Arkansas is not a very talked about state, but I must say is quite beautiful in parts and has several hidden gems. I was pleasantly surprised at the things discovered in the small southern state with a long history and mixed perception. Great for a short road trip and if you're seeking nature with less crowds, at least in the early spring.

My Favorites

1. Eureka Springs

Eureka Springs

Highlights: Forests, mountains, rivers, camping, hiking, fishing
Suggest Staying: 1-2 days
Stay Around: Downtown or Fayetteville
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Nestled in the mountains, this hidden gem is such a cool and quirky town. A blend of hippie, wellness, liberalism, southern charm, and old west feel makes this place truly unique. At one point a well known wellness resort due to the springs located around the city, many still come here in the warmer months to relax. The character of this town is in pretty stark contrast to the rest of Arkansas. Walk around the town, check out the shops, maybe visit a spa or bathouse. Oscar’s Cafe was quite good. Nearby Blue Spring may be worth the trip if you have some time (about an hour) to tour the spring and gardens.

2. Fayetteville

Crystal Bridge Art Museum

Highlights: City
Suggest Staying: 1-2 days
Stay Around: Downtown
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Only came here for a pit stop, but ended up finding a lovely tea shop Savoy Tea Co. where we sat down for tea since rain disrupted hiking plans. Nice selection of teas. Driving through with limited people interaction, this college town seemed to have a diverse and energetic feel to it. Close to Eureka Springs and Bentonville, where you’ll find the hidden gem Crystal Bridge Museum, featuring all kinds of art, sculptures, and even a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Another thing you might not think to find in Arkansas.

3. Hot Springs

Bathouse Row

Highlights: Bathouses
Suggest Staying: 1-2 days
Stay Around: Gulpha Gorge Campground
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The main attraction for our road trip, this town nestled next to a national park has a fascinating history. Established in 19th century, this place really grew between the 1920s through the 1960s when folks came from all over to bathe in it’s supposedly healing springs. The beautiful area, healing waters, and gambling brought all kinds of people from politicians to gangsters to poor folks looking for help to their ailments. In fact, it was a prominent center for bootlegging back in the days of prohibition and possibly the only place in the country where mobsters would co-mingle without violence. Once gambling was outlawed and enforced along with the crack down on organized crime and gangsters in the 60s, the city kind of stymied and is sort of left in that decade. Very cool town, shops, variety of food, and great nature nearby.

See & Do

  • Hot Springs National Park. Views, trails, and camping along the river. You can hike up or drive to the observation tower for views of the city and surrounding areas.
  • Bathouse Row. Old 19th and 20th century bathouses. Quapaw Bathouse is awesome, featuring public and private baths. Fordyce is a museum you can tour to see what the bathouses used to look like. Free and very cool.
  • Gangster Museum. Outstanding, must see. Illuminates the history of the town. Al Capone, Bonnie & Clyde, Lucky Luciano, and more.
  • Garvan Woodland Gardens. Large botanical gardens by the lake.
  • Ouachita Mountains. Rivers, lake, forest, hiking.

Food & Drink

  • Kollective Coffee & Tea. Incredible tea selection, coffee, light healthy eats, cool vibe.
  • Greatful Head. Great pizza and beer garden.
  • Cafe 1217. Healthy options.
  • Maxine’s. Run by the original madam of the town, serves food and drinks, with a menu hosting drinks named after every Stanley Kubrick movie. One of the few original clubs still around and open, though not exactly the same as it was back in the day.


  • Camping. There are only RV spots at Gulpha Gorge Campground, but you can pitch a tent no problem. First come first served, $30/night, sites open up at noon. Reserve through the on-site ticketing machine to reserve your spot. No ranger present that we saw. Was pretty easy.

4. Ozark National Forest

Buffalo National River

Highlights: Hiking, rivers, forests
Suggest Staying: 1-2 days
Stay Around: Any State Park
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The second main attraction on the road trip. There is quite a bit to do in the Arkansas part of the Ozarks, the other part being located in Missouri. Mostly forest, there are scenic drives, rivers abound, and hiking trails all over. It’s a beautiful area for sure, worth at least driving through if your road trip takes you through or nearby, or plan a visit and stay a few days.

See & Do

  • Route 7. Scenic drive with quite a few stops along the way for boating, hiking, fishing, eating. This road actually runs from Louisiana all the way up through Missouri. We explored through Sand Gap, Jasper, Dogpatch, and Harrison. A few places include Alum Cove (short hike, really cool), Petit Jean State Park, Pedestal Rocks (hiking).
  • Buffalo National River. Technically not park of Ozark National Forest, this is the only national river in the country and spans for miles. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Great place to go boating within the canyon walls. There are many access points, a couple easy ones were at Tyler Bend (which also has a nice campground) and Grinder’s Ferry.
  • Beckham Creek Cave House. Didn’t make it here, but looks very cool.
  • Glory Hole Falls. Waterfall through a hole in the rocks. Whoever named it must have had a sense of humor.
  • Richland Creek Wilderness. Waterfalls.
  • Hawksbill Crag. Hiking.
  • King’s River Falls. Hiking.

Other Considerations

Devil's Den State Park

Devil’s Den State Park

Unfortunately it was raining and we didn’t get to spend much time here, but the place is gorgeous. Beautiful blue river, nice campground, and some hiking trails. Really wish the weather had been better to hike to the waterfalls. Seems like a great place to spend a day or weekend over the summer.

Little Rock

Little Rock

The largest city in Arkansas as well as the capitol is a nice little city that provides a great stopover if on a road trip through the south. While in Little Rock, check out the downtown and River Market.

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