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Arkansas State and National Parks

Camp, Hike, Fish, Hunt and Play


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.

1. Mount Magazine; Paris

Mount Magazine
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

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.

2. Lake Degray; Bismark

Lake Degray State Park Arkansas Department of Park
Arkansas Department of Park

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

3. Hot Springs (National Park)

Hot Springs National Park
Amanda Galiano

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.

4. Crater of Diamonds; Murfreesboro

Crater of Diamonds State Park
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

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.

5. Pinnacle Mountain; Roland

Pinnacle Mountain
Amanda Galiano

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.

6. Petit Jean; Morrilton

Petit Jean Mountain
Amanda Galiano

The thing that stands out in my mind 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.

7. Lake Ouachita; Mountain Pine

Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Known for the clarity of its water, Arkansas's largest manmade lake stretches across 48,000 acres and has 975 miles of impressive mountainous shoreline. Lake Ouachata 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.

8. Devil's Den; West Fork

Devil's Den
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Devils 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.

9. Blanchard Springs Cavern; Mountain View

Blanchard Springs Cavern
Amanda Galiano

If you want to 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.

10. Cossatot; Mena

Cossatot River
Amanda Galiano

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 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.

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