Bucket List Roads: Arkansas Routes 154 & 7 to Hot Springs

Aug 19, 2019 View Comments by

Arkansas Routes 154 & 7 to Hot Springs

Exit I-40 at Morrilton, AR, and follow State Route 9 south to State Route 154 and proceed west. This route claws its way up onto a high plateau, which is named Petit Jean State Park. Visitors are treated to panoramic views of the Arkansas River Valley and the Ozark Mountains in the far distance. At the intersection with State Route 7, riders turn south and follow its serpentine path to Hot Springs, AR. Route 7, with its elevation changes, lush vegetation, and seemingly constant progression of curves, is often found on lists of top motorcycle roads in America.

The Enduring 18th Century Legend of Petit Jean: Petit Jean State Park is dedicated to the remarkable journey and plight of a young Parisian girl. When Adrienne Dumont learned that her fiancé was leaving to explore the New World, she disguised herself as a cabin boy and sailed on the same ship as her betrothed. Her disguise was extraordinarily effective; she was dubbed “Petit Jean” (French for “Little John”) by the crew. After arriving on the location of today’s state park, she fell desperately ill and her true identity was quickly discovered. She begged her fiancé for forgiveness and asked to be buried at a beautiful spot overlooking the river below. As darkness descended on the mountain, she passed away. Many years later a mound of earth was found that was thought to be Petit Jean’s grave, which is how the mountain got its name.

Hot Springs, AR: Naturalist William Dunbar and chemist George Hunter located the legendary “Hot Springs of the Washita” on a suitably cold day in December of 1804. An act of Congress created the Hot Springs Reservation in 1832 and it became a national park in 1921. Imbued with splendid Gilded Age architecture, Bathhouse Row is a National Historic Landmark. The Quapaw Bathhouse, a Spanish Colonial Revival style of building constructed in 1922, is still operating. If time permits, experience the relaxing hot mineral baths in the series of progressively warmer pools; find it at quapawbaths.com.

Arkansas Routes 154 & 7 to Hot Springs

Scenery: In addition to the stunning vistas at Petit Jean State Park, the southward trek on Route 7 envelopes riders in the heavily forested Ouachita Mountains.The historic bathhouses and hotels in Hot Springs are an architectural delight for the eyes. The town’s observation tower affords 360-degree vistas of the gently undulating Ouachita Mountain landscape surrounding Hot Springs.
Curves: Lots of curves, but mostly of the “sweeper” variety.
Traffic: Generally light, but slower vehicles, and more of them, may be encountered on weekends and holidays.
Distance: Approximately 90 miles.
Time Required: Two hours to a half-day, depending on duration of stops.
Technical Difficulty: While this route is appropriate for most skill levels, there are twisty sections and blind curves.

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