free and cheap camping in northwest arkansas

Free and Cheap Camping in Northwest Arkansas

Free camping in Northwest, Arkansas? Is that possible? Of course. What about cheap camping in North West Arkansas? Also possible!

Arkansas is the perfect state to do a little free or cheap camping. With conservation areas and dispersed campsites, we are sure to have something you will enjoy. They don’t call us the Natural State for nothing!

As an Arkansas native, camping is something I love to do. I grew up camping all over this state and I’ve never met a campsite I didn’t like. This is a beautiful state to get out and enjoy nature.

Don’t forget the marshmallows! Because there’s nothing like FREE camping in Arkansas!

Free and Cheap Camping in Northwest Arkansas

First, let’s tackle some basics.

What is free camping?

Free camping is, well, camping for free. You can camp overnight in your RV or tent without paying. Free camping is also known as dry camping, primitive camping, and (my favorite) boondocking.

Many campers like free camping options because it lets them get off the beaten path and away from others. If you like to “rough it,” then this type of camping is for you. Amenities are often not available. You must be fully self-contained. That means, being your own water, bathroom options, etc.

What is dispersed camping?

Dispersed camping is the term used for camping in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground. Typically, it refers to roadside car camping, but also refers to backpacking in undeveloped sites. Dispersed camping means there are no services like trash removal, and amenities such as toilets, tables and fire pits, are not usually available.

Buffalo River AR

You may camp in a dispersed area for up to 30 days. After 30 days, you must move at least 5 road miles for camping in another dispersed area. Campers may not return to the same campsite within the calendar year.

What is cheap camping?

Cheap camping is where frugal people go. Cheap campsites are great campsites with a small fee. That’s where you’ll find me!

I’m cheap.

If you’re a state parks kind of person, check out our Best State Parks in Arkansas for Camping.

Best Free and Cheap Camping in Northwest, Arkansas

1. Hobbs State Park Conservation Area – Cheap

Just ten miles east of Rogers, Arkansas, on State Highway 12, is Hobbs State Park – Conservation Area. At 12,056 acres, it is the largest land-holding state park in Arkansas. Long ridges, steep hollows, wildlife and wildflowers, unique geology and unique history – it’s all here, only minutes away from the cities of Northwest Arkansas.


When you decide to take a break from the wilderness, there are lots of fun things to do in Fayetteville, Arkansas!

Types of campsites at Hobbs State Park

Primitive Hike-In Campsite
Overnight hikers must sign-in at the trailhead before occupying a primitive campsite in the park. Each site has multiple tent sites and metal grills.

Bike/Hike In Campsites (Karst Loop)
These beautiful sites enjoy a view of Beaver Lake and are accessed via mountain bike or hiking. Campsites have a tent pad for one tent each, and a fire ring/grill.

Arkansas State Parks

Is Hobbs State Park Free or Cheap?

After much confusion online, I finally decided to email the folks at Hobbs State Park to get a straight answer. Some websites said the camping was free while others said there was a nightly fee. The Arkansas State Parks website said nothing.

They emailed me right back with a clear answer!

[The campsites] “used to be free, but now they are $14 plus tax for a total of $15.33.  They just started charging for them when they opened the new sites about a month ago.  The sites haven’t been added to the online inventory for the State Parks, so the only way you can make a reservation is by calling us at the park.  When you make a reservation you have to pay the first night deposit, which is non-transferable, non-refundable.”

So there you have it! The campsites at Hobbs State Park aren’t free anymore but they’re cheap!

2. Lee Creek Dispersed Campsite Chester, AR – FREE

This is a free campsite that is open 365 days a year. There are about 10 campsites at this location with fire rings built by other campers.

Chester, Arkansas
GPS: 35.702461, -94.328064
Elevation: 765′


3. River Ridge on Ozark Lake – FREE

Hoovers Ferry Road, Cecil, AR 72930

Ozark Lake extends 36 miles along the Arkansas River. The shoreline of the lake varies from steep bluffs and tree-lined banks to open farm lands and level fields. Many outdoor activities offer excellent recreational opportunities.


River Ridge Amenities

  • boat ramp
  • fire ring
  • picnic table
  • vault toilet
  • dry camping

River Ridge Campground Location

4. Erbie Campground, Harrison, AR – FREE

All campgrounds are directly adjacent to the Buffalo River. Swimming is permitted in the Buffalo River but requires special caution.

Buffalo National River Arkansas
Buffalo River, Arkansas. Image by Daniel Byram from Pixabay

Erbie Campground is located 7 miles down a gravel road off of Hwy. 7 north of Jasper, AR.
All sites are available on a first come, first served basis. This is a pack in/pack out facility with no trash service provided. Five group sites are available. Group sites #1 and #5 are first-come, first served, while sites 2, 3, and 4 can be reserved by calling the Tyler Bend Visitor Center at (870) 439-2502 at least 5 days in advance. No fees are charged.

GPS Coordinates: 36.0734394, -93.2177326

National Park Service

Erbie Campground Amenities

  • 14 drive-in campsites
  • 2 walk-in campsites
  • picnic tables
  • fire rings
  • lantern hooks
  • no electric
  • no water
  • no dump station
  • vault toilet
  • boat launch

Erbie Campground Location

Free and Cheap Camping in Northwest, Arkansas

Now, what are you waiting for?! Pack up and head out!

While you’re out in Arkansas doing amazing things, be sure to check a few things off your EPIC Arkansas Bucket List!

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