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— As a follow up to spending my anniversary weekend at deer camp, my husband recently took me to Paris. No, it wasn’t Paris, France, but still a nice trip and one I highly recommend, especially if you have not had a chance to experience the bird’s-eye views from the top of Mount Magazine.

After our visit I concluded that we have saved some of the best for last as we finish up our year-long quest to travel to each of the 52 state parks in Arkansas.

Mount Magazine, located near Paris, is the highest point in Arkansas, rising 2,753 feet above sea level. It is sometimes referred to as “an island in the sky” because it sits so far above the valleys surrounding it. Because of the high elevation, temperatures can be up to 15 degrees cooler near the top of the mountain, making it an especially inviting destination in the hot summertime.

The scenic views must be some of the most beautiful landscapes in the state, however, the park offers much more. A large visitor’s center with several interactive displays assists those who wish to understand more about the mountain. A very nice lodging facility awaits those who enjoy creature comforts. And, opportunities are also available for many different outdoor activities and adventures.

The Lodge at Mount Magazine is a beautiful mountain lodge that opened only three years ago. It sits near the summit and offers all the amenities needed for a fun and comfortable stay, including a restaurant, indoor swimming pool, fitness center, meeting rooms and more. A massive stone fireplace welcomes visitors in the sitting area of the lobby and makes it possible to enjoy both the cozy warmth of the fire and the awesome view through the many windows at the same time. Venturing onto the large patio/terrace out back, however, offers an even more spectacular look at the vista below. It overlooks a view of Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake that stretches to the horizon. This spot provides a very popular backdrop for wedding ceremonies.

For those who wish to enjoy a bit more rustic stay, fully equipped cabins are available for rent, as well as campsites with full hookups. Several hiking trails throughout the park range from less than one mile to over nine miles in length and accommodate both “slackpackers” and backpackers. (In case you are wondering, “slackpackers” are those who, like myself, enjoy walking in the woods but prefer to end the day in a comfortable bed with a hot shower available, whereas real “backpackers” don’t mind truly “roughing it.”)

The park also offers access to the 34-mile-long multi-use Huckleberry Mountain Trail which meanders through the adjoining national forest. In addition to hiking, this trail can be used for horseback riding and mountain biking. Road cycling is allowed throughout the park, with bike lanes designated on paved roads.

For very adventurous, brave hearted visitors, Mount Magazine State Park includes a launch site for hang gliding. Although not my cup of tea, sailing like a hawk off the mountain top would, no doubt, be an exhilarating way to experience the scenery below.

Another interesting and unique feature of the mountain is the many species of butterflies that are attracted by the unique habitat created by the geography and climate of the region. Visitors are encouraged to help supply data by picking up a checklist to record butterfly sightings while at the park. Because of the abundance of butterflies on the mountain, it is the chosen location for the annual International Butterfly Festival. Enthusiasts gather from many states, as well as from different countries, for the yearly festival held each summer.

No matter your fancy, this place seems to have something for everyone. Unless your heart is set on seeing the Eiffel tower, a trip to Mount Magazine State Park in Paris, Ark., won’t be a disappointment.

More information about the park is available at www.mountmagazinestatepark.com.

Opinion, Pages 5 on 12/02/2009

Print Headline: A Walk in the Park On Top of the World at Paris

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