5 Arkansas State Parks Perfect for Family Camping
Before your camping expedition begins, you have to choose a location. Where you camp will determine the activities you’ll participate in, how far of a drive you’ll be making and more.
And while every Arkansas State Park is worth exploring, we know you probably don’t have time to leaf through the details on all 52. So, with the help of Monika Rued and Meg Matthews at Arkansas State Parks we pulled together a much more manageable list of parks for you to choose from.
Nervous about camping with your family? Don’t be, says photographer and avid camper Jacob Slaton.
“If you just have a positive attitude and get excited about the experience, your kids will follow suit,” Slaton says. “Camping as a family makes memories for a lifetime, and it’s one of the cheapest vacations you’ll ever find. My kids can build a campfire, cook camp food and catch a fish with confidence and those skills translate to confidence in all other areas of life. And the added bonus is that phones and devices are way less of a distraction when fun stuff is happening in the great outdoors.”
One of the his family’s favorite places to camp is Mississippi River State Park, which is included in the following guide with tips and highlights from Slaton.
Visit ArkansasStateParks.com for more information on all of these parks or to reserve a campsite or other accommodations.
Woolly Hollow State Park
Woolly Hollow State Park, just north of Greenbrier, is the epitome of family-friendly fun! It’s the perfect spot for camping with kids because of its size — not too big and not too small. Facilities include campsites for RVs or tents and bathhouses with hot showers.
► Forty-acre Lake Bennett is perfect for fishing and boating. Rent kayaks, pedal boats, canoes or a fishing boat at the marina.
► Paved roads throughout the park are great for biking. Don’t forget your helmet!
► Hike four trails at a variety of lengths and difficulty levels.
► Beginning on Memorial Day Weekend, the lake is open to swimmers. Make sure to pack a suit!
Kids Fishing Derby
May 4, 9-11 a.m.
Kids 15 and under can try their luck at Lake Bennett. Trophies will be awarded in three age groups; make sure to bring your own bait and tackle.
Petit Jean State Park
Petit Jean State Park is Arkansas’ first state park! Families can bring their RV, pitch a tent, stay in the lodge, rent a cabin or have a unique experience in a yurt! Yurts are located in the campground and are a great option for those who don’t have camping gear.
► The spectacular 95-foot Cedar Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state
► Several overlooks provide a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape from 1,120 feet above the Arkansas River Valley.
► A full restaurant at the park means you don’t have to pack every meal!
► Picnic and grocery supplies, firewood and gift shops are located near the park, so if you forget something, no need to stress.
Arkansas Heritage Day
May 11, 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
Celebrate Arkansas Heritage Month with a full day of programming, learning about Native American Indian life and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Lake Catherine State Park
Lake Catherine State Park is easy to get to and offers easy hikes perfect for kids. Lodging options include cabins, RV and tent campgrounds and Yurts.
► Guided horseback riding is available seasonally at the park. No experience is necessary, just contact them for hours at 501-844-4176.
► Visit the marina for boat rentals, including kayaks, fishing boats and even water bikes!
► Hike four trails ranging in length from five-eighths of a mile to four miles.
► After a good rain, hike the Falls Branch Trail. Hike the part of the trail to the left and over the wooden bridge for a shorter, less strenuous hike and then wade in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall.
Full Moon Kayak Tour
May 18, 8-9 p.m.
Join a park interpreter for a peaceful, moon-lit tour of Lake Catherine. Kayak, life jacket, and paddle are provided and registration is $15 per person.
Lake Ouachita State Park
Lake Ouachita State Park is home to Arkansas’ largest lake — 40,000 acres to be exact. It’s the perfect place for water sports of all kinds. Accommodations include standard campsites as well as camper cabins with beds, a table and screened-in porch.
► A shaded picnic area with tables, grills, restrooms, playground and swimming beach, perfect for kids.
► The lake is home to bass, crappie, bream, catfish, smallmouth bass, walleye, and stripers, making it a great place for fishing.
► Three Sisters Springs has been a major attraction since the late 1880s. The water is said to have "curative powers" for different ailments.
► The camper cabins are dog friendly, so your four-legged family member can join you on your outing! Just make sure to bring your own linens if you choose to stay in a cabin.
Birding on the Boat
May 11, 8-9:15 a.m.
Celebrate World Migratory Bird Day with a bird-watching boat tour! Bring your own binoculars or borrow some from the park. Registration is $10 for adults, $6 for kids ages 6-12 and free for kids under 6.
Mississippi River State Park
Mississippi River State Park is the newest member of the Arkansas State Park system and features seven different bodies of water! Accommodation options are basic, with only standard campsite offerings (for RVs or tents).
► Hike the 1-mile loop just across the street from the campground — it’s easy for little kids and has educational signs and cool bridges and logs to walk across.
► In the summer the swim area is nice and the sandy beach makes it comfortable for a few beach towels, umbrellas and a cooler while the kids play.
► Stop by the Visitor Center for interactive and educational indoor exhibits on a rainy day.
► Bring bikes! The campground is small and there’s only one way in and out, so as parents, you know your kids are safe cruising around the paved loop, and you can almost see the whole thing from any campsite in the area.
Nature-Inspired Wind Chimes
May 12, 3-4 p.m.
Join a park interpreter to make a wind chime out of non-native invasive golden bamboo and then decorate it to make yours unique. Cost is $5 per person and this activity provides a way for families to create a take-home memory.