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5 Best State Parks in Arkansas for Camping

As an Arkansas native, I grew up camping all over this beautiful state. Today I’m going to tell you the best state parks in Arkansas for camping because if you want the scoop then you need to ask a local!

Arkansas has 52 state parks and they are all gorgeous. They all offer a different experience, but I just happen to be partial to several of them.

Whether you’re a tent camper or that guy in an A-Class motorhome with a satellite dish, Arkansas has something for you.

The Best State Parks in Arkansas for Camping

These state parks offer some of the BEST Camping in Arkansas!

1. Petit Jean State Park

I have tent camped at Petit Jean, stayed in a motorhome, rented a cabin, and stayed in Mather Lodge at Petit Jean State Park and every experience was a blast. Now, here is the debate: is renting a cabin considered camping?

In our case, my husband and I rented a one-room cabin at Petit Jean State Park with our infant daughter. She was an excellent baby and a good sleeper, but she usually went to bed around 8 p.m. So, that meant lights out at 8. To me, two adults sitting quietly in a one room cabin so the baby can sleep is considered camping. Period.

One of my favorite memories of Petit Jean State Park was the sun rising on our tent during one trip and hearing the crows “talking” to each other in the trees. It was so peaceful.

The hiking at Petit Jean is also fun. We always hike with our kids and they find so much enjoyment in it! For many reasons, I would say that Petit Jean State Park is one of the best state parks in Arkansas for camping.

All of this talking about it makes me want to go!

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. Near the lodge are 33 cabins (21 with kitchens) located along the bluff with views of the canyon. Upstream from Cedar Creek, a CCC rock dam forms Lake Bailey, 100 acres for fishing, kayaking, and pedal boating. The 125 park campsites are near Lake Bailey.

Arkansas State Parks
best state parks in Arkansas for camping - Petit Jean State Park
Petit Jean State Park. Image by Mike Goad from Pixabay

Petit Jean State Park is also one of the BEST Arkansas Campgrounds for First-Time Campers

2. Lake Catherine State Park

The first time we camped at Lake Catherine State Park was in our new camper. Actually, it was “new to us.” It was actually a 1970s camper that had seen better days. It’s a long story but we bought it in the dark and didn’t know the full extent of our folly until days later.

We tried to convince ourselves that our camper was “cozy” and all the other campers at Lake Catherine were so “boring.” In the end, I was wishing I was in their campers!

Best State Parks in AR for camping

However, Lake Catherine State Park will always hold a special place in my heart as one of the best state parks in Arkansas for camping.

The campsites are well spaced out, the lake is beautiful, and the hiking is amazing. For a special treat, don’t miss the visitor’s center/ gift shop!

This peaceful park is located on Lake Catherine, one of five lakes in the beautiful Ouachita Mountain region. Boat rentals are available year-round.

The park has 20 fully equipped cabins. The park offers 70 campsites, six primitive tent sites, one Rent-A-Camp, and one Rent-A-Yurt. Many of these sites are on the lakeshore. Park interpreters offer hikes, lake tours, and programs year-round. Guided horseback rides are offered seasonally.

Arkansas State Parks
best state parks in Arkansas for camping - lake catherine state park
Geese on the lake. Image by Mike Goad from Pixabay

Lake Catherine is also home to some of the BEST Winter Camping in Arkansas

3. Lake Dardanelle State Park

Lake Dardanelle State Park is one of the best state parks in Arkansas for camping especially if you like fishing.

This park is located in two areas on Lake Dardanelle, a 34,300-acre reservoir on the Arkansas River. The main site is in Russellville where you’ll find the Sport Fishing Weigh-in Pavilion, a fishing pier, boardwalk, trail, and visitor center with five aquariums and the Lakeview Room meeting facility. There are 57 campsites in the Russellville area of the park with 18 Class B sites in the Dardanelle area of the park.

Arkansas State Parks

This state park is one of my kids’ favorites. Don’t miss the visitor’s center! The aquariums are amazing to see.

This state park is partially located in one of my favorite towns: Russellville, Arkansas.

There are so many fun things to do in Russellville that will make a camping trip to Lake Dardanelle even more fun! After you’ve had your fill of fishing and campfire songs, you can make a quick trip over to get the best pizza in Russellville!

best state parks in Arkansas for camping - dardanelle state park
Dardanelle State Park. Image by Mike Goad from Pixabay

You will also love: 4 BEST Campgrounds Around Lake Dardanelle

4. Lake Ouachita State Park

Scuba diving in Arkansas?! Yes! Lake Ouachita offers scuba diving in this beautiful, clear lake.

Arkansas’s largest lake, Lake Ouachita offers 40,000 acres of clear, clean water surrounded by the scenic Ouachita National Forest. Swimming, skiing, scuba diving, boating, kayaking, and fishing are enjoyed here. 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.

Arkansas State Parks

Lake Ouachita State Park makes our list of the best state parks in Arkansas for camping due to the beautiful lake and it’s proximity to Hot Springs.

While you’re there, be sure to check a few things off your EPIC Arkansas Bucket List!

best state parks in Arkansas for camping - lake ouachita state park
Lake Ouachita State Park, Arkansas. Image by Yosvany Garcia from Pixabay

Do you like island camping? Don’t miss: 17 PRO TIPS for EXCELLENT Island Camping on Lake Ouachita in Arkansas

5. Devil’s Den State Park

Devil’s Den State Park makes the cut as one of the best state parks in Arkansas for camping because of the opportunity to explore caverns.

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.

Arkansas State Parks

After you have explored caverns, worn yourself out paddling a canoe, and ridden your mountain bike all over the Ozark National Forest, take a quick trip to discover all the amazing things Fayetteville has to offer.

best state parks in Arkansas for camping - Devil's Den State Park
Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas

Don’t miss:
Devil’s Den ATV Trails in Arkansas
Tips: Camping at Lake Chicot State Park

Best State Parks in Arkansas for Camping

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