The Best Camping in Arkansas

Camping is one of the most enjoyable activities Arkansas families do in the summer but, you can go camping anytime you want to get away from the rush of city life. What can be more fun than camping? Think back to your first camp out. The swimming, the burgers on the grill, the s'mores and ghost stories. Camping in Arkansas is a memorable experience for kids. Some Arkansas campsites even have amenities like tennis courts, pools and more for discriminating teens and tweens.

Most Arkansas campsites take reservations so be sure to call before you visit. So, go camping in Arkansas today.

Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean is only about an hour and a half from Little Rock (Google map).

Petit Jean has 127 individual campsites (including 38 pull-thru sites) offering water and electrical hookups and four bathhouses are shared between them. They have some great group facilities too. Families can even rent camping equipment if they don't have their own.

Petit Jean is perfect for families. You'll find many picnic areas with tables and grills. There's lots of great fishing, a swimming pool, playgrounds, tennis courts and paddle boat rentals. You'll also find great hiking for any age or fitness level. Call 501-727-5441.

Lake Ouachita

Lake Ouachita has 1,106 campsites, 21 recreation areas with 150 picnic sites, 24 boat ramps and 13 swimming beaches and over 200 islands. My personal favorite camping spot has been Denby Point. That area has 67 sites, 59 with electric hookups. I loved it because of the great fishing and views of wildlife from the point. It's located more on the southern side of Lake Ouachita. Call 501-767-9366.

DeGray Lake Resort State Park

DeGray Lake Resort State Park (map) offers 113 campsites with water and electric hookups. Some of the campsites are on the lake shore and others are in the woods. You can even rent a "Yurt," which has almost everything you need, including electricity.

Why do I love Degray? It's a beautiful place. The 13,800-acre lake has fishing, water sports and great wildlife watching. It's very peaceful and serene. It seems to be getting more and more crowded in recent years, but it still seems like a gem. I think it's just far enough away from Little Rock to be "away" and not too far to be too far for a quick weekend trip. It's about an hour and half away from the city.

Call 501-865-2801.

Mount Magazine State Park

Mount Magazine is the highest point in the state. Its peak is 2,753 feet above sea level. Besides great hikes and even hang gliding opportunities, there's lots of wildlife watching at mount magazine. It's one of the places in the state that is home to black bears. While relatively rare, Mount Magazine has one of the densest populations in Arkansas.

Mount Magazine is located about 3 hours from Little Rock in Paris (map).

The park features hiking trails, overlooks, a pavilion, a picnic area and a visitor's center. You can also go biking or horseback riding. Call 479-963-8502.

The Buffalo National River

The Buffalo National River has 13 campsites that range from primitive to hook-ups.

The most popular thing to do on the Buffalo is a float trip. You can rent float equipment along the river. You can also fish, hike, swim and wildlife watch there.

The Lost Valley campsite is highly recommended. The campground is only average, but the views on the trails around the campsite are magical. The Lost Valley trail will take you past waterfalls, a cascading creek, cliffs, a large bluff shelter, a natural bridge and lots of wildlife and plant life. It ends in a great little cave. The hike is mostly easy, but the last portion is a bit steep.

Lost Valley is located between Boxley and Ponca. Ponca is famous for elk.

Lake Sylvia

Lake Sylvia is about an hour away from Little Rock in Perryville and was one of my favorite day trips as a kid.

Lake Sylvia (map) is less active than some other camps mentioned. You can go fishing and hiking, but no motor boats are allowed, and the hiking isn't quite as scenic. They have whitewater paddling and the location can be used as a base camp to explore the Ouachitas (or some guidebooks say even Petit Jean and Pinnacle). It's highly recommended as a place for families or scout groups to hang out, BBQ, swim and have a fun time.

Charlton in the Ouachita National Forest

Charlton is in Hot Springs and part of the Ouachita National Forest. Charlton is ranked by some as the best campsite in Arkansas.

Charlton (map) has 57 sites, 10 with electricity, water and sewer, 20 with electricity and water and 27 with no utilities.

At Charlton, they have "crystal clear" waters to swim in, picnic areas and fishing. It's located along Walnut Creek in the heart of the Ouachita National Forest. There is a native stone dam that forms a swimming area with a grassy beach.

If you like the hike, the sites are located close to the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail or the Ouachita National Recreation Trail. For bikers, the Womble Trail is also close by, which is highly regarded as a biking trail.

Greers Ferry Lake

Greers Ferry Lake is about 2 hours from Little Rock. The Greers Ferry Dam spans the Little Red River north of Heber Springs (Google map). The site offers boating, fishing, hiking, hunting, picnicking and swimming. There are over 1,200 campsites in the 13 parks that make up the Greers Ferry Lake area.

The lake is stocked with native fish by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operates a trout hatchery below the dam.

Choctaw is a popular campsite for families. It overlooks the lake and has 2 boat ramps and a swimming area. The recreation area has 30 picnic sites/grills.

There's also the Sugar Loaf Mountain area and some of the best views you can find.

Maumelle Park

Maumelle Park is the only public campground in Little Rock. It features a fishing pier, playground, showers and flush toilets, 129 camping spaces with water and electricity, a boat ramp, and a day-use picnic area.

Maumelle Park (map) is a fun, close to home getaway. The campsites are average, but it's proximity to Little Rock make it a great choice for families on a budget.

The Ozark National Forest

The Ozark National Forest is a great place to camp. Within the 130,000-acre Ozark National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service has developed campgrounds at Gunner Pool, Barkshed and Blanchard Springs. Campgrounds are typically situated in rugged mountain terrain, designed to blend into the surrounding environment and preserve the lush forest atmosphere.

The North Sylamore Trail and Blanchard Springs Caverns are some of the biggest attractions in the area. There are campsites in the Blanchard Springs area. A somewhat unique site is the Moccasin Gap Horse Camp, which provides well water for horses and hitching posts.

Long Pool (map), located in the Ozark National Forest adjacent to Big Piney Creek, is one of the most recommended.

The large natural pool in Big Piney Creek is just across the campground. A few of the sites overlook the creek. There is also great hiking. Most of the campground is in a mature pine forest, while some sites are in a hardwood forest. There are 8 picnic sites, a picnic pavilion, a canoe launch site and a change shelter. Fishing, hiking, swimming, canoeing and whitewater boating are allowed.

Another great site near Big Piney Creek is Haw Creek Falls (map). Haw Creek is a small stream, but you'll see some waterfalls, nice bluffs and a mature hardwood forest. There's no electrical hookups, water or many amenities at all.

Millwood Lake

Millwood Lake is the home of some of the best fishing in Arkansas, especially for largemouth and white bass. It's almost three hours from Little Rock (Google map).

The lake has 26,000 acres of submerged timber and an average depth of only 7 ft, which is great for fishing and also for mayflies. It can be a bit tricky to navigate, but well worth it. The lake is also perfect for wildlife watching.

The Saratoga and White Cliffs areas are great sites. Saratoga is a wooded area near the lake. It has a playground, rock fishing pier and a boat ramp. White Cliffs is on the east bank of the Little River. There is bank fishing access and a protected area for wildlife watching and hiking. Fisherman really like the White Cliffs area.

Devil's Den

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 trails, an 8-acre lake, and beautiful forests as well. It is one of the prettiest places in the Ozark Mountains.

There are 143 campsites located in the park: 44 Class AAA, 12 Class B, 13 Class C, 24 Class D (no hookups), eight Hike-in (tent only) and 42 sites with water and electric hookups in the Horse Camp that includes a bathhouse and access to the horse trails. There is also a group camp area.

The park has a nice restaurant and store, swimming pool and you can rent canoes and paddle boats during the summer.

Richland Creek

Richland Creek is perfect for the true outdoorsmen. It's located about 10 miles away from paved roads and has lots of hiking, swimming and a view of some of the best looking falls in Arkansas. Located in Ben Hur, about 3 hours from Little Rock.

Burns Park

Burns Park in North Little Rock actually has a small campsite area, as does Riverside Park in North Little Rock. Burns Park offers tent and RV camping. Riverside Park is just RVs. Not my favorite campsites, but close to the city at least.

Hot Springs National Forest

Hot Springs National Park has some campsites. Each campsite has a picnic table, pedestal grill, and water nearby. No reservations taken.

Little Pines

Little Pines is located in the Ouachita National Forest. It has picnic units, a swimming area with a beach, a boat ramp. Good fishing and nice scenery. It's located in Waldron, which is about 2 and a half hours from Little Rock.

Lake Greeson

Lake Greeson is a popular camping spot located about 2 hours away from Little Rock. The crystal clear lake is popular for fishing and water sports.

Bull Shoals

Bull Shoals is on the White River. There's also great fishing here. Prices range from $21.50/night for a premium campsite to $8/night for a tent site. Tent sites have no sewer hookups. The camp features 105 campsites along the white river. Facilities include picnic areas, standard pavilions, playgrounds, trails and a boat dock with rentals and supplies. Call 870-431-5521.

Lake Dardanelle State Park

Premium campsites are $21.50/night and standard campsites are $14.50/night. Lake Dardanelle has 83 campsites and restrooms and bathhouses with hot water. You will also find a visitor's center, launch ramps, picnic tables and pavilions. Call 479- 967-5516.

Mount Nebo State Park

Mount Nebo is the second park in Arkansas where you can hang glide. It has 35 campsites and 14 cabins. The campsites range from $12.00/night for a standard campsite to $6.50/night for a tent only site. Call 479-229-3655.

Queen Wilhelmina State Park

This park has 41 campsites which range from $16.50/night for preferred to $8.00/night for a tent only site. The park also has hiking, picnic areas and a plant/wildlife center. Call 479-394-2863.

Crater of Diamonds State Park

You can hunt for diamonds in your sleep at this park, or at least dream about them. Crater of Diamonds has 59 standard campsites and the cost is $14.50/night. The park offers picnic sites, a cafe, restrooms, laundry, gift shop and hiking trails. Call 870-285-3113.

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