New year, new you? Challenge yourself to visit a different Arkansas state park every month. These beautiful places are open for adventure and learning with something for absolutely everyone in your family and friend group. You can bike a trail, discover the history behind Hampson Archeological Museum State Park, go horseback riding or find a quaint cabin or lodge for a weekend getaway.
First, you’ll want to decide which parks to travel to. With 52 state parks, you can find a full list of parks and figure out which parks you want to visit. If you’re looking for a place to start, we have some suggestions for each season we think would satisfy just about everyone. You get bonus points for visiting a park you’ve never been to, so try to incorporate that into your goal, as well.
January and February
Winter is prime-time for wildlife viewing, geocaching and fishing. Immerse yourself in the wilderness while you hike through Russellville’s Lake Dardanelle State Park’s diverse habitats, which sustain many living creatures. Or hop aboard a lake tour at Lake Chicot State Park, near Lake Village, where you can not only enjoy the beauty of the largest natural lake in the state but take in some of the best bird-watching Arkansas has to offer. You’ll see Mississippi Kite, Pied-billed Grebe, and the bright yellow feathers of the Prothonotary Warbler. If bringing home dinner is more your speed, we suggest Lake Frierson State Park, north of Jonesboro. You can fish all-year-round for bream, catfish, crappie, and bass. You can also experience geocaching within each of our state parks, but finding and hiding clues in our parks across the state.
March, April and May
Hiking, biking, fishing, and paddle sports abound in the spring. Mount Nebo State Park is phenomenal for hiking, where you’ll encounter wildlife, waterfalls, historical springs and amazing scenes for hikers of all levels. Head to Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area in Rogers, Devil’s Den State Park in Winslow, Woolly Hollow State Park in Greenbrier, or Cane Creek State Park in Star City for miles of mountain biking trails for all skill levels. Arkansas’s largest lake also offers fun-in-the-water activities at Lake Ouachita State Park. Go on a sunset kayak trip or snorkel near the many tree-filled islands. If the thought of all that pedaling exhausts you and you want to work on your guns for the summer instead, set out for Mississippi River State Park, near Marianna. Be sure to check out the camping and RV facilities so you can stretch out your trip to kayak on seven different bodies of water. If you’re in the upper Delta, be sure to check out our Andy Dye-designed 27-hole championship golf course at Village Creek State Park.
June, July and August
The summer brings out water activities in The Natural State like boating, swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Spend a weekend at DeGray Lake State Park, north of Arkadelphia, for boating, swimming, paddling, and snorkeling to your heart’s content. Don’t miss the Shoreline Restaurant, which serves up a glorious sunrise breakfast. Or visit Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area, northwest of Murfreesboro, for wild Class IV rapids at Cossatot Falls or scuba dive in the deeper parts of the river. While you’re out on the water, you’ll want to check our fishing holes including Withrow Springs State Park or Lake Charles State Park where you can find bass, crappie, bream, and catfish. If you want to stay on land, try exploring the beautiful flowers and plants in Lake Poinsett State Park or watching for eagles and other birds at Lake Fort Smith State Park. Don’t forget to ride down to Delta Heritage Trail State Park where you can explore the delta on a combined 35 mile trail system. If you want pool hop, check out our family season pass to swim all summer at our seven public pools as well as two beach areas with lifeguards on duty.
September, October and November
Go leaf peeping via motorcycle or bike, pitch a tent, or go hiking this fall. The Talimena National Scenic Byway will thrill any and all motorcyclists. With views unlike any other these 54 miles of pavement are nationally recognized for their curves and dips with dense forests that are even more breathtaking in fall. Petit Jean State Park, west of Conway, is where it’s at for hiking to see some of the best fall colors in the state. Hot Spring’s Lake Catherine’s waterfall also makes for a refreshing Instagramable moment. Get out your camp stove as campsites and cabins are ready for you at Walcott’s Crowley’s Ridge State Park, situated on a unique geological formation with a rich history that involves the Civilian Conservation Corps. Or maybe you want to try camping in a yurt (or maybe you didn’t know you wanted to until now). Either way, Daisy State Park in Kirby, has you covered and you get the bonus of sleeping amid the Ouachita Mountains. If you like sweeping views, Mount Magazine, east of Booneville, Arkansas’s highest point is worth the drive and the moderate 1.4 mile hike. For a different kind of adventure, head to Ozark Folk Center State Park to experience concerts, workshops, crafting and gardening.
As the year closes, pick out your final park to complete your resolution. You might want something that puts you in the holiday spirit or something historically significant. The historic Mather Lodge at Petit Jean State Park is always dressed to the nines in holiday finery, plus, enjoy arts and crafts activities and seasonal entertainment for the entire family. Or participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count (it’s been going on for more than 100 years) at Lake Ouachita State Park. If history is your cup of tea, head to Historic Washington State Park, in Washington, where James Bowie, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett passed through on their way to found Texas. It also served as the Confederate capitol of Arkansas, which has since been turned into a museum. Or learn about the importance of rivers in history at Jacksonport State Park, whose 1852 courthouse is now a museum. The state of Arkansas also has a rich history of Native American culture, which you can explore Hampson Archeological Museum State Park. The new museum, located in the square in Wilson, features historical artifacts and interactive exhibits.
Make sure you print the map of all the state parks and mark them off as you go. Keeping track will help you reach your goal and we promise it is easier than it looks! If you’ve never visited a state park before or are looking for tips, we can help you out. Look for 101 classes and workshops for trying new activities. You can also stop in a visitor center or reach out to a park interpreter. Just get out there and enjoy what nature has to offer, you won’t regret it.