The Best Arkansas State and National Parks

Arkansas has about 50 state and national parks. That's why we're called the Natural State. With all these parks, it's almost impossible to visit every one. Each one offers something special. These are, in my opinion, the can't miss parks in Arkansas.

Mount Magazine; Paris

Arkansas has so many pretty areas, it's hard to say which is the "prettiest," but Mount Magazine does have amazing views. You can view the Arkansas River Valley from heights of 2,753 feet. It's breathtaking. The park is located on Scenic Highway 309 approximately 17 miles south of Paris and boasts the highest summit in Arkansas.

Lake Degray; Bismark

Degray is probably my favorite all around state park.  They have nice facilities, great staff and beautiful nature trails and scenery.  The 13,000-acre lake is located on the Caddo River, in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. You can find almost every type of outdoor recreation and wildlife Arkansas has to offer within a short distance. 

Hot Springs (National Park)

The former home of the 42nd President has a great National Park. You can see the warm springs bubbling from the grounds as you walk along the beautiful Hot Springs National Forest trails. 

Crater of Diamonds; Murfreesboro

You can search this 36-acre field for diamonds. This is the only site in the world where individuals can search for diamonds and keep any they find. The park is open everyday and it's fun for kids and parents alike. The park is two miles southeast of Murfreesboro on Ark. 301. 

Pinnacle Mountain; Roland

Pinnacle Mountain makes a great day trip for those of us living in the urban jungle of Little Rock. It's just a short trip from Little Rock but the difference is striking. Pinnacle is especially beautiful in the fall and spring. To reach Pinnacle Mountain State Park, take Exit #9 off I-430 at Little Rock and travel seven miles west on Ark. 10, then go two miles north on Ark. 300.

Petit Jean; Morrilton

The thing that stands out about Petit Jean is Cedar Creek and the 95-foot waterfall which flows from it. It's a very peaceful place to hike through and reflect. You can also find forests, canyons, streams, meadows and mountainsides. Take Exit #108 off I-40 at Morrilton and travel nine miles south on Ark. 9, then go 12 miles west on Ark. 154; or from Dardanelle, travel seven miles south on Ark. 7, then go 16 miles east on Ark. 154 to the park. 

Lake Ouachita; Mountain Pine

Known for the clarity of its water, Arkansas's largest man-made lake stretches across 48,000 acres and has 975 miles of impressive mountainous shoreline. Lake Ouachita is the perfect place for fishing and diving. They also have swimming and picnic areas. From Hot Springs, travel three miles west on U.S. 270, then go 12 miles north on Ark. 227 to the park. 

Devil's Den; West Fork

Devil's Den is perfect for the spelunker in us all. Here, you'll find lots of little caverns and coves for you to investigate. You can find beautiful hiking trials, an 8 acre lake and beautiful forests as well. To reach the park, travel eight miles south of Fayetteville on I-540 to Exit #53 (West Fork), then go 17 miles southwest on Ark. 170; or I-540 at Exit #45 (Winslow) and go 7 miles west on Ark. 74. 

Blanchard Springs Cavern; Mountain View

If you want to be awestruck, take a trip to Blanchard Springs. Blanchard Springs Caverns is a popular summer attraction that is listed in many guidebooks as one of the most beautiful caves in America. Blanchard Springs Caverns is owned and maintained by the US Forestry Service.  They've kept the cave as natural as possible, only adding handrails and a few lights to make it more accessible.  There are two separate regular tours.  One is a fairly short, fairly level tour that even youngsters could handle.  The other tour is longer and has quite a few stairs. 

Cossatot; Mena

Cossatot is one of my favorite "wild" parks.  They do have a nice visitor's center, but the big attraction is the whitewater. Cossatot River is known as the best whitewater float in mid-America. At the falls, the river drops 33 feet within a third of a mile.  The translation of the park's name is "skull crusher" and it was given that name for class 3-5 whitewater you'll find there.  If you're not into extreme sports, you can hike the river and check out the neat rock formations that kind of power forms

Crowley's Ridge; Paragould

If you like that rustic pioneer feeling, this is the park for you. Log cabins and beautiful rolling forests make this park special. The park is 15 miles north of Jonesboro on Ark. 141; or nine miles west of Paragould on U.S. 412, then two miles south on Ark. 168.

Buffalo National River; Northern Arkansas

Established in 1972, the Buffalo National River is 135 miles long.  It's one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states.  The Buffalo National River is a popular spot for whitewater rafting and kayaking, as well some great spots for camping and hiking.

The Ozark Mountain Folk Center; Mountain View

The Ozark Mountain Folk Center is not your typical state park. It's a park of living history and heritage. Their goal to preserve and teach the history of the Ozarks, and they do this through live demonstrations and performances in a historical setting.  

Lake Dardanelle; Russellville

I think Lake Dardanelle has the nicest visitor center in Arkansas.  The lake is a 34,300-acre reservoir on the Arkansas River.  The state park is actually more like two parks, with the visitor's center being located in Russellville, AR and another site in Dardanelle. Both offer camping, hiking and picnic facilities.

Jacksonport; Newport

Jacksonport is the home of Arkansas's big "Portfest" festival in June.  The main emphasis of Jacksonport State Park is the White River. It was a popular port in the 1800s and that made Newport the place to be. Because of its easy access to the water, five different generals used the town as their headquarters during the Civil War. You can tour the Jacksonport Courthouse and its War Memorial Room to find out more. There is also a restored steamboat. The views of the White River are amazing.

Queen Wilhelmina; Mena

The best part of this park is the view from the lodge. Once called the "Castle in the Sky" this lodge give breathtaking views of the Ouachita Valley and isn't too far from the Cossatot River, a great place to float, hike and swim and it in the middle of the Ouachita forests. The park itself has camping, hiking trails and some of the most scenic panoramic views in Arkansas.

Louisiana Purchase State Park; Brinkley

The Louisiana Purchase State Park marks the junction of Lee, Monroe and Phillips counties preserves the initial point from which all surveys of the property acquired through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 initiated. This is a low amenity park. There are no campsites, no picnic tables. It offers a beautiful and relatively safe look at rare headwater swamp.

Lake Chicot; Lake Village

Arkansas largest lake is nestled in a pecan grove. Lake Chicot is 20-mile long oxbow lake, cut off centuries ago when the mighty Mississippi changed course. It is perfect for boating and fishing. Bird fans can also find great bird watching. The park is eight miles northeast of Lake Village on Ark. 144.

Toltec Mounds; Scott

This park is filled with Arkansas history. The mounds are the remains of a large ceremonial and governmental complex inhabited from A.D. 600 to 1050, believed to be built by the Plum Bayou culture.

Logoly; McNeil

This is Arkansas's first environmental education site. Most of Logoly's 368 acres comprise a State Natural Area with unique plant life and numerous mineral springs. From U.S. 79 at McNeil, go one mile on County Road 47 (Logoly Road) to the park.

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