Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Beauty is in the eyes of the steering-wheel holder when it comes to exploring the Ozarks’ back-country highways.
Nearly any two-lane route over hill and dale is ripe for a scenic drive. One highway sees little traffic, but offers miles of natural beauty, including Devil’s Den State Park and the Ozark National Forest.
Arkansas 220 runs for 17 miles between Devil’s Den and Arkansas 59 at Cedarville.
In between are miles of twisting, hilly, roadway through the Ozark National Forest on the east and rural countryside on the west. Arkansas 220 crosses lovely Lee Creek as it leaves Devil’s Den. It visits clear-flowing Fall Creek, a tributary of Lee Creek.
From Fayetteville, an enjoyable scenic drive can start by traveling south toward Devil’s Den State Park. Interstate 49 south of Fayetteville and the lesser-traveled U.S. 71 Scenic Byway are both picturesque drives all by themselves.
The tour is ideal for packing a picnic. It’s a good idea to top off the fuel tank. You’re headed into the back country.
From West Fork, head south on Arkansas 170 for about 16 miles. The highway drops down into the state park. Arkansas 220 heads to the right.
Or, drive west from Winslow on Arkansas 74 to Devil’s Den. As the highway enters the park, enjoy switchback turns tight as the bends of a paper clip while driving down the mountainside. Arkansas 220 starts at the west end of the park at its junction with Arkansas 74.
Arkansas 220 heads west on fresh asphalt. It’s flat and fairly straight for the first few miles.
Then the fun starts.
Curves get tighter as the route climbs up and over the Boston Mountains through the Ozark National Forest. Switchbacks and high-country vistas greet back-country drivers.
There’s room to pull off the highway to photograph and explore along Lee Creek and Fall Creek. A big parking area is situated at Fall Creek near some all-terrain vehicle trails in the national forest.
Drivers should be careful at a couple of spots. Part of the highway has recently caved in, but remains passable over one lane on the right. The spot is well marked with orange barrels and barricades.
A landslide has occurred at another spot. The slide could be seen close to the highway during a visit on April 24, but didn’t block what little traffic was on the route.
Driving west, Arkansas 220 leaves the national forest, but the pastoral countryside toward Cedarville keeps the drive pleasant and picturesque.
At Arkansas 59, one option is to head north and visit the Natural Dam waterfall. This eight-foot cascade spills over a wall of rock that appears man-made, but is natural. The waterfall can be seen from the car at the community of Natural Dam along Arkansas 59. Turn west on the paved road. Go about 100 yards, and the waterfall is beside the road.
Or, turn around at Arkansas 59 and drive back on Arkansas 220 to Devil’s Den. There are picnic tables galore for enjoying lunch.
Arkansas 220 is fairly new in the realm of scenic drives. Many of the eastern miles used to be rough, bumpy gravel, said Tim Scott, assistant superintendent at Devil’s Den. Those miles were paved about two years ago, he said. The 17 miles between the park and Arkansas 59 is all pavement.
“It’s a great cycling road, too,” Scott added. “By the time you get to the top your legs are on fire.”
Arkansas 220 is worth the trip, via car, pickup, motorcycle or bicycle.
Ozark National Forest
The Ozark National Forest encompasses 1.2 million acres mainly in the Ozark mountains of north Arkansas. Hiking trails, ATV routes and paved highways lead visitors through the forest. Popular sites for visitors include Alum Cove Natural Bridge, Pedestal Rocks and Lake Wedington.
Source: U.S. Forest Service.