Serene lakes, rushing rivers, plentiful parks, a fabled mountain range and even a diamond mine – it’s no wonder Arkansas is nicknamed The Natural State.
If you crave quality time with Mother Nature, look no further than Arkansas’s diverse terrain spanning the scenic mountains of the northwest to the lush Mississippi River Delta in the east.
Treasures of Arkansas State Parks
Arkansas is home to more than 52 state parks that invite you to float, fish, climb, hike, bike and camp. Listen to waterfalls at Petit Jean State Park, climb an 839-meter rock face at Mount Magazine State Park, try fly fishing or ride the whitewater of Cossatot River and experience the first mountain biking trails in Arkansas at Devil’s Den State Park. Delve into local heritage and natural history at the Civil War-era Prairie Grove Battlefield, the prehistoric Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park and the tradition-rich Ozark Folk Center. At Crater of Diamonds State Park, you might get lucky while digging at the only diamond mine in the world open to the public. Want to immerse yourself in the landscape? The accommodation possibilities at state parks are abundant, from full-service lodges, rustic cabins and tent-camping sites to unusual options such as yurts and “glamping” rental RVs, complete with TVs, refrigerators and air conditioning.
Gazing at Cedar Falls in Petit Jean State Park
Exploring National Rivers and Forests
Fun on the water is a given in Arkansas, where more than 15,000 kilometers of rivers and hundreds of lakes offer recreation from relaxed to adventurous. At Buffalo National River, the USA’s first National River, go kayaking amid forested hills and towering rock faces at one of the few undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. Look for migratory birds, black bear, deer, beavers and other wildlife at Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge. Arkansas is also home to three national forests. Ozark National Forest is full of highs and lows – from the peak of Mount Magazine, the tallest in the state, all the way down to the subterranean Blanchard Springs Caverns. Cast a line for catfish and bass in the Mississippi River at St. Francis National Forest. In west-central Arkansas, Ouachita National Forest is known for its spectacular views and hiking trails including Eagle Rock Loop.
View of the Buffalo National River from the Roark Bluff overlook trail
Hiking and Biking on Long-distance Trails
Whether by two feet or two wheels, trekking the trails of Arkansas is a must. Stretching from Fayetteville to Bentonville in northwest Arkansas, the Razorback Regional Greenway offers 58 kilometers of mostly off-road trail with convenient access to amenities and attractions. The Arkansas River Trail is a 142-kilometer loop that connects 38 parks and six museums in central Arkansas. It also includes equestrian trails and scenic routes along the Arkansas River. Mountain bikers will find loads of challenging single-track. Arkansas is home to five International Mountain Bicycling Association EPIC Trails: Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT), Ouachita National Recreation Trail, Womble Trail, Upper Buffalo Headwaters and Syllamo Trail.
A road cyclist winds along the Razorback Regional Greenway
Fly into Little Rock’s Bill and Hillary International Airport (LIT) and rent a car to explore the state. You can also catch connecting flights into Fayetteville’s Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA).