Arkansas State and National Parks: Arkansas, known as “The Natural State,” is home to some of the most stunning natural wonders in the country. With over 50 state parks and six national parks, Arkansas is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Whether you’re into hiking, fishing, kayaking, or just enjoying the great outdoors, Arkansas has something for everyone. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most popular Arkansas state and national parks and what makes them so special.
Arkansas State Parks
Arkansas state parks are a testament to the state’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty. Each state park offers something unique and different, making it easy to plan a trip around your interests. Here are some of the most popular state parks in Arkansas:
- Petit Jean State Park: Located in Morrilton, Petit Jean State Park is the oldest and one of the most popular state parks in Arkansas. It covers over 3,000 acres and features breathtaking views of the Arkansas River Valley. Visitors can hike to Cedar Falls, explore the Rock House Cave, or take a dip in Lake Bailey.
- Mount Magazine State Park: Mount Magazine State Park is the highest point in Arkansas, with an elevation of 2,753 feet. Visitors can enjoy hiking, hang gliding, and camping on the park’s 2,200 acres. The park is also home to a lodge, cabins, and a restaurant.
- Devil’s Den State Park: Located in West Fork, Devil’s Den State Park is a favorite among hikers and rock climbers. The park’s 2,500 acres feature over 20 miles of hiking trails, a swimming pool, and several campsites. Visitors can also explore the park’s unique rock formations and caves.
- Lake Catherine State Park: Lake Catherine State Park is located in Hot Springs and covers over 1,940 acres. The park is home to Lake Catherine, which offers excellent fishing, boating, and swimming opportunities. Visitors can also hike to the park’s waterfall or take a scenic boat tour.
- Crowley’s Ridge State Park: Located in Paragould, Crowley’s Ridge State Park is a unique geological formation that spans 200 miles across Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. The park offers several hiking trails, picnic areas, and campsites. Visitors can also learn about the area’s rich history at the park’s interpretive center.
Arkansas National Parks
Arkansas is home to six national parks, each with its own unique beauty and history. From the underground wonders of Mammoth Cave National Park to the historic sites of Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas’ national parks offer a glimpse into the state’s rich history and natural beauty. Here are some of the most popular national parks in Arkansas:
- Hot Springs National Park: Hot Springs National Park is located in Hot Springs and covers over 5,500 acres. The park is home to 47 hot springs that flow from the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain. Visitors can take a bath in the historic Bathhouse Row, hike the park’s trails, or take a scenic drive through the park.
- Buffalo National River: The Buffalo National River is the first national river in the United States and covers over 135 miles. The river is a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Visitors can also explore the park’s hiking trails, caves, and waterfalls.
- Mammoth Cave National Park: Mammoth Cave National Park is located in Mammoth Spring and is home to the world’s longest-known cave system. Visitors can explore the park’s underground wonders on a guided tour, hike the park’s trails, or go horseback riding.
- Fort Smith National Historic Site: Fort Smith National Historic Site is located in Fort Smith and covers over 80 acres. The site was a key player in the settlement of the American West and served as a military post, courthouse, and prison. Visitors can explore the historic buildings, learn about the area’s rich history, and take a guided tour of the site.
- Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site: Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site is located in Little Rock and is a symbol of the struggle for civil rights in America. The site commemorates the events of 1957 when nine African American students attempted to integrate the previously all-white high school. Visitors can explore the site’s exhibits and learn about the history of the civil rights movement.
Exploring Arkansas Parks
Whether you’re planning a day trip or a week-long adventure, Arkansas’ state and national parks offer something for everyone. Before you head out, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
- Plan ahead. Research the park you plan to visit and make sure you know the park’s hours, rules, and regulations. This will help you avoid any surprises and ensure you’re prepared for your trip.
- Check the weather. Arkansas can experience extreme weather conditions, so it’s important to check the forecast before you head out. Make sure you dress appropriately for the weather and bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
- Respect the environment. Arkansas’ state and national parks are protected areas, so it’s important to respect the environment and leave no trace. This means packing out your trash, staying on designated trails, and not disturbing wildlife.
- Be prepared. Whether you’re hiking, camping, or just exploring, it’s important to be prepared. Bring plenty of water, food, and a first aid kit. It’s also a good idea to bring a map and compass in case you get lost.
Arkansas’ state and national parks offer some of the most stunning natural beauty in the country. From the underground wonders of Mammoth Cave National Park to the historic sites of Fort Smith National Historic Site, Arkansas’ parks offer something for everyone. By planning ahead, checking the weather, respecting the environment, and being prepared, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to one of Arkansas’ many state and national parks. So, pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to explore the natural beauty of The Natural State.