Ascent of Magazine Mountain on 2014-06-05

Climber: David Odenwalder

Date:Thursday, June 5, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Magazine Mountain
    Elevation:2753 ft / 839 m

Ascent Trip Report

I took advantage of business travel to Oklahoma City, and drove across the state line to Arkansas to bag Magazine Mountain High Point. Actually - as the signs and literature at the state park indicate - the real summit is Signal Hill, a small mound on the larger complex known as Magazine Mountain. The mountain appears to be somewhat of a plateau, at least a couple of miles long on top. The literature also notes that this is NOT the highest point between the Appalachians and Rockies, as some have claimed. It is, however the highest point in the middle part of the US, until you start to get into the high plains headed toward the west. It is considered part of the River Valley section of Arkansas, between the Ozarks and the Ouachita Mountains - but slightly surpasses both of these highlands to be Arkansas' high point.

I chose Arkansas, because it was a considerably shorter drive from OKC, than Black Mesa - in fact, it was closer than any other state high point. And I had never set foot in AR before, so I bagged another state as well (43 in all). I drove I-40 - I think OK's only non-toll highway - to Fort Smith, then about half an hour further until exit 35 (near the town of Ozark). That seems to be the easiest approach from the west. A small jog in the town, over the Arkansas River bridge, another 20 miles on back country roads, and then start up the mountain. The road is well-marked, and not at all difficult to navigate from the freeway. I enjoyed the backwoods, small-town atmosphere driving toward Magazine Mountain.

The drive to the top is about 20 minutes or so from the town of Paris, maybe that much again from Ozark. There is a visitors' center about halfway up the mountain - but it was closed when I passed by. I was scrambling to make it up the mountain before dark. (Did not make it in time.) By the time I scouted out the place, night had fallen. I decided - given the uncertainty of my schedule (a long drive and a noon flight from OKC), that I'd better plan to summit that night, in the dark. The half-moon was helpful, and the trail was reasonably easy to follow. I wasn't too concerned about getting lost, because a road rings the entire summit.

As others have noted, the trail head is across from cabin 5, on the east side of the lodge - maybe 100 yards from the large lodge complex. The trail wraps about 3/4 of the way counterclockwise around Summit Hill. I'd say half a mile each way is about correct - about 20-30 minutes RT, at a pretty easy pace. Maybe 100-200 feet elevation gain from the lodge, so not difficult at all. The trail is in pretty good condition. If one decides to tackle it at night, though, it would pay to bring a flashlight.

It was too dark for photos, so I returned to my car in the lodge parking lot. The lodge room rates were steep (well over $100 a night for one). And I thought it ridiculous to pay $20 to set up a tent, especially since I had to leave very early in the morning, and a huge storm was brewing to the west. So I spent a rather uncomfortable night in the car. I woke up at 5:15 - and had enough time to re-summit and take a few pictures, before heading back to OKC.

The top is fairly flat, and surrounded by forest - so no grand vistas from that point on the mountain (some nicer overlooks near the ring road). There are other trails, if you have time to hike them. One is a nature trail that identifies the local flora as it winds its way to the top. You can get a brochure in the lodge. The large map on top of the hill is not one giant stone, as I had surmised - but rather a bunch of smaller stones mortared together to create the shape of Arkansas, with its six natural regions in different colors/types of rock. A small mound marks the point on the map corresponding to Signal Hill/Magazine Mountain. If you look around, though, there are several large boulders, just yards away, that appear to be higher than the mound on the map. So if you are very nit-picky - you might want to stand on each one to make sure you got the actual high point. (I didn't have any surveying equipment with me, so I can't give any advice.)

I encountered at least a dozen deer grazing on the side of the road on the way up/down. In fact, I came too close for comfort to hitting one standing in the middle of the road - so one should be careful in driving, especially in the early morning or evening hours.

Overall a pretty place, and a nice exposure to the "Natural State" and its beauties, but definitely a "walk in the park", unless one elects to start from way down the mountain.
Summary Total Data
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail

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