Hot springs, lots of fishing, bears, diamonds, and more await you in Arkansas, which is the perfect go-between the Midwest and the Deep South. This oft-overlooked natural treasure of a state is all about the ruggedly gorgeous Ouachita and Ozark Mountains, dark green, leafy valleys, and gushing rivers. Add to those moderate temperatures a boatload of activities, which includes diamond hunting, by the way, and you can see why camping is so popular here. The best camping places in Arkansas, a.k.a. the “Natural State,” includes sites and nooks in the best state parks, right in the middle of lush forests. But, what sets Arkansas campgrounds apart are the unique splendor of diamond deposits, waterfalls, and crystalline lakes. Since you can go camping throughout the year, activities such as fishing, horse-riding, ATV riding, rock climbing, hand gliding, and more can also be enjoyed throughout the year!
With the Mississippi River, one of the World’s Longest Rivers bordering it to the east, and lush forests such as the Ozarks to the north, Arkansas surely is a gem waiting to be discovered. So, pack those Must-Have Camping Accessories and head off to these 11 best camping places and sites in Arkansas.
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Lake Ouachita State Park
Lying 20 minutes outside Hot Springs, Lake Ouachita State Park is one of the best camping places in Arkansas. It lies nestled on the banks of Lake Ouachita, which is the largest lake in all of Arkansas. So, water sports enthusiasts and water babies will have a whale of a time here. Anglers can break out their Kayak Fishing Tackle Boxes and Fly Fishing Backpacks and set out to fish stripers, walleye, catfish, bream, and bass on the lake. Besides that, the area is also full of hot springs, such as the Three Sisters Springs that has been attracting people here since the late 1900s. The water here is said to have “curative powers” for different ailments!
The park has more than 200 islands and 93 campsites (12 walk-in tents, 23 Class D, and 58 Class AAA sites), of which some lie right on the water. A good camping spot is Denby Point, which lies on the southern shores of Lake Ouachita. It has 58 RV campsites with electricity and water, as well as 9 tent sites. Facilities are aplenty, including an amphitheater, trails, shaded picnic areas with tables, a playground, flush toilets, and showers. What’s more, there’s even a swimming beach here. For those who’d rather “glamp,” choose from eight fully-equipped cabins with all comforts of home, including kitchens and a bathhouse nearby. The best bit? Most of them overlook the lake and are dog-friendly! So, you might want to pack Dogs’ Travel Shoes or Dogs’ Hiking Harnesses if you want to explore the trails.
Since this park is open year-round, it’s a fabulous winter destination too. The best bit is that unlike some of Colorado’s Camping Places, the amenities here don’t shut in the winter.
Petit Jean State Park
Located less than two hours from Little Rock is one of the best camping sites in Arkansas, Petit Jean State Park. In fact, it’s Arkansas’ first state park and is inspired by the ancient geology and natural beauty of legendary Petit Jean Mountain.
Tucked between the Ozark Plateaus and the Ouachita Mountains, the park stone and log structures from the 1930s strewn about, lending it a rustic feel and making it interesting for history buffs. The highlight for water peeps is the 100-acre Lake Bailey, which is perfect for fishing, swimming, pedal boating, and more. Who’d have thought that a state park would have a museum and that too less than five minutes from the camping areas? But, that’s the Museum of Automobiles for you. If all that wasn’t enough, the park is is home to awe-inspiring natural and archaeological features such as Natural Bridge, Carpet Rocks, Turtle Rocks, the Grotto, Rock House Cave, Bear Cave, and more.
Choose from 125 individual campsites (35 Class AAA and 90 Class B), which include 26 pull-thru sites that have electrical and water hookups. All of them lie near Lake Bailey, which means lots and lots of water fun. What’s more, there are four bathhouses with restrooms and showers that are shared between them. There are also an amphitheater, a basketball and tennis court, a boat launch ramp, picnic areas, and two swimming pools. Other options include four Rent-A-Yurts, a rally-style area, and a group camp area. If you have Fido along with you, then stay in the dog-friendly cabins near Canyon Creek. Did you know that this place is open during winters too? Check out the Best Tents For Winter Camping
Lake Sylvia Recreational Area
Lake Sylvia Recreation Area, which lies an hour north of Hot Springs, is one of the best camping places in Arkansas. Serious backpackers who want to break in their Hiking Microspikes and explore the Ouachita Trails will love this place. What’s more, families and scout groups particularly love this region for fishing, swimming, and barbequing. The views across the lake are fantastic, and since motorboats aren’t permitted, groups can easily whip out their Lake Kayaks and go exploring. However, it’s the trail system that’s amazing here and offers an opportunity for enjoying nature walks, hiking, and even gravel grinding and backpacking along the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.
Choose from 27 camping sites here, of which 8 are tent-only, and 19 are ones with electricity and water. Since campsites are first-come, first-served, there’s a self-pay station (cash only) right at the sites. Additionally, you’ll also find two group tent camping sites as well as seven camper cabins with bathrooms. The biggest difference at Lake Sylvia is that it’s open only during summers, i.e., from mid-spring to early fall. Thanks to the amenities such as the picnic site, the bathhouses, and the swimming beach, families have the utmost fun camping here.
Hot Springs National Park
40 years before Yellowstone landed the title of America’s first national park in 1872, there was another park whose rare natural features were already declared “protected.” This was Hot Springs National Park, one of the best camping sites in Arkansas. Since 1921, it’s been the oldest protected area in the National Park System, with its thermal hot springs used for therapeutic baths. So much so, this place is informally known as “America’s Spa!” The hot springs that fuel the natural baths from the western slopes of Hot Springs Mountain, which is part of the Ouachita Mountain range.
Hot Springs National Park is a KOA campground and has 40 campsites at the Gulpha Gorge Campground, all of which have 30/50-amp electric hookups. But, that’s not all. They all also have sewer and water connections, access to potable water, pedestal grills, and picnic tables. If that wasn’t enough, they even have a dump station and trash/recycling collections. Moreover, there are modern restrooms too, but without showers. Why not look through some of the Camping Showers then? Do not that the sites aren’t pull-through and two vehicles or eight people can stay at every site.
There are a few things that campers need to keep in mind. Firstly, camping fees must be paid by debit/credit cards (no cash), and one needs to register before occupying the campsite. However, you cannot make reservations, and sites are first-come, first-served. However, there’s an upside – this park is open throughout the year and is especially beautiful during winters!
DeGray Lake Resort State Park
DeGray Lake Resort State Park is, undoubtedly, one of the best camping places in Arkansas. In fact, it’s Arkansas’ only resort state park and lies along the northern shores of DeGray Lake at the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. Plus, it’s just 45 minutes south of Hot Springs. DeGray is a watersports and fishing paradise and even has a golf resort with an 18-hole championship golf course. Additionally, the region is rich in both wildlife and birds and is a haven for enthusiasts. How about you read up on the Best Birdwatching Binoculars and Hiking Binoculars to make your experience all the more special.
Compared to other campgrounds on Lake DeGray, the Alpine Ridge campsite offers lots of quiet, tranquility, and privacy. You have 113 campsites to choose from, all of them with electric and RV hookups. Tent campers will enjoy staying in the treeline, while RVers have many level and paved sites to choose from. The best bit is that the area offers lots of shade, which makes it a pleasant camping experience even in the middle of summer. What’s more, you can even rent permanent tent-like yurts, which also have almost everything, including electricity. The best bit is that the activities and amenities at DeGray Lake Resort State Park are open to all campers, except the fitness center, hot tub, and pool at DeGray Lodge.
But, the public beach areas are perfect for lake swimming. Additionally, there’s a full-service marina from where campers can rent boats and take off to explore the lake. Since this resort is open during winters too, those who thrive in the cold will love camping here.
Buffalo National River Park
Those who love hike-in and primitive campsites will love Buffalo National River Park, which is one of the best camping sites in Arkansas. Part of the National Park Service, it’s home to the Buffalo River, which is known as America’s first national river. What’s more, there are tons to see and do here, the most popular activity being a float trip. So, pack your Recreational Kayaks and float down this river that runs along the southern region of the Ozarks. Beyond paddling, you can also indulge in wildlife watching, swimming, hiking, fishing, and more. Just take care to check the river current and pack Kayaking Life Vests.
Choose from many campsites at this Arkansas camping site, with 42 at Tyler Bend, 40 at Steel Creek, and 108 at Buffalo Point Campground, which is the best of them all. For one, it’s the most developed and largest campground around and offers electrical and water hookups for RVs. Plus, some sites are available for reservation, while others are first-come, first-served. Amenities such as electricity, water, showers, dump station, and flush restrooms are available during summers. Since this is a seasonal campground, Loop B campsites are open for primitive camping during winter, with no electricity or flush restrooms.
One of the most different activities you can do here is stargazing since Bufakko River is an International Dark Sky Park! So, make sure you pack the Best Binoculars For Stargazing.
Charlton Recreation Area
Located just half-an-hour west of Hot Springs, Charlton Recreation Area is one of the best camping places in Arkansas. Part of the Ouachita National Forest, Charlton has some of the most crystal clear waters around in the form of the Walnut Creek. This cold, spring-fed mountain stream is ideal whether you like to fish, swim, or simply want to picnic. In fact, the stream water is cold even during the hottest day of the year, with the sun shining down in full force. There’s even a native stone dam that forms a swimming area with a grassy beach, which makes this place a hit with families.
The seasonal, summer-only campground in Charlton Recreation Area has three loops with a total of 46 campsites. Of them, 10 sites have sewer, electricity, and water, 20 have water and electricity, and 27 have no utilities, i.e., they are primitive sites. What’s more, you’ll find common amenities such as flush toilets and a bathhouse with warm showers. Moreover, every campsite has fire rings and grills, and pets must be remain leashed while at the campground.
For those who like hiking, a 1-mile nature trail near the campground connects to the 40-mile Lake Ouachita Vista Trail. For bikers, the Womble Trail is highly regarded and recommended.
Greer’s Ferry Lake
Are your Snorkel Swimming Goggles feeling lonely? You had better bring them along to Greer’s Ferry Lake, one of the best camping sites in Arkansas. Located less than two hours from Little Rock, Greer Lake is famous for crystal-clear waters, the country’s cleanest, and a pristine shoreline. The clean and deep water is perfect for cliff jumps, swimming, water skiing, boating, and so much more. Since there are vast stretches of water on the lake, it’s also great for other watersports such as sailing. Fishing is a rather favorite activity here, especially since it’s stocked with native fish by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Of all the campgrounds, Choctaw, which lies at the western edge of the upper part of the lake, is a favorite campsite for campers. Choose from 146 sites, 91 of which have water and electrical hookups. Amenities abound here, including a trailer dump station, drinking water, showers, and vault, and flush toilets. Moreover, there’s even a swimming area, a boat launching ramp and a marina, and even a picnic shelter and a playground. You can also indulge in winter camping at Choctaw, especially since flush toilets and electricity both are available. Now that’s a real treat!
One of the most interesting activities to do here is scuba diving, especially for history and archaeology enthusiasts. What’s the connection? A city named Higden flourished in the 19th century, where the lake stands today. Since it was hit by frequent floods, a manmade lake was created for flood control in the region. Today, the city’s remains rest at the bottom of the lake. Since the waters are crystal clear, exploring it is all the more thrilling.
Devil’s Den State Park
Devil’s Den State Park is amongst the best camping places in Arkansas. Don’t be put off by the seemingly spooky name; this park offers some of the most stunning views in the entire state. The state park sits at the northwestern edge of the state, just under an hour south of Springdale. It’s tucked in a valley in the Ozark Mountains that’s renowned for its lush oak-hickory forest and natural beauty. Spelunkers who have a penchant and love for coves, caves, and caverns will love this park, which seems to have a profusion of all of the above. In addition to that, it also has forests with many stunning hiking trails for exploration.
Do you plan to camp at the park? You have tons of options; more specifically, you have 135 campsites to choose from (8 hike-in, tent-only ones, 44 Class AAA, 4 Class B, 13 Class C, and 24 Class D ones). What’s more, there are also 42 sites with electric and water hookups at the horse camp, along with a bathhouse too. Finally, the group camping area is perfect for families and larger groups. The best bit? It even has a meeting room, a store, and a standard pavilion.
While the park is open during winters, the cafe, pool, and trails are not. So, you might have to carry all the camping essentials on you, including Camping Foods.
Mount Nebo State Park
Do you love hand gliding and the possibilities it offers? Then head off to Mount Nebo State Park, which is perfect for hand gliding in good weather. In fact, it’s one of the only two Arkansas state parks to offer hand gliding opportunities, with Mount Magazine being the other one. Hikers will have a great time at Mount Nebo, especially since there is 14 mi of trails with stunning sunrise and sunset points. Even mountain biking enthusiasts will have fun on the 4.5-mile bench trial, which lies along a natural terrace encircling Mount Nebo. What’s more, you get to ride through pine and hardwood forests, passing lakes and springs.
If that wasn’t enough, Mount Nebo is also one of the best camping sites in Arkansas. There are 34 campsites, of which 10 are hike-in tent-only sites and 24 Class B sites that are perfect for smaller RVs. So, you might want to also read up on the Best Accessories for RV Camping. Also, there’s no dump station at the park, but there is a swimming pool, a gift shop, a visitor center, pavilions, picnic areas, and tennis courts. All in all, this Arkansas camping site is amazing.
Besides campgrounds, the park, which lies around one-and-a-half hours from Little Rock, also has 15 rustic-style cabins. In fact, cabin 1 was the first cabin rental ever in America’s state park history. Finally, 12 of the cabins lie along the bluff and enjoy views of the river valley below.
The Ozark National Forest
Crystal clear lakes, soaring limestone bluffs, and virgin forests make the Ozarks the best of the best camping places in Arkansas. Stretching across four states, including Arkansas, the Ozark National Forest is not only home to mountains but also caverns. Intrepid explorers, for instance, will love Blanchard Springs Caverns, where there are guided tours for wild caves adventures. Another huge attraction is the 14-mi North Sylamore Trail, which has a wide variety of forested landscapes. Finally, there’s also the unique site of Moccasin Gap Horse Camp, which offers hitching posts and well water for horses.
The U.S. Forest Service has developed campgrounds at Blanchard Springs, Barkshed, and Gunner Pool, of which the drive-in/walk-in campsite of Gunner Pool is the most popular. Stretching along the scenic North Sylamore Creek, the tent and RV campground at Gunner Pool is private and shaded but primitive. So, there are no water or electrical hookups here, but campsites do have tent pads, lantern poles, picnic tables, and grills. Additionally, there’s also trash/recycling collection, fire rings, and pit toilets. How about packing some Camping Snacks and Fun Camping Games for spending time here?
However, it’s open throughout the year for intrepid travelers to enjoy being cut off from the rest of the world. The best bit? You can access the Sylamore Hiking Trail from right within the campground! The number of sites might be limited here, but since they sit right by the water, this Arkansas camping is a wonderful experience.