Explore public lands in the Iron Ranger Challenge

Roark Bluff on the Buffalo National River
Roark Bluff on the Buffalo National River

Exploring public lands is a great national pastime. Arkansas, The Natural State, certainly has its share of beautiful landscape to traverse. If you enjoy a little extra challenge to your outdoor activity, consider taking on the Iron Ranger Challenge.

Since 2016, Buffalo National River has been challenging people to explore their public lands and become “Iron Rangers,” by completing 100 miles of physical activity over the course of the year to improve health and fitness.

Participants in this year's Iron Ranger Challenge may choose to hike, bike, paddle, walk, or run 100 miles on any public lands within the state of Arkansas. Visitors who complete 100 miles of activity will receive a certificate and a commemorative patch to recognize their accomplishment, but the real reward will be found in the health benefits of outdoor recreation and in the exploration of public lands.

The program’s host park, Buffalo National River, is looking forward to offering this program to the public again. “We invite the public to get outdoors and discover the hidden corners of our public lands by taking advantage of the wide array of hiking, biking, and paddling opportunities that can be found within Buffalo National River. The National Park Service’s goal of creating future stewards of our public lands can only be realized when people create connections and find relevance to these special places. Buffalo National River is hoping to foster these kinds of connections by hosting the Iron Ranger Challenge,” said Mark Foust, Buffalo National River Superintendent.

Public lands can be found throughout the state. Lisa Conard Frost, Superintendent of Fort Smith National Historic Site, said, “Since the Iron Ranger program's inception during the National Park Service Centennial Year in 2016, visitors from across the nation and world have taken the challenge and experienced the spectacular places and resources that the National Parks in Arkansas have to offer. Whether it is paddling the Buffalo River, taking a bicycle tour past President Clinton Birthplace Home, hiking in the Ouachita Mountains, relaxing with a thermal bath at Hot Springs National Park, or walking through a battlefield, historic, memorial and trail sites such as Pea Ridge, Fort Smith, Little Rock Central High School, Arkansas Post and the Trail of Tears, the opportunities are endless for visitors to experience, enjoy and honor these and many more places in our great state.”


Karen Bradford, Superintendent of Arkansas Post National Memorial, highlights how historic sites can provide areas for recreating, “Arkansas Post National Memorial is one of the most scenic spots in the state with water views from nearly every trail. You can walk through the first capital of the Arkansas Territory, visit the only Revolutionary War battlefield in Arkansas, see the spot where the Arkansas Gazette was first published, and walk through the rifle pits area where the Civil War Battle of Arkansas Post was fought. There are amazing opportunities to view wildlife ranging from alligators to bald eagles. This area is considered an ‘important birding area’ by the Audubon Society and has extraordinary birding opportunities. There are 4 miles of walking trails and 4.5 miles of canoe trail available. Arkansas Post National Memorial has something for everyone.”

Participating Arkansas national park sites include Buffalo National River, Arkansas Post National Memorial, Fort Smith National Historic Site, Hot Springs National Park, Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Pea Ridge National Military Park, President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site. State parks, city parks, US Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineer lands are examples of other excellent locations to log miles.

It is free to participate in the Iron Ranger Challenge. For more information, a sample log sheet, and suggestions on places to begin logging your miles visit https://www.nps.gov/buff/planyourvisit/2020-iron-ranger-challenge.htm.

Even if you’re not interested in participating in the Iron Ranger Challenge, this website is a great resource for planning your visit to Arkansas national parks.