arkansas campgrounds for new campers

Best Arkansas Campgrounds for First-Time Campers

For anyone who is new to camping or just new to camping in Arkansas, choosing that first Arkansas campground can be a tough decision. Arkansas has 52 state parks and 32 of those offer campsites. We also have countless Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds, private campgrounds, and campsites within our national forests that are beautiful.

So, as a first-time camper, which campground should you choose? It doesn’t take long while browsing on social media to learn that thousands of people in Arkansas are talking about where they are going camping every weekend. Everyone has their favorite place to camp for different reasons.

BEST Arkansas Campgrounds for people who are new to camping

Today, I’m going to give some pointers to first-time campers. As an Arkansas native and an avid camper, I understand how hard this decision can be and I’m here to help you! Here, you will find some of the best camping in Arkansas.

1. Lake Ouachita State Park

Named as being on of the BEST state parks in Arkansas for camping, Lake Ouachita State Park is a favorite campground for many. Plus, this is Arkansas’s largest lake!

We have chosen Lake Ouachita State Park as being a great campground for first-time campers because of the activities offered and amenities offered.

  • 40,000 acre lake
  • swimming
  • hiking
  • scuba diving
  • boating
  • kayaking
  • fishing

“Bream, crappie, catfish, striped bass, and largemouth bass can be caught in open waters or quiet coves. The park has 93 campsites (58 Class AAA, 23 Class D, and 12 walk-in tent sites), some right on the water.” -source

This state park is also near Hot Springs and there are FUN things for kids in Hot Springs!

Also, if you get tired of camping food, you can discover the BEST restaurants in Hot Springs.

You’ll find Lake Ouachita State Park here:
5451 Mountain Pine Rd
Mountain Pine, AR 71956

2. JFK Campground and Recreation Area on the Little Red River

For me, nothing compares to camping at the John F. Kennedy Campground and Recreation Area on the Little Red River in Heber Springs, AR.

This is a beautiful campground built by the Army Corp of Engineers. It is located downstream of the Greers Ferry Dam in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of north-central Arkansas.

If you enjoy trout fishing, easy hiking, beautiful scenery, and great amenities, this campground is for you!

You can read my full review with all the details here: 7 AMAZING Reasons to Visit JFK Campground on the Little Red River.

While you’re there, you can also walk to the Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery which is always fun!

Fish Hatchery in Heber Springs AR
JFK Campground is within walking distance of the fish hatchery!

Also, Collins Creek Trail and Cascade is VERY close if you want some easy hiking.

Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery
349 Hatchery Road
Heber Springs, AR 72543
Phone: 501-362-3615

Don’t miss two great waterfalls that are a 10 minute drive from the campground!

3. Holiday Island overlooking Table Rock Lake

Holiday Island Campground overlooks beautiful Table Rock Lake in Northern Arkansas. This campground is perfect for first-time campers because there is plenty to do, the campground is not crowded and the campsites have full hookups (water, sewer and electric with 30 and 50 amp).

You will also find nice restrooms and showers here.

Don’t miss the horseshoe pits too!

“A natural trail will take you down to the bank of the lake with exposure to wildlife and great views of Holiday Island. The campground, although secluded is within minutes of the marina, golf courses, and the many amenities of Holiday Island.” -source

You’ll find Holiday Island Campground here:
110 Woodsdale Drive
Holiday Island, Arkansas 72631

Interested in free camping? You’re in luck! There are plenty of FREE places to camp in Arkansas!

4. Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean State Park is a MUST DO campground for first-time campers. This is an absolutely beautiful campground with some of the BEST hiking in Arkansas!

Cedar Falls Arkansas
Cedar Falls in Petit Jean State Park
  • 24-room lodge
  • 33 cabins
  • 125 campsites (some with sewer)
  • 100 acres lake
  • fishing, kayaking, boating
  • hiking
  • Accessible trails
  • Many beautiful overlooks

“Petit Jean State Park: The CCC built trails, roads, bridges, cabins, and the focal point of the park, historic Mather Lodge, a 24-room lodge overlooking Cedar Creek Canyon with a restaurant, meeting rooms, and gift shop.” -source

5. Lake Sylvia Campground in Perryville

For any folks in the central Arkansas area who are new to camping, Lake Sylvia would be a great first camping trip! It’s gorgeous and close to Little Rock.

“Nestled between scenic pine and oak-clad mountains in the northeast corner of the Ouachita National Forest is Lake Sylvia Recreation Area. The serene 18-acre lake is noted for its swimming and fishing opportunities only 38 miles west of Little Rock.” -source

Directions to Lake Sylvia State Park here.

You’ll find Lake Sylvia here:
Latitude: 34.8676194
Longitude: -92.8224056

6. Choctaw Park on Greers Ferry Lake

I grew up camping on Greers Ferry Lake. I think we spent most of our time at the Dam Site on Greers Ferry, but now as an adult camper myself, I have started looking for other great campgrounds in the Greers Ferry Lake area that are a little quieter.

Choctaw Park always comes highly recommended as being one of the best campgrounds on Greers Ferry Lake.

“Choctaw Park is located on the spacious Greers Ferry Lake nestled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. In the 19th century, a town named Higden flourished where the lake now rests. The city suffered from frequent flooding, and as a result, a man-made lake was created for flood control of the area. Today, the city’s remains sit below the lake, enticing scuba divers and archeologists alike.” -source

Choctaw Park has 106 campsites and 85 of those have electrical hookups. You will also find hot showers, a boat ramp, playground, marina and a great swimming area here!

Choctaw Park location:
Latitude: 35° 32′ 8.0002″ N
Longitude: 92° 22′ 52.0000″ W

7. Gulpha Gorge in Hot Springs

Gulpha Gorge is perfect for anyone new to camping because it’s a nice, quiet campground with full amenities and great hiking trails! Plus, it’s right next to Hot Springs National Park!

“All sites have full hookups: 30 and 50 amp electric, water and sewer connections. Sites are not pull-through. Each campsite has a picnic table, pedestal grill, and water. There are modern restrooms but no showers.” -source

Gulpha Gorge Campground Ouachita Mountains
Creek at Gulpha Gorge Campground

Keep in mind that these sites are first-come, first-served. You cannot make a reservation here. This is actually a good thing in many ways.

First, this is how it used to be. I remember camping as a young child growing up in Arkansas. My parents would drive through the campground until they found the perfect spot, then they would drop us off with an ice chest and a few camp chairs to hold the spot while they drove back to the gate attendant to pay. It was always fun searching for that perfect campsite.

Second, since a lot of campsites in Arkansas can now be reserved online, that means that you must plan ahead. Many campgrounds fill up a year in advance!

No worries about that at Gulpha Gorge. though.

At Gulpha Gorge, you will also find one of 5 AMAZING Hiking Trails in Hot Springs, Arkansas!

You’ll fiind Gulpha Gorge Campground here:
305 Gorge Road
Hot Springs AR 71901
Latitude 34° 31′ 24.6324″ N
Longitude 93° 2′ 10.6044″ W

Don’t miss: BEST Tent Camping in Arkansas

8. Robinson Point on Lake Norfork

“Robinson Point is one of the most popular parks in the central portion of Norfork Lake. The 102 campsites are sprawled across two peninsulas, so waterfront campsites are plentiful. The hilly lake region is a playground for visitors young and old, with water and land activities galore. The 25 acres of campground provide many modern conveniences for campers.” -source

This campground is beautiful. As a first-time camper, you will always remember your stay here!

Since Norfork Lake is a 22,000-acre lake, there is plenty of space for water sports, fishing, swimming and even sailing!

Be sure to tour the Blanchard Springs Caverns while in the area!

Directions to Robinson Point here.

You’ll find Robinson Point here:
Latitude: 36° 21′ 10.0001″ N
Longitude: 92° 14′ 21.9998″ W

While you’re in the area, don’t miss some of the BEST fishing in Arkansas.

9. Devil’s Den State Park

Devil’s Den State Park is fun for first-time campers because of the wonderful things to explore there! Hiking, canoeing, swimming, exploring caverns…Devil’s Den has it all!

“Some of the park’s unique characteristics are rock formations and caverns. An impressive rock dam spans Lee Creek forming Lake Devil, an 8-acre lake for fishing and boating with canoes and pedal boats for rent. The park’s hiking, backpacking, mountain bike, and horseback riding trails lead to the surrounding Ozark National Forest.

Devil’s Den includes 17 cabins and 135 campsites. Join park interpreters on hikes along trails including the 15-mile Butterfield Hiking Trail.” -source

You’ll find Devil’s Den State Park here:
11333 West Arkansas Hwy. 74
West Fork, AR 72774

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