Arkansas State Parks

There are 52 Arkansas state parks scattered around the state. They boast diverse scenic landscapes and both natural and cultural treasures. Mountain lodges and vacation cabins nestle into pristine forests; camping sites grace the shores of lakes; and hiking trails skirt rocky bluffs high above rivers and streams. There is, in fact, a state park in Arkansas for every interest and pursuit.

You can drive through Ouachita National Forest and all the way to Oklahoma on the Talimena Scenic Byway, climbing the state's highest mountain range in the process. Climb the highest peak in the state (2,753 feet) in Mount Magazine State Park while rock climbing or on an easy backpacking trail. Discover Arkansas history in Petit Jean State Park and one of the country's most intact Civil War battlefields at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park. Dig for gemstones at the Crater of Diamonds, or discover an eighteenth-century mill at Hobbs State Park near Eureka Springs.

Ouachita National Forest surrounds the 40,000-acre lake of the same name, and is on of the most popular destinations for Arkansas vacation packages. With 975 miles of shoreline, this is the largest manmade lake in the state, providing a venue for fishing and boating, swimming and boating. It's just a short drive from the spas of Hot Springs, and is on the route of the Talimena Scenic Byway. Ouachita National Forest also contains the tallest mountain range in mid-America and the Western Hemisphere's only mountains that run east to west. Here is the historic Three Sisters Springs as well as fully equipped cabins, campsites, a marina and boat ramps. From November to March, you can join eagle tours when the great birds are wintering in the area. This state park in Arkansas offers something for everyone, and is additionally close to many other attractions.

Petit Jean State Park was the first in the Arkansas state park system, established in 1923. The history of the state is represented here, with Native American pictographs dating back more than 1,000 years on the wall of Rock House Cave and a wonderful historic mountain lodge built by the CCC (the Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930s. In addition to the myriad outdoor activities available, Petit Jean State Park offers a number of themed events throughout the year, including an archaeology day, a mountain fishing derby, and a swap meet and classic car show that's been held every year for more than 50 years.

Mount Magazine State Park brings us from the oldest state park in Arkansas to the newest, as well as the highest mountain. The Mount Magazine State Park International Butterfly Festival is held here every June, and draws visitors from all over the United States as well as abroad. More than 91 of the state's 127 species of butterfly are found here, including the very rare Diana Fritillary, which is found almost nowhere else. At the very pinnacle of the mountain, is a 60-room rustic-style lodge with a full-service restaurant and an indoor swimming pool. Among the things to do here are mountain biking, hang gliding, and technical rock climbing on a 1,500-foot wide sandstone bluff, as well as more traditional hiking and backpacking. Area attractions include the historic Subiaco Abbey, built in 1887.

All Arkansas state parks are open year round, and offer many winter sports and activities, including snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Some of them may be closed on certain days of the year, and as weather conditions dictate. When to go to any of the Arkansas state parks really depends on what activities most interest you.

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