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The Best Camping in Arkansas

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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 camp sites 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.

1. Petit Jean State Park

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

There are 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, paddle boat rentals, 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.

2. Lake Ouachita State Park

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.

3. 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.

4. Mount Magazine State Park

Mount Magazine is the highest point in the state. It's 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.

5. 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.

6. Lake Sylvia

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

Lake Sylvia (map) is less active than some other camps mentioned so far. There is 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 guide books 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.

7. Charlton in the Ouachita National Forest

Charlton is in Hot Springs and part of the Ouachita National Forests. 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 ares and fishing. It's located along Walnut Creek in the heart of the Ouachita National Forest. Their 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. The Ozark National Forests

The Ozark National Forests are 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.

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