Arkansas is a very “camping friendly” state. With 52 state parks, National Forest campgrounds, private campgrounds, and countless primitive camping areas, there is something for everyone in Arkansas.
In Arkansas, you can camp in your car or van at any of the National Forest campgrounds or Arkansas State Parks. There are also primitive and dispersed camping areas that are perfect for car camping.
Here are the details:
1. Car Camping in Arkansas State Parks
I emailed the Division of Arkansas State Parks (Arkansas Parks and Tourism) to get an accurate answer about car camping in our state parks. Here is their reply:
“Yes, registered guests in the campground may sleep in their vehicle or a converted van. Arkansas State Park policies require that you “occupy” your site. While you are camping, you will need to find a way to occupy your site with personal property if you move your vehicle (ice chest, camping chairs, and/or other items), this will prevent others from trying to rent the vacant campsite.”
2. Car Camping in the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests
“The Ouachita National Forest offers a variety of camping opportunities. You can pitch a tent, park the RV, pop-up trailer or pick-up truck, hang a hammock, or roll out the sleeping bag. Whatever your method of camping, it will be a truly natural experience in the Ouachita Mountains.” -source The same policy is repeated on the Ozark National Forest website.
Our National Forests offer some of the BEST Camping in Arkansas.
Best Car Camping Areas in Arkansas
Here are some great camp areas that you will love.
1. Shady Lake near Athens
Shady Lake is beautiful, remote, and first-come, first-served.
Many of the sites even have water and electric!
“Scenic 25-acre lake in remote mountain setting. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed the Shady Lake Recreation Area in 1937. The Shady Lake Trail traverses Saline Creek and passes the historic Shady Lake Dam. It continues along the eastern edge of the campground. The trail is ideal for day hiking. Mountain bikers may also use the trail.” –source
You’ll find Shady Lake here:
Latitude : 34.3628361
Longitude : -94.0277694
Don’t miss this: BEST Tent Camping in Arkansas
2. Buckville Primitive Camping
Buckville is a primitive camping area located on the north end of Lake Ouachita. There is no charge for camping at these areas. Amenities include pit toilets, concrete tables, lantern post, ground grill, pedestal grill, boat ramp. –source
Jessieville, AR 71949
GPS: 34.613, -93.342
For more car camping, read: Free Camping near Hot Springs, Arkansas
3. Erbie Campground
“Erbie Campground is located 7 miles down a gravel road off of Hwy. 7 north of Jasper, AR. The campground has 14 drive-in campsites and 2 walk-in campsites, each with a picnic table, fire ring, and lantern hook. The drive-in sites are suitable for RV or tent camping but the campground has no hookups, no running water, and no dump station.
All sites are available on a first come, first served basis. There is a vault toilet at the boat launch. This is a pack in/pack out facility with no trash service provided.” -source
You’ll find Erbie Campground here:
GPS Coordinates: 36.0734394, -93.2177326
Car Camping in Arkansas State Parks
If you love the amenities of state parks like water, electric, hot showers, marinas, swimming areas, etc then you will love this: BEST State Parks in Arkansas for Tent Camping (No worries, you can sleep in your car too.)