Before You Go
Coordinates | 35.2010°N, 91.8318°W
Baton Rouge to Arkansas | 386.8 miles
Driving Time | 6 hours, 44 minutes
Flying Time | 3 hours, 50 minutes (BTR to LIT)
Why Arkansas State Parks? | Choose any of Arkansas’s 52 state parks for a variety of activities that are great for any vacation or getaway. Adventure sports, wildlife watching, and educational opportunities for you and your kiddos await you in beautiful Arkansas. From lakes and rivers to mountains and adventure, Arkansas State Parks are sure to offer a memorable time for your entire family.
Where to Stay
Change up your family’s normal habitation on vacation and stay in a YURT, a Year-Round Recreational Tent. This is a tent you don’t even need to pitch, and it comes with a ton of add ons you won’t find in a tent, or even in some hotels. YURTs are round tent-like structures with walls, wood floors, and screened windows. They feature a variety of amenities, including bunk beds, a stove, and fire pits. Lake Charles State Park, in Powhatan, has their YURTs set up around the lake, making it a great spot for newbies who are also looking to fish, kayak, and boat.
Where to Eat
Smoke Shack Bar-B-Q
20608 AR-365, Maumelle, AR 72113
Five miles from Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Smoke Shack Bar-B-Q offers great barbeque and a family-friendly atmosphere. Try their take on an old classic with a standard pulled pork sandwich, and spice it up with interesting sides such as pinto beans or green beans.
Mather Lodge Restaurant
1069 Petit Jean Mountain Road, Morrilton, AR 72110
Near Petit Jean State Park, Mather Lodge Restaurant offers delicious home-cooked food and breathtaking views while you dine in. Try the Roast Beef, the Fajita Wrap, or the all-you-can-eat buffet to satisfy every member of your family.
577 Lodge Drive, Paris, AR 72855
At the Lodge in Mount Magazine State Park, Skycrest Restaurant is a beautiful restaurant with rustic charm. Indulge in their buffet featuring delicious burgers, salads, and traditional home cooking.
What to Do
Hunt for buried treasure with your kiddos at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Start off at the Diamond Discovery Center to learn how to search for diamonds and rent mining tools before setting out to find your diamonds. Park staff is available to help with identification and certification of diamonds found, and any diamonds you find are yours to keep. There’s also the Diamond Springs Water Park and play areas for everyone to enjoy. ■ arkansasstateparks.com
Cool off in the spring-fed water, lounge on the beach, rent a pedal boat or kayak, or join in a volleyball game on the sand at Crowley’s Ridge State Park. The Park’s Walcott Lake is all about fishing, too. You and your kiddos can catch trophy-sized fish from largemouth bass to catfish.
Get your steps in while trying backpacking, whether you’re a beginner or experienced. The four-mile loop at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area is a great place to take an easy hike in the Ozark forest. If you’re more experienced, the Ouachita Trail is a 222-mile trail that hikers can access from both Queen Wilhelmina and Pinnacle Mountain State Parks.
Go on a treasure hunt, and try your hand at geocaching in the parks. Test your expert cache-seeking skills in some of The Natural State’s most scenic and historic settings. This geocaching adventure is based around visiting all 52 state parks, with each cache offering a clue that will help you find the coordinates of the final cache. Download the clue sheet online to start your adventure.
Plan a day for an adventure, and head to either Mount Magazine State Park or Mount Nebo State Park for hangliding. Both of these parks offer their highest peaks for experienced hang gliders to ride the thermals, but for a family adventure, these peaks offer beautiful views and an unforgettable experience. Swing by either the tallest point in Arkansas (Mount Magazine at 2,753 feet) or a peak near the Arkansas River Valley (1,350 at Mount Nebo). And don’t forget to snap a family selfie.
If you’re looking for something more relaxed, there are 25 state parks in Arkansas that are included in the Watchable Wildlife Program. From butterflies to deer, all of the wildlife can be seen within the parks. Trail maps are also available to lead you close to the wildlife.