You’ll Love Exploring These Arkansas State Parks

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A man sunset watching at Mount Magazine Park in Arkansas, one of the many state parks

You’ll find out quickly why Arkansas is called The Natural State by spending time at Arkansas state parks. You may know it as home to the Ozarks Mountains and its rejuvenating springs, but there’s so much more to discover. One of the best ways to explore is to spend time at Arkansas’ state parks.

The scenic outdoor beauty is a big part of the appeal. You can hike along mountains and float in the state’s wild, scenic rivers. You can also delve deep into Arkansas’ fascinating history and take a side trip into its burgeoning wine scene.

Are you ready to explore Arkansas’ state parks? Let’s go!

How Many State Parks Are In Arkansas?

Arkansas has 52 state parks. The Mississippi River forms the state’s eastern boundary. That’s where you’ll find the Upper Delta and Lower Delta regions and their unique recreational opportunities.

The large Northwest quadrant is home to the Ozarks and the Buffalo National River, and other scenic waterways.

The Southwest region has the Ouachita Mountains and famous hot springs. On our tour of the best Arkansas State Parks, we’ll also uncover jewels of the Central and North-Central regions.

Overlooking mountains covered in green trees in an Arkansas State park

10 Arkansas State Parks That You Have to Visit

We’re not saying the other 42 Arkansas state parks aren’t worth visiting. These are the top ten for their uniqueness and level of comfort. Together, they should give you a pretty complete picture of Arkansas’ distinctive beauty and rich history.

1. Lake Ouachita State Park

Address: 5451 Mountain Pine Rd, Mountain Pine, AR 71956

Our first stop is on the northeastern shore of Arkansas’ biggest lake. It’s just 70 miles from the capital of Little Rock and 16 miles from Hot Springs.

You can enjoy a soothing hot springs experience at Three Sisters Springs inside the park. Camp alongside the 40,000-acre Lake Ouachita and enjoy the old-growth beauty of Ouachita National Forest.

Do some boating, swimming, skiing, diving, or drop a line for bass, bream, perch, and catfish. A highlight for hikers is the Caddo Bend Trail, which loops around a scenic waterfront peninsula. 

Amenities: There are 93 campsites here, some with full hookups, as well as cabins for rent. Campsite features are minimal, with fire rings and picnic tables, but there are restrooms with showers.

There are also beaches and playgrounds, and the marina rents watercraft. Cell service is poor, but the visitor center has free Wi-Fi.

A view of Lake Ouachita State Park in Arkansas

2. Petit Jean State Park

Address: 1285 Petit Jean Mountain Rd, Morrilton, AR 72110

This park is in the Arkansas River Valley northwest of Little Rock and east of Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge. It’s along the historic Trail of Tears, the route that Native Americans took on their forced migration to Oklahoma.

These 3,400 acres of mountaintop property are so gorgeous that they became Arkansas’ first state park in 1923. There are stunning views of the bluffs and canyons, as well as Lake Bailey. Many of the park’s improvements date to the CCC era of the 1930s.

Natural features include Bear Cave and the spellbinding Cedar Falls, with its 95-foot drop. Stout’s Point offers an overhead view of part of the Trail of Tears. 

Amenities: The park has 125 RV campsites, 35 of which have full hookups. It’s big rig friendly, with some pull-thru sites. Many sites are lakeside and have shade from tall pines.

You can also rent rustic cabins built by the CCC. The park has picnic areas, pavilions, playgrounds, two swimming pools, a tennis court, and a basketball court.

3. Mount Nebo State Park

Address: 16728 State Hwy 155, Dardanelle, AR 72834

Just 30 miles to the west, this park offers another mountaintop and lakeside experience. It’s closer to Arkansas’ Wine Country, just 45 minutes away. 

At 1,250 feet above the valley, Mount Nebo is about 230 feet taller than Petit Jean. This was the second Arkansas state park, established in 1928 on land previously for a resort. The views from the peak are spectacular, and there are also 14 miles of trails for hikers and mountain bikers. 

Amenities: Mount Nebo has 34 campsites with partial hookups (no sewer) and ten primitive tent sites that are hike-in only. There are CCC-era cabins for rent, many updated with modern conveniences.

There’s also a lodge on-site, a restaurant, picnic areas, pavilions, a swimming pool, and tennis courts. There’s no dump station, and this park limits rig size to 24 feet.

4. Mammoth Spring State Park

Address: 17 US Hwy 63, Mammoth Spring, AR 72554

Not all of the springs in Arkansas are thermal. This park’s calling card is the 58-degree water spews nine million gallons an hour. It’s in northern Arkansas near the Missouri line.

All that water constantly flowing from the ground in Mammoth Spring means almost endless recreational opportunities, including world-class trout fishing.

You can camp right on Spring River or along the 10-acre lake. Rent a pedal boat or kayak, or launch your own. Make time to visit the nearby Frisco train depot and museum and a fish hatchery specializing in striped bass. 

Amenities:  The campground closed a few years ago, but there are other accommodations nearby. It’s a beautiful place to spend the day. The day-use amenities include a playground for the kids, a scenic picnic area, and a kid-friendly walking path.

5. Mountain Magazine State Park

Address: 577 Lodge Dr, Paris, AR 72855

This park has the state’s highest peak at 2,753 feet above the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. It’s about 50 miles from Russellville and a few miles farther from Fort Smith.

Mount Magazine is a top destination for rock climbers and hang gliders. You can also exert yourself with other outdoor activities like mountain biking, ATV riding, and backpacking. If you’re the leisurely type, enjoy the views from scenic overlooks or the spacious, comfortable lodge. 

Amenities: The campground has 18 RV sites, two with full hookups and some for tents only. You can also rent cabins with up to three bedrooms. They have kitchens and outdoor decks with hot tubs. For an even more luxurious stay, the lodge has 60 guest rooms and a restaurant.

Keep in Mind: Before visiting any of these Arkansas parks, consider stopping by Hot Springs, Arkansas!

View of Mountain Magazine State Park in Arkansas, one of the many state parks

6. Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Address: 3877 AR-88, Mena, AR 71953

This park in southwestern Arkansas was named for the queen of the Netherlands when the original hotel was built, as the owners were Dutch and wanted to honor her. It’s right on the route of the 54-mile Talimena National Scenic Byway.

It’s the site of Rich Mountain, which at 2,681 feet is the state’s second-highest peak. A modern lodge stands on the site of a former resort called “Castle in the Sky.”

It has 40 rooms, and its Queen Restaurant serves hospitality along with Southern-style cuisine. Nearby Lake Wilhelmina offers water recreation, and Lover’s Leap Trail is a 1.3-mile loop with magnificent views. 

Amenities:  You’ll find 41 campsites here, all with partial hookups. There are also five tent sites with water and one that’s hike-in only. RV sites have asphalt pads, and there are bathrooms, showers, and a dump station on site.

7. Lake Catherine State Park

Address: 1200 Catherine Park Rd, Hot Springs, AR 71913

You’ll quickly see why this is one of the most popular of all Arkansas state parks. It’s also in the Ouachita Mountains and is just outside the tourism hotbed of Hot Springs.

The 1,940-acre lake is one of five so-called Diamond Lakes and the only one with a marina. The park is busy year-round but more so in the summer when the marina and lake are bustling with activity.

For landlubbers, there are three National Recreation Trails in the vicinity. They include a two-mile path through pines and hardwoods to the scenic Falls Branch waterfall. 

Amenities: There are 20 cabins for rent with patios overlooking the lake and a private pier. You can rent yurts, too, or take advantage of 70 RV sites, 47 with full hookups and 23 with partial. They have asphalt pads, are easy to access, and are big enough for rigs up to 60 feet.

8. Pinnacle Mountain State Park

Address: 11901 Pinnacle Valley Rd, Roland, AR 72135

They call the namesake mountain the park’s centerpiece. Just west of Little Rock, it’s almost in the state’s geographic center. 

The picturesque pointed peak of Pinnacle Mountain is a well-known Arkansas landmark.  At just over a thousand feet, it’s relatively easy to hike to the top. Many of the park’s day-use visitors do just that.

Altogether, there are 22 miles of trails in a landscape so lush they call it the Arkansas Arboretum. Parts of the trails skirt the two rivers flowing through this Arkansas state park. 

Amenities: This is a day-use park only. Visitors can enjoy hikes or a picnic or take in the park staff’s interpretative programs. They shine a light on the diverse flora and fauna and the tragic circumstances of the Trail of Tears.

A view of Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Arkansas, one of the many state parks

9. Lake Dardanelle State Park

Address: 100 State Park Drive, Russellville, AR 72802

Fishing is big on Lake Dardanelle, a 34,000-acre reservoir in the Russellville area. Along its shore, catching a sunset is a favorite pastime.

This peaceful Arkansas state park is just 90 minutes from Little Rock, so it’s a great escape. The park has two sections. One is in Russellville, and the other is in nearby Dardanelle.

Visitors have access to a pavilion, pier, and swimming beach and can take walks along the trails and boardwalk. You can also peek at marine life in the five aquariums inside the visitor center.

Amenities: The spacious campground has 57 campsites in the central area near Russellville. Sixteen of those have full hookups, and the others have either water and electricity or just water.

There are clean restrooms with showers, and the place is well maintained. There is also a swimming beach and a playground. 

Keep in Mind: Have you tried boondocking at Walmart yet? Here are 6 rules you must follow for boondocking at Walmart.

A view of Lake Dardanelles State Park in Arkansas

10. Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park

Address: 506 E Douglas St, Prairie Grove, AR 72753

Military history buffs won’t want to miss this historic place. It’s in the northwestern corner of the state, 12 miles from Fayetteville.  

There are many Civil War battlefields to visit around the country, but Prairie Grove is better preserved than most. These 900 acres commemorate a single-day battle in 1862 that saw 2,700 casualties.

A group of period buildings, including houses, churches, and schools, give the place an authentic air of living history. The Hindman Hall Museum displays artifacts that were recovered from the site.

Re-enactments take place here every other year on the first weekend in December. An annual Clothesline Fair is another unique experience. 

Amenities: A one-mile Battlefield Trail tells the story through 14 interactive exhibits. It’s a paved path in a scenic area. There are also restroom facilities and a playground area for children.

Go Camping In Arkansas 

Arkansas’ state parks do a great job of showing off the state’s natural beauty. They are an easy and economical way to experience many different landscapes.

They also take very seriously their mission to preserve the state’s history, which may be just as eye-opening. Make a day trip to these state parks, or stay a little longer. You’ll find out all Arkansas has to offer.

What’s your favorite Arkansas state park?

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