If it’s not enough just to stroll around and see the beauty of Arkansas, then we’ve got a few places in mind around the Natural State to tell you about – locations where you can explore, photograph, look, learn, and love every moment of it! These strenuous hikes and natural underground caves and caverns attract plenty of adventurous visitors. So put on your hiking boots and get out there and explore.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
14. Go for a hike at Mount Nebo State Park on the Gum Springs Trail.
The Gum Springs Trail, located at Mount Nebo State Park, is a rather short hike at 45 minutes. This very steep trail passes the seasonal waterfall enroute from the Waterfall Overlook to Gum Springs. Hikers will encounter huge rock steps on this trail, some weighing 500 pounds.
13. Take a hike on the Cove Lake Trail at Mount Magazine State Park.
Nearly 10 miles long, this trail starts in the Cameron Bluff Campground at Mount Magazine State Park - most of the trail is in the Ozark National Forest itself with only half a mile being within the park's boundaries - and goes down over 1,500 feet to Cove Lake. Beginning backpackers will gain a lot of experience and get an eyeful of Arkansas's beauty on this trail!
12. Go riding on your ATV at Daisy State Park on the Bear Creek Cycle.
Experienced ATV riders can follow the Lake Greeson shoreline on the Bear Creek Cycle Trail at Daisy State Park and catch excellent views of the lake as well as the Ouachita Mountain range. This trail covers 31 miles of rocky outlays and forest, beginning at Daisy State Park and ends near the west end of Rough Mountain.
11. See if you can find what's hidden at Old Spanish Treasure Cave!
Located in northwest Arkansas on Highway 59 between Sulphur Springs and Gravette, the Old Spanish Treasure Cave comes with a centuries-old legend of Spanish Conquistadors who traveled north through the wilderness to find a wealth of gold. Although it's said the men returned to Mexico without their riches, an amount of gold (estimated to be worth millions today) was obtained and hidden in this cave along with maps that point to the treasure. Panning for gem stones, crystals, and fossils is another activity offered at this popular cave, which stays at a constant 56 degrees year round.
10. Go hiking on the Big Bluff Trail at Bull Shoals-White River State Park.
The Big Bluff hiking trail at Bull Shoals-White River State Park is a nearly 2-mile loop trail that takes hikers approximately an hour and a half to complete. This is a strenuous hike but very much worth it as you'll get to see stunning views of the White River, Bull Shoals Dam, and the Ozark hill country.
9. Spend a day at Cossatot River State Park on the River Corridor Trail.
Located about 8 miles east of Vandervoort off of Highway 246, the River Corridor trail head at Cossatot River State Park is a linear trail - broken up into sections according to the river access areas - that winds its way through some of the most scenic and strenuous terrain found in the Ouachita Mountains. Plan for approximately six to eight hours per each leg of the trail, which is broken up into sections according to the river access areas.
8. Go out on the Butterfield Hiking Trail at Devil's Den State Park.
A strenuous journey of 15 miles, the Butterfield Hiking Trail at Devil's Den State Park is one of very few looped backpacking trails in Arkansas (backpackers must obtain a free permit at the park office before beginning their hike.) The trail starts near the park's pavilion; the trail itself crosses Highway 74 and passes near Mount Olive. Such gorgeous views as Blackburn Creek and Vista Point are available to hikers. Photographers will appreciate the dramatic outlines of outcroppings and rock formations.
7. Take a hike on the Cedar Falls Trail at Petit Jean State Park.
This excursion is two miles round-trip and usually takes about an hour and a half to two hours to complete - photographers will love this trip. Hikers will start the trail behind the breezeway at Mather Lodge in Petit Jean State Park and venture down into Cedar Creek Canyon. Follow the trail from Cedar Creek to 95-foot Cedar Falls, one of the tallest continuously flowing waterfalls in the state.
6. Take a trip down (way, way down) to Blanchard Springs Caverns.
This cave system is located in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests in Stone County, north of Mountain View. Blanchard Springs Caverns features two caves open for guided tours. The Dripstone Trail, opened since 1973, runs through the upper level of the caverns. The Discovery Trail on the second level opened in 1977 and runs through the middle of the cavern. A "Wild Cave" tour is also offered and allows adventurous visitors access to undeveloped parts of the cave. The limestone rock from which the caves and their formations developed was laid down in an ancient sea more than 350 million years ago, and the temperature here is a constant 58°F.
5. Go down in the depths of Onyx Cave.
Located east of Eureka Springs, Onyx Cave has attracted visitors since 1893, making it the oldest show cave in Arkansas. The cave contains a flowstone called cave onyx which has a similar appearance to onyx itself. Tours at Onyx Cave are not guided but given by headsets which alert tourists to chambers and rock formations. The cave stays at an average temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit year round and has only one public opening, so visitors must exit the cave the way they entered.
4. Take a hike on the Ozark Highlands Trail at Lake Fort Smith State Park.
The western terminus of the Ozark Highlands Trail begins behind the visitor center at Lake Fort Smith State Park. Scenic valleys, ridges, and beautiful waterfalls can all be viewed on this strenuous hike. The Ozark Highlands trail can be completed all at once by more experienced hikers or if you prefer, the hike can be completed in sections. The eastern terminus is located along the Buffalo National River, 165 miles from Lake Fort Smith State Park.
3. Take a day hike on the Caddo Bend Trail at Lake Ouachita State Park.
On the Caddo Bend trail at Lake Ouachita State Park, photographers and nature lovers will be amazed by the scenic views and natural physical attributes on the 4-mile trail, which begins near the park ampitheater and circles itself back to where you began after about 3 hours of hiking time.
2. Find the magic in both Mystic Caverns and Crystal Dome.
Located in between Jasper and Harrison on scenic Highway 7, Mystic Caverns and Crystal Dome are often called "the twin caves" because they are situated within 400 feet of each other. Both caves maintain a year-round temperature of 58°F and contain more formations per foot than any other caves in Arkansas. The caves are open for public tours year-round except during the January flooding season.
1. Have your mind blown while exploring Cosmic Cavern!
Located near Berryville, Cosmic Cavern is known for being the "warmest" cave in the Ozarks - Cosmic Cavern stays at a constant 62 degrees year-round. Two cave lakes here are reported to be bottomless and they are among the largest underground lakes in the Ozarks. One section of the cave, "Silent Splendor", houses a group of "soda straws". One of the longest soda straw formations in the Ozarks, this large formation has straws hanging up to nine feet in length.
Feeling brave or strong enough to take these trips? Where else do you like to go in Arkansas for sightseeing that goes beyond the normal hike? Be sure to leave a comment on your favorite places for exploration in the Natural State!