The whole world is constantly on the go without taking any time to hang back and enjoy the finer things in life. Let Mother Nature whisk you away from the daily routine you’ve unwittingly crafted over the years and guide you to Ozark National Forest in Northern Arkansas, the site of the renowned Backwoods Music Festival. This easygoing festival in Middle America keeps the world from spinning too fast, providing an unforgettable experience across Mulberry Mountain’s 650 acres.
Many festivals have grand beginnings where tens of thousands of festies descend upon their grounds for the inaugural year. And then there’s Backwoods, which started back in 2007 when founder Trevor Lane retreated to the woods with a guitar and a group of twenty friends. That’s a normal day for an average group of friends who love music and nature, but this small, musical gathering eventually snowballed into a national event. In 2008, the festival, then known as Backwoods Bash, kicked things off in the small town of Prue, Oklahoma, before moving 60 miles south to The Tatanka Ranch in Stroud, and then finally settling on Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas.
The lodging, camping and event resort rests at about 2100 feet above sea level. While this isn’t sky-high like other mountainous regions, it still provides breathtaking views of Ozark National Forest. Once the home of the beloved, now-defunct Wakarusa festival, this spacious venue offers all kinds of outdoorsy fun including camping, hiking, canoeing, fishing and many other recreational activities throughout the year. Ozark’s natural beauty will serve as the backdrop to your festival adventures at Backwoods. Because this is also a camping festival, you won’t have to leave all that beauty behind as soon as the sun goes down.
Music is at the heart of the Backwoods experience, which has evolved over time to earn its reputation as a crossover festival. You’d think a music festival in Arkansas would be overrun by twangy bluegrass groups, but Backwoods doesn’t exclude more contemporary genres from its lineup. Instead, the organizers work hard to whip up a diverse cast of independent and nationally acclaimed acts – Big Gigantic, Infected Mushroom, and Nahko and Medicine for the People have performed in previous years – that dabble in bluegrass, jam, funk, reggae and electronic genres. This kind of variety guarantees that no one will be left unsatisfied more than 2100 feet above sea level.
The stage that a band plays on is just as much a part of the act as the members themselves. Backwoods doesn’t shoehorn a quartet on a lifeless, wooden platform and call it a day; each stage is designed with its own theme that complements the music with captivating imagery, intense lighting and sound systems. The unique aesthetic amplifies the artists’ performance to further engage the audience beyond standing in one spot and swaying side to side. These next-level stage designs have become a staple of the Backwoods experience that continues to up the ante each year.
While music is the main focus of the festival, Mulberry Mountain is chock-full of exciting surprises to round out the Backwoods experience. The woods are complete with elaborate, mind-blowing art installations created by esteemed artists. Rather than sitting idly, each piece is designed to be interactive and encourages its audience to express their individuality. Past editions have seen colorful mazes, secret passages and other magical creations throughout the forest.
As mentioned above, Mulberry Mountain is a year-round resort that offers many recreational activities. You can take full advantage of the region’s numerous hiking trails, the gorgeous Mulberry River, or just kick back and breathe in all the fresh air. If you want an even better view from above without having to climb up another mountain, you can ride to the top of a Ferris wheel or go on a helicopter ride for panoramic views of festival and the Ozarks.