If you’re reading this, we bet you’re an outdoors lover. Someone who’s craving a little adventure. We’re right, aren’t we? Come play with us in Central and North Central Arkansas. Here, we’ve got water sports, mountain biking, hiking trails and historic sites to boot. Follow this guide to find your next big adventure.
The lower White River once served as a crucial transportation route for pioneers as they made their way west. Learn of its essential role in Arkansas history at Lower White River Museum State Park. Located on Main Street in Des Arc, the museum showcases the lifestyles of the region’s early settlers from 1831-1931. Discover how the river influenced these settlements and expanded commerce and trade from hunting and fishing into larger industries like agriculture, timber and pearling. Plus, there’s no entry fee!
Get out and play at Pinnacle Mountain State Park just outside of Little Rock. From fishing and boating the Big and Little Maumelle Rivers to exploring over 22 miles of trails, this all-encompassing outdoor playground’s various landscapes provide visitors with all kinds of recreation opportunities. Follow a trail to the mountain summit. Take a peaceful stroll through the Arkansas Arboretum. Try an easy half-mile hike along the Little Maumelle River on the paved, ADA-accessible Kingfisher Trail. A 2.5-mile section of the Ouachita National Hiking Trail also runs through the park. Take in stunning views along the moderate East Quarry Trail.
Head west to Perryville to explore Lake Sylvia Recreation Area. Located in the Ouachita National Forest, this recreation area is jam-packed with outdoor fun. The 18-acre lake is perfect for swimming and fishing. Hikers, trail runners, backpackers and gravel grinders alike will adore Lake Sylvia’s diverse trail system, which connects to the 192-mile Ouachita National Recreation Trail. Make a weekend out of your visit! Lake Sylvia offers primitive camping, electric and water hookups, group tent sites and camper cabins.
Learn all about the state’s rich agricultural industry at Plantation Agriculture Museum. This attraction in Scott invites guests to discover the history of Arkansas farming from 1836 through World War II through hands-on exhibits and interactive displays. Tour a collection of historical exhibits and buildings, from early tractors to a seed warehouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places to a 1916 cotton gin. You’ll also find fascinating live demonstrations of cotton ginning and water pumping.
See archeological research at work at Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park in Scott. This National Historic Landmark is home to the largest Native American mound site in Arkansas. The site’s 18 mounds once acted as religious and cultural centers for prehistoric Native Americans that lived in the Arkansas River Valley from 650 to 1050 A.D. Archeologists are still hard at work studying the site and its artifacts today. Visit the park’s visitor center to learn more about the site and its ancient peoples. Then, pick up trail brochures and explore the Knapp and Plum Bayou Trails.
With campsites, hiking and mountain biking trails and a 40-acre lake, Greenbrier’s Woolly Hollow State Park is the ultimate escape for outdoor enthusiasts. Lake Bennett is just right for water lovers. Enjoy all the lake has to offer with the park’s pedal boat, kayak, canoe and fishing boat rentals. Anglers might reel in a bounty of crappie, bream, bass and catfish on the lake too. Traverse the Enders Fault Mountain Bike Trail for a moderate mountain biking excursion or trek along four hiking trails through the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Extend your visit at one of 30 AAA and 10 Class D campsites.
If fishing is your sport, then Bull Shoals-White River State Park is the stop for you. Located in the Ozarks at Bull Shoals, the 732-acre park sits along Bull Shoals Lake and the White River. The 45,440-acre dam-constructed lake provides visitors with excellent opportunities for catching crappie, lunker bass and bream, while the river boasts record-setting trout fishing. Take in this year-round destination’s scenic riverbanks, shorelines and Ozark wilderness through a handful of nature trails. For fishing stories, park history and unrivaled views of the park, head up to the park visitor exhibit hall and theater above Bull Shoals Dam.
Visit one of the largest springs in the world at Mammoth Spring State Park in Mammoth Spring. Formed from the massive spring, Spring River is a popular fishing and floating destination. Discover the park’s history through remnants of the old village, including a grist mill and hydroelectric plant, as well as the restored 1886 Frisco train depot and museum. The shaded picnic area and playground are perfect spots for family outings too.
Experience the culture of the Ozarks at Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View. Take in demonstrations and browse a variety of handcrafted goods, including stained glass, ironworks, leather purses and jewelry, from over 20 local makers and artisans at the Craft Village. Stop by the Blacksmith Stage to hear locals play the music of the Ozarks (think fiddles, banjos and mandolins). For larger concerts, get tickets to a show at Ozark Highlands Theater. Tune in to Ozarks Highland Radio for more Ozark tunes and regional stories. Thrill seekers will enjoy the challenging ropes course and zip lining adventure of Loco Ropes. Ozark Folk Center State Park is open from mid-April through late October.
Plan a natural getaway to Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton. Arkansas’s first state park has something for everyone. Hike the varied terrain surrounding Petit Jean Mountain, including Rock House Cave which has ancient pictographs. Visit the ADA-accessible Cedar Falls Overlook for jaw-dropping views of one of the state’s tallest waterfalls. The 100-acre Lake Bailey is popular for kayaking and fishing. Petit Jean State Park also features a variety of accommodations, including the 24-room Martha Lodge, 34 cabins, 125 campsites and four yurt-style bungalows.