Arkansas is a state with diverse natural beauty, featuring rolling hills, scenic rivers, forests, hot springs, and caves. Visitors can explore the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains, hike along the Buffalo National River and relax in the hot springs of Hot Springs National Park. The state’s numerous state parks offer opportunities for camping, hiking, and fishing, as well as stunning views of valleys, waterfalls, and mountains. Blanchard Springs Caverns, one of the largest underground cave systems in the United States, offers a unique experience for visitors to explore the stunning rock formations.
The Ouachita Mountains are unique in that they run east to west, rather than the north to south direction of the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. The sandstone and shale slopes harbor two types of forest: hardwood on the northern slopes and pine and oak on the drier south-facing slopes. Much of the range is contained within the Ouachita National Forest, a 1.8-million-acre outdoor playground. No matter what you enjoy doing, you’re in the right place.
With fast-moving streams and crystal-clear lakes, there’s nothing you can’t catch in the Ouachitas. The Ouachita and Little Missouri Rivers are especially popular in this area for trout and walleye fishing, while Lake Ouachita and Lake Hamilton are superb spots for striper and bass.
Those who wish to experience the entire Ouachita Mountain range can traverse the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, a 223-mile recreational hiking trail that stretches from Arkansas’s western border near Talimena State Park to Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock. You’ll find plenty of quality shorter options as well, such as the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT), Eagle Rock Loop and more.
The Ouachitas are a perfect spot for camping. The Ouachita National Forest is open to dispersed camping for those who like to rough it, but there are dozens of public and private campgrounds throughout the mountain range as well – complete with RV hookups, restrooms, showers, and other amenities.
The Ouachita Mountains may be one of the nation’s best spots for mountain biking. The area is home to three IMBA Epic trails – the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOVit), the Ouachita National Recreation Trail and the Womble – and an IMBA Bronze-Level Ride Center in Hot Springs. The Iron Mountain trail system in Arkadelphia and Cedar Glades Park just miles from downtown Hot Springs are also popular singletrack spots, and the miles of unpaved forest roads are ideal for long days of exploration.
Lake Hamilton, Lake Ouachita, Lake Catherine, Lake Greeson and Lake DeGray are highly popular among boaters and water sports enthusiasts, while the Caddo, Cossatot, Little Missouri, Ouachita and Saline Rivers are perfectly suited for canoe and kayak paddlers.
The Ozarks are actually comprised of three separate and distinct plateaus: the Boston, Springfield and Salem Plateaus. Hardwood forests dot the range, comprised of sandstone and shale in some spots and chert and limestone in others. There is plenty of wild country to explore here: the Ozark National Forest spans 1.2 million acres. But the highlight of this area for many will be the charming mountain towns, where you’ll find everything from antique shops to impromptu folk music gatherings in local squares.
The 218-mile Ozark Highlands Trail is only the beginning of the great hiking opportunities here. There’s the breathtaking Pedestal Rocks Loop, the Lost Valley Trail, Hemmed In Hollow and countless other trails to explore.
The mountain biking scene in the Ozarks includes the IMBA Epic Upper Buffalo Headwaters Trail and Syllamo Trail. But other area gems aren’t to be ignored, specifically Mount Kessler, Lake Leatherwood, and Slaughter Pen. The city of Bentonville is an IMBA Silver-Level Ride Center and nearby Fayetteville is a Bronze-Level Ride Center. One could spend an entire week riding the many trail offerings here in the Ozarks.
Aside from dispersed camping in the Ozark National Forest, you’ll find plenty of wonderful campgrounds that range from primitive to luxurious. Devil’s Den State Park, Richland Creek and White Rock Mountain are good places to start looking.
The Ozarks have their own special brand of sandstone that’s perfect for climbing. Whether you’re into sport climbing or bouldering, you’ll find some superb routes at Sam’s Throne, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, Red Rock Point and even Mount Magazine State Park.
The Ozarks are a serious paddler’s playground. The Buffalo National River is the crown jewel of the region, stretching 150 miles. Other float-friendly options include the Mulberry River, Kings River, White River, Spring River, Big Piney Creek, Crooked Creek, Eleven Point River, Illinois Bayou, Little Red River and the Strawberry River. Whether you want to flow through fast-moving rapids or enjoy the scenery on a laid-back voyage, you can’t pick a better place than the Ozarks.
The same rivers that make these mountains so ideal for floating also make for some unforgettable fishing. The Spring, Little Red and White Rivers are renowned trout-fishing streams. Anglers on the hunt for bass should check out the region’s lakes, including Bull Shoals Lake, Greers Ferry Lake, Norfork Lake and Beaver Lake.
Other attractions include Mount Magazine State Park and Crater of Diamonds State Park. Arkansas is a state that offers a wide variety of natural attractions that are sure to impress and inspire visitors. Plan your next Arkansas adventure at arkansas.com!