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Celebrate The Natural State With These 10 Beautiful Arkansas Parks

Arkansas is called the Natural State for a reason. From the flat plains of the Mississippi Delta to the tall peaks of the Ozarks, there’s no shortage of natural beauty to explore around here. This summer, set out to see more of this gorgeous state at any of these ten parks. Between the waterfalls, lakes, and caves, you are sure to fall in love.

1. Mount Magazine State Park

Arkansas state parks
brandonrush on Wikipedia

Located atop 2,753-foot Mount Magazine, this scenic park offers sweeping vistas of river valleys, canyons, and distant mountains. On a hot summer day, the elevation on top of Arkansas’ highest peak makes for a cool place to take in the view.

The park also offers some of the best hiking in the state, along with a variety of outdoor activities. Explore the mountain biking trails, go horseback riding, try hang gliding, or get technical with some dramatic rock climbing.

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The campground at Mount Magazine State Park contains 18 wooded sites with electric and water hook-ups. Additional camping options in the area include the Cove Lake Recreation Area and the Blue Mountain Lake ACOE campground.

2. Devil’s Den State Park

Arkansas State Parks
Jonathan Ball/ Flickr

Devil’s Den is one of the few Arkansas state parks where you can explore underground.  Many of the trails here weave through, around, and under various caverns and coves. Most noteworthy is the 550’ long Devil’s Den cave. In addition to the underground attractions, the park is popular for its wonderful views and magnificent waterfalls.

An impressive 143 campsites are spaced out along the valley. From fully-equipped RV sites to hike-in sites and even a horse camp, Devil’s Den is an essential place to visit on your next Arkansas trip. You can read more about this park on RV Park Reviews here.

3. Petit Jean State Park

Arkansas State Parks
Amanda Watson

Arkansas’s oldest state park is also one of its most impressive. With cave paintings and archaeological sites dating back thousands of years, there are tons of historical and geological treasures to be discovered here. The centerpiece of the park is the magnificent Cedar Falls. This stunning waterfall tumbles 90 feet into Cedar Creek Canyon below. It can be viewed from an overlook platform or via a hiking trail that winds along the valley floor.

In addition to the falls, Petit Jean also offers 20 miles of trails, a small lake perfect for kayaking or canoeing, a public pool for swimming, and even a rustic stone lodge that serves up home cooked southern meals. Be sure to take a journey on Red Bluff Drive for an outstanding view of the surrounding area.

Campsites here are plentiful and offer something for everyone. There are both rustic sites deep in the woods and pull-thru sites with full hookups and paved parking pads. They even have yurts and cabins for rent. Read more about Petit Jean here.

4. Lake Chicot State Park

Arkansas State Parks
Richard May/ Flickr
Lake Chicot Swamp by Richard May is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Lake Chicot State Park sits on the edge of the Mississippi River Delta on Arkansas’s largest natural lake. This 20-mile-long lake was created many years ago when the Mississippi River changed course and the lake was cut off from the main channel.

A popular lake for boating and fishing, Lake Chicot has some of the best birdwatching in Arkansas. The cypress swamp-like lake is habitat for egrets, herons, eagles, ibis, and the endangered wood stork. For a fascinating glimpse into the wildlife and ecology of this unique lake, book a guided swamp tour.

A large campground offers sites in the woods and along the lakeshore. For more details, visit RV Park Reviews here.

5. Lake Catherine State Park

Arkansas State Parks
AR Nature Gal/ Flickr

This park’s wooded campsites and fully equipped cabins provide a base for anglers, water-sport enthusiasts, and hikers alike. You can park your RV or pitch a tent in one of their 70 recently renovated campsites.

Once settled in, lace up your hiking boots and hit a trail. The shorter trails meander along streams, the lakeshore, and the park’s picturesque waterfall. The longer Dam Mountain Trail leads hikers through the forest, up into the mountains, and onto a ridge overlooking the lake.

When you get tired of hiking, head over to the lake for a relaxing picnic or dip in the lake. The full-service marina offers boat and kayak rentals, along with bait for fishing.

6. Lake Ouachita State Park

Arkansas State Parks
Doc Gibson/ Flickr

Arkansas’s largest man-made lake, Lake Ouachita is tucked away in the Ouachita Mountains and known for its crystal clear waters. Visitors flock to this park for swimming, scuba diving, fishing and more.

In addition to swimming areas on the lake and a marina with boat rentals, the park also features the Three Sisters Springs. This historic site was once the location of a private resort that touted the healing properties of the springs. Today, the state-owned springs are preserved and still open for the public to view.

The campground has 93 sites for tents and RVs, as well as several fully equipped cabins. You can find more info on RV Park Reviews here.

7. Crater of Diamonds State Park

Arkansas State Parks
Doug Wertman from Rogers

If you’ve ever dreamed of hunting for jewels, now is your chance! This is the only Arkansas state park (the only state park anywhere for that matter) where you can search the eighth largest diamond-bearing volcanic crater. Here you can enjoy the one-of-a-kind outdoor adventure by prospecting for real diamonds. In addition to diamonds, the area is rich with garnet, amethyst, jasper, agate, quartz, and other rocks and minerals.

The best part…what you dig up is yours to keep! If you want to stay awhile while you try hunting for jewels, the park offers 47 full hook-up campsites. You can find more info (and read reviews from other campers) online here.

8. Lake Charles State Park

Arkansas State Parks
Dave Thomas/ Flickr

Located in the northeastern foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Lake Charles State Park is the perfect place to visit for a weekend of relaxation. The park is spread along the western shores of this peaceful lake. Offering a swimming beach, hiking trails, picnic sites, and a playground for children, this scenic park provides the ultimate place to spend your family vacation.

Wooded campsites are nestled in the forest, and provide ample shade for tents and RVs of all sizes. Get more details on camping at Lake Charles here.

9. Cane Creek State Park

Arkansas State Parks
Kevin Wood/ Flickr
Kevin Wood, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This Arkansas state park is unique in that it straddles the boundary between east and west – between farmland and mountainous terrain. Located on the eastern side of the state where the alluvial lands of Mississippi Delta meet the rolling terrain of western Arkansas, this park offers a chance to explore the two distinct natural settings.

On foot or bike, experience the park by taking the 15.5-mile multi-use trail over rolling terrain and along the lake. Paddlers will enjoy the 2.5-mile kayak trail on Cane Creek Lake, while anglers should check out Bayou Bartholomew, the world’s longest bayou, which is teeming with fish and wildlife.

10. Lake Fort Smith State Park

Arkansas State Parks
Mike Goad/ Flickr

Nestled in the scenic valley of the Boston Mountain Range, Lake Fort Smith State Park has plenty of natural beauty to go around. Take a paddle around the lake, bike one of the trails, or hike a portion of the 165-mile Ozark Highlands National Recreation Trail.

A must visit at this park is the 8,000 square foot visitor center. Here you will find exhibits that tell the history of the area, along with artifacts such as a covered wagon and log cabin.

In 2008, the reservoir lake was enlarged and the park site moved. As a result, the 30 campsites with paved parking pads and concrete patios are all new. For more info, visit RV Park Reviews here.


Have you been to any of these parks? Where do you like to go camping in Arkansas?


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