Arkansas has about 50 state and national parks. That's why it's called the Natural State. With all these parks, it's almost impossible to visit every one. Each one offers something special. These are, in my opinion, the can't miss parks in Arkansas.
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Mount Magazine, Paris
Arkansas has so many pretty areas, it's hard to say which is the "prettiest," but Mount Magazine does have amazing views. You can view the Arkansas River Valley from heights of 2,753 feet. It's breathtaking. The park is located on Scenic Highway 309 approximately 17 miles south of Paris and boasts the highest summit in Arkansas.
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Lake Degray, Bismark
Degray is probably my favorite all around state park. They have nice facilities, great staff and beautiful natural trails and scenery. The 13,000 acre lake is located on the Caddo River, in the foothills of the Ouchaita Mountains. You can find almost every type of outdoor recreation and wildlife Arkansas has to offer within a short distance.
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You can search this 36-acre field for diamonds. This is the only site in the world where individuals can search for diamonds and keep any they find. The park is open everyday and it's fun for kids and parents alike. The park is 2 miles southeast of Murfreesboro on Ark. 301.Continue to 5 of 20 below.
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Pinnacle Mountain, Roland
Pinnacle Mountain makes a great day trip for those of us living in the urban jungle of Little Rock. It's just a short trip from Little Rock but the difference is striking. Pinnacle is especially beautiful in the fall and spring. To reach Pinnacle Mountain State Park, take Exit #9 off I-430 at Little Rock and travel 7 miles west on Ark. 10, then go 2 miles north on Ark. 300.
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Petit Jean, Morrilton
The thing that stands out about Petit Jean is Cedar Creek and the 95-foot waterfall which flows from it. It's a very peaceful place to hike through and reflect. You can also find forests, canyons, streams, meadows and mountainsides. Take Exit #108 off I-40 at Morrilton and travel nine miles south on Ark. 9, then go 12 miles west on Ark. 154; or from Dardanelle, travel 7 miles south on Ark. 7, then go 16 miles east on Ark. 154 to the park.
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Lake Ouachita, Mountain Pine
Known for the clarity of its water, Arkansas's largest man made lake stretches across 48,000 acres and has 975 miles of impressive mountainous shoreline. Lake Ouachita is the perfect place for fishing and diving. They also have swimming and picnic areas. From Hot Springs, travel 3 miles west on U.S. 270, then go 12 miles north on Ark. 227 to the park.
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Devil's Den, West Fork
Devil's Den is perfect for the spelunker in us all. Here, you'll find lots of little caverns and coves for you to investigate. You can find beautiful hiking trials, an 8-acre lake and beautiful forests as well. To reach the park, travel 8 miles south of Fayetteville on I-540 to Exit #53 (West Fork), then go 17 miles southwest on Ark. 170; or I-540 at Exit #45 (Winslow) and go 7 miles west on Ark. 74.Continue to 9 of 20 below.
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If you want to be awestruck, take a trip to Blanchard Springs. Blanchard Springs Caverns is a popular summer attraction that is listed in many guidebooks as one of the most beautiful caves in America. Blanchard Springs Caverns is owned and maintained by the US Forestry Service. They've kept the cave as natural as possible, only adding handrails and a few lights to make it more accessible. There are two separate regular tours. One is a fairly short, fairly level tour that even youngsters could handle. The other tour is longer and has quite a few stairs.
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Cossatot is one of my favorite "wild" parks. They do have a nice visitor's center, but the big attraction is the whitewater. Cossatot River is known as the best whitewater float in mid-America. At the falls, the river drops 33 feet within a third of a mile. The translation of the park's name is "skull crusher" and it was given that name for class 3-5 whitewater you'll find there. If you're not into extreme sports, you can hike the river and check out the neat rock formations that kind of power forms.
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Crowley's Ridge, Paragould
If you like that rustic pioneer feeling, this is the park for you. Log cabins and beautiful rolling forests make this park special. The park is 15 miles north of Jonesboro on Ark. 141; or 9 miles west of Paragould on U.S. 412, then 2 miles south on Ark. 168.
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Buffalo National River, Northern Arkansas
Established in 1972, the Buffalo National River is 135 miles long. It's one of the few remaining un-dammed rivers in the lower 48 states. The Buffalo National River is a popular spot for whitewater rafting and kayaking, as well some great spots for camping and hiking.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
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The Ozark Mountain Folk Center, Mountain View
The Ozark Mountain Folk Center is not your typical state park. It's a park of living history and heritage. Their goal to preserve and teach the history of the Ozarks, and they do this through live demonstrations and performances in a historical setting.
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Lake Dardanelle, Russellville
I think Lake Dardanelle has the nicest visitor center in Arkansas. The lake is a 34,300-acre reservoir on the Arkansas river. The state park is actually more like two parks, with the visitor's center being located in Russellville, AR and another site in Dardanelle. Both offer camping, hiking and picnic facilities.
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Jacksonport is the home of Arkansas's big "Portfest" festival in June. The main emphasis of Jacksonport State Park is the White River. It was a popular port in the 1800s and that made Newport the place to be. Because of it's easy access to the water, five different generals used the town as their headquarters during the Civil War. You can tour the Jacksonport Courthouse and its War Memorial Room to find out more. There is also a restored steamboat. The views of the White River are amazing.
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The best part of this park is the view from the lodge. Once called the "Castle in the Sky" this lodge give breathtaking views of the Ouachita Valley and isn't too far from the Cossatot River, a great place to float, hike and swim and it in the middle of the Ouachita forests. The park itself has camping, hiking trails and some of the most scenic panoramic views in Arkansas.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
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Louisiana Purchase State Park, BrinkleyThe Louisiana Purchase State Park marks junction of Lee, Monroe and Phillips counties preserves the initial point from which all surveys of the property acquired through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 initiated. This is a low amenity park. There are no campsites, no picnic tables. It offers a beautiful and relatively safe look at rare headwater swamp.
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Arkansas largest lake is nestled in a pecan grove. Lake Chicot is 20-mile long oxbow lake, cut off centuries ago when the mighty Mississippi changed course. It is perfect for boating and fishing. Bird fans can also find great bird watching. The park is eight miles northeast of Lake Village on Ark. 144.
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