Celebrate the outdoors at Arkansas State Parks

By: 
Updated: 
Mount Magazine State Park.
Mount Magazine State Park.

Arkansas State Parks might be turning 100, but some things never change, like the variety of outdoor adventures that can be found in them. Memorable adventures from rock climbing to rock hounding, hiking to birding and everything in between are within reach. Found across the state, our Arkansas State Parks are some of the best in the nation. The outdoors and nature are a large part of what makes most of Arkansas' 52 state parks special. 

Arkansas’ highest point is Mount Magazine and Mount Magazine State Park showcases the beauty of Arkansas in inspiring ways. The park, located near the town of Paris, is a prime place to rock climb and you can boulder, sport climb and rappel in designated areas on the mountain's south bluff, which overlooks the Petit Jean River Valley. If you want more aerial views, hang gliding launching spots can be found here and at nearby Mount Nebo State Park. 

Mount Magazine State Park

You can hikebike and horseback ride through the forest via one of the park's trails. The Signal Hill Trail is a day hike that leads to the official highest point in Arkansas. Wildlife watching is also a key asset of the park. From butterflies to black bears, nature abounds here. Rare plants including the Ozark Chinquapin have a home here as well. Mount Magazine State Park also has a lodge with expansive views of the Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake and an on-site restaurant.

Mount Nebo State Park near Dardanelle lies in a beautiful location on top of Mount Nebo. To enjoy the outdoor beauty of this park, the Rim Trail is a standout place to start — from here one can access all the park’s trails. The Rim Trail has wonderful views of the Arkansas River Valley and has historic ties to the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed many of the cabins, bridges and a large majority of the park’s trails. For an in-depth look at the park's trails, check out this brochure. Along with hiking, this state park is one of two state parks in the state where you can hang glide. Mountain biking is also big here with the park’s Monument Trails. When you finish with the day's outdoor adventures, Mount Nebo State Park's historic cabins are a true treat. One even has the designation of being the first cabin in state park history to be rented.

A beautiful view from Mount Nebo State Park.
A trail view at Mount Nebo State Park.

Devil’s Den State Park has a special place in the state park system. It is considered the home of Arkansas mountain biking because the first mountain bike trail in the state park system was developed here in the late 1980s. This landmark trail is Fossil Flats. The park, which became a state park site in the 1930s, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is now one of the most intact Civilian Conservation Corps sites in the country. Located in Lee Creek Valley in the northwest Arkansas Ozarks, rock formations and caverns are part of the park's landscape. A rock dam goes across Lee Creek to create a body of water known as Lake Devil, which is popular for boating and fishing. There is also a wealth of hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding trails that lead to the surrounding Ozark National Forest. The Monument Trails at Arkansas State Parks have world-class mountain biking terrain for all skill levels. These multi-use trails highlight the beauty of the Arkansas state parks and Devil’s Den State Park is one of four state parks in Arkansas that have these destination trails.

Devil's Den State Park

Bull-Shoals White River State Park is a standout location for fishing, particularly trout fishing. The park is located along the shores of Bull Shoals Lake and the White River. There is a marina where you can rent a boat and stock up on fishing supplies. You can also camp, hike and bike here. 

Bull-Shoals White River State Park

In Central Arkansas, Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton has epic overlooks and breathtaking views that inspired the creation of Arkansas’ first state park and our entire state park system, making it a very worthy outdoor destination. The park is home to historic Mather Lodge, a Civilian Conservation Corps rustic-style mountain lodge that overlooks the beautiful Cedar Creek Canyon.

The park is home to plenty of trails. For starters, from the lodge you can hike Cedar Falls Trail, which leads to the 95-foot Cedar Falls, one of the tallest continuously flowing waterfalls in the state. A view of the falls can also be seen via the Cedar Falls Overlook. Learn more about the park's trails and overlooks here and here. 

At Pinnacle Mountain State Park, near Little Rock, you can enjoy plenty of outdoor adventures including climbing to the top of Pinnacle Mountain for an epic view, paddling on the Big and Little Maumelle rivers and hiking and mountain biking the park’s famous Monument Trails.

Visitors paddling at Pinnacle Mountain State Park.

Village Creek State Park, near Wynne, is the second largest state park in Arkansas. The park helps preserve an important though difficult piece of U.S. history. While here you can visit the Old Military Road Trail which stands out as the most intact segment of the Trail of Tears in the state. Village Creek State Park lies on a geological formation known as Crowley’s Ridge, an erosional remnant created millions of years ago from the powerful natural forces of rivers. Many miles of multi-use trails can be found at the park for hikingbiking and horseback riding. Please note that in an effort to protect the horseback riding trails for future use, they are closed when wet due to the fragile soil on Crowley’s Ridge. Also, there's no concessionaire on site, so BOYH (bring your own horse!). Horseback riding can be found at many state parks across the state. You can learn more about these locations at ArkansasStateParks.com.

A group of visitors horseback riding at Village Creek State Park.

Delta Heritage Trail State Park is another noteworthy outdoor destination while visiting the Delta. Currently under development, over 40 miles are open for hiking and cycling on a former rail line under the national Rail to Trails program. When complete, the trail will be over 80 miles in length. The visitor center for this state park is in Barton, where you can find trail maps, picnic sites, bike rentals and more.

Visitors riding bikes on the Delta Heritage Trail.

Moro Bay State Park is a nice destination to enjoy the beauty of the state’s lakes and rivers. This state park, which is around 20 miles from El Dorado, is located at the union of three waterways, Raymond Lake, Moro Bay and the Ouachita River. It can be accessed in many ways including by boat, hiking and kayaking. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the park offers regular weekend programs and boat tours on the Ouachita River. Visitors can rent boats, boat slips or kayaks at the park’s marina. For those with their own boat, the park has the only marina on the Ouachita River in Arkansas with gas and boat slips for rent. It also offers year-round fishing and birding. The park has a campground in addition to five cabins on stilts that offer a birds-eye view over the water.

Visitors enjoy Moro Bay State Park by boat.

Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro is Arkansas’ 27th state park. This is an interesting outdoor destination as it is the only diamond mine in the whole country where you can search for real diamonds in their original volcanic source. Visitors can keep any rock, mineral or diamond they find while digging the park’s 37-acre plowed field. While here, you can learn about the fascinating geology of the park, which encompasses an eroded diamond-bearing volcanic pipe. You can also learn about the history and stories tied to the discovery of diamonds in the area. Numerous displays around the park help tell this tale, starting with John Wesley Huddleston, who first discovered diamonds in the area on his 160-acre farm in 1906. Along with diamonds, there are other rocks and minerals found onsite including quartz, jasper, mica and more. Crater of Diamonds State Park is located at 209 State Park Road.

Crater of Diamonds State Park

The Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area in Wickes showcases the beautiful Cossatot River, which is part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system. This state park, which is managed jointly by Arkansas State Parks and the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, is located along a 12-mile stretch of this river. The park is also a natural area that is home to many rare plant species. Other rare species can also be found in the river like the leopard darter, one of the rarest fish in the state. Paddling the river by canoe or kayak is an adventurous way to experience the natural wonder of this area. However, please note that Cossatot means “skull crusher” in French, so this river is not to be taken lightly. It is one of the most challenging whitewater streams in the state with ratings that can reach expert in difficulty on some portions of the stream. River levels can change quickly, so be sure to know the water levels before going on any potential excursion and know that floatable water levels are also dependent on rain. You can learn more about the river via this helpful floater brochure. Hiking is also a great way to experience the area and the park has four trails including the River Corridor Trail.

Cossatot River

Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Mena is another standout park for outdoor adventure. The park is located on Rich Mountain, the second highest peak in Arkansas. This state park is surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest, so hiking and outdoor adventures can be enjoyed within the national forest. The Ouachita National Recreation Trail can be accessed from the park. The Talimena Scenic Drive, from Mena into Oklahoma, has been designated a National Scenic Byway. 

A hiker on the trail at Queen Wilhelmina State Park.

Lake Ouachita State Park can be found at the east end of Lake Ouachita, the largest lake in the state and one of the cleanest lakes in the nation. With over 40,000 acres to explore and very little shoreline development, this lake offers an experience like no other in the state. For starters, the lake is surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest so when you are out in the waters, you are surrounded by outstanding scenery and the natural beauty. At Lake Ouachita State Park you can find cabins, campsites, a marina where you can rent boats, kayaks and canoes, and hiking trails like the beautiful Caddo Bend Trail .

A view of sunbeams on Lake Ouachita.

Visit Arkansasstateparks.com for more outdoor fun.