crag. We had the falls to ourselves - needless to say, we didn't want to get our clothes wet...
Mount Magazine was my first HP and still is my favorite, so naturally I visit it often and always sign the register. As of this post, I live under 40 air miles from it in Russellville, about an hour-plus drive from the trailhead. I first visited the highpoint of my state back in the early 90's when Magazine's trails were rough, slippage was more common, and tree markings kept you on the narrow path. A business card I noticed from a California tour group left at the trailhead registration box (now at the HP) was my first introduction to highpointers as a group. There are three trails to the HP from the paved road which encircles Signal Hill. Each trail is about a half-mile long with an elevation change around 170'. Depending on the time of year, you'll encounter many plant species, many that may be blooming or prevalent should be noted on the Signal Hill (south trail) trailhead bulletin board as these are regularly updated. The summit is heavily forested, so winter happens to be my favorite season to visit with no leaves and a much easier view, including the nearby tower farm on Electronic Drive. Keep in mind during winter it can snow several inches in the park, yet the nearby valleys may get little to no frozen precipitation, and the south Signal Mountain trail can retain traces of snow even weeks after the rest of the area has melted off. That can be a real photo op, but a slippery trek.
The times have really changed and the State of Arkansas in partnership with the USFS have made superb improvements to the trails and HP itself with the large stone 13' long Arkansas map dedicated in 2003, and is presently building an awesome lodge to replace the original which burned down in 1971. Fire protection was the primary concern to keep another from being built. With that resolved, the new lodge will be the largest in the state system and loftiest around 2600' with 60 rooms, each with a southern view into nearby Yell County, and trail access to the HP is nearby. (Rich Mountain's Queen Wilhemina lodge, another State Park run facility near Arkansas' second-highest point in Polk County WNW of Mena is near 2550' according to my GPS, and is definitely worth a visit when their buffet is open, call them in advance for availability. Presently, they have the highest-elevated restaurant and lodge in the state with enjoyable views, particularly in autumn.)
There are many campsites in the park, and HP'ers wanting to camp may call the Mount Magazine Park Office at 479-963-8502 to get more info. For those who have visited before, I'm sure you'll agree Don and his staff have put a lot of effort into the park thus far, but the best is yet to come. Finally, don't forget the annual Butterfly Festival usually held in June. (contact the Park for next dates) Even if you miss the event, if you happen to visit the HP during the hottest part of summer during late July and into August, you should notice large numbers of different butterfly species close to and at the summit, with many wildflowers that the Mountain's elevated microclimate help to thrive. Don't forget to bring along your camera!
As long as I live in the region, I intend to facilitate highpointers in this forum with communication received from the park, either from Don or Ranger Doug, especially such that concerns access to the HP atop Signal Hill or the time the new lodge is completed and ready for dedication, so far expected in Spring 2006. I intend to make highpointer conferences as I have time and resources and am proud to serve as Arkansas Liaison. If you want to write, e-mail is usually checked daily: cxdomains at yahoo dot com.
It is a bit surprising to me that this web site has taken to calling the highest point of Arkansas "Mount Magazine". The Geograpic Names Index System (GNIS) of the USGS indicates that the official name of this feature is "Magazine Mountain", not "Mount Magazine", and that is the name that appears on USGS maps.
Although not a hard and fast rule, generally "Mount Xxxxx" is used for a peak, and "Xxxx Mountain" is more frequently used for ridges, which better describes this feature. Magazine Mountian appears in the GNIS as a ridge, with Signal Hill identified as its summit. "Mount Magazine" is the name used by the Arkansas state park, which no doubt has led to the widespread use of the unofficial name for the mountain, but it is not the officially accepted name.
All four of the guidebooks published to date on the subject of state highpoints have used the correct nomenclature.
I'm working on correcting this for entries in such places as Summitpost.org and Wikipedia. I think web sites associated with Highpointers should do the same.