Arkansas was part of the land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, and became a state in June of 1836. Officially nicknamed “the Natural State” because it is full of rivers, streams, mountains, lakes, forests, and abundant wildlife.
Hey, y’all! It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post, as we haven’t been traveling any the last couple of months (thanks corona). In the meantime, I have teamed up with a blogger collaboration group with someone representing each state. Lucky me, I get to brag about Arkansas! At the end of the blog post, I’ll keep an updated list of blog posts for each state. 🙂
I was born and raised in Northeast Arkansas. Growing up, I never really saw our state as a place someone would travel. As I’ve gotten older, I have started to appreciate the natural beauty we have in our state. While I still have a long list of places I’d like to see and visit in Arkansas, I’m going to briefly touch on some of the places I’ve experienced and think you should too!
Being the Natural State, this post is going to focus on the Nature side of things. I could spend all day recommending my favorite restaurants and hang-out places, and one day I just might, but for the time being I’m going to focus on the outdoors.
For starters, here are some facts about our state:
If you are traveling through Arkansas, or heck even if you want to make a trip to Arkansas, most people are going to come in to or go through Little Rock. This is our capital, which sits smack dab in the middle of the state.
There is plenty to do and see in the capital city, as it’s home to lots of fun places as well as historic landmarks and buildings. Everywhere in the state can be accessed from Little Rock within roughly 3 hours. If you’re interested in things to do in and around Little Rock, I’ve written a couple of posts already which you can find here and here.Suggested 3 Day Itinerary
Depending on what area you are coming from you may need to flip the locations, but for the sake of this post I’m going to base the starting point out of Little Rock.
Starting out, you’ll drive about an hour north to Heber Springs. I have yet to stay overnight in Heber, but we are big Airbnb fans and they have quite a few in this area. To get up to $40 off your first stay, you can click here. There is also plenty of camping sites if that’s your thing.
Here are some things to see and do in the Heber Springs area:
Ozark Country Market
Coming into Heber Springs, this place is a neat stop to make. They have a ton of locally made products such as jams, honey, candy, spices, and more. They also have lots of handmade furniture, windmills, and garden decorations.
Bridal Veil Falls
This place is absolutely beautiful! It only takes about 10 minutes to get to the waterfall from the parking area, and while it is a pretty easy hike it is a very steep one. I’m a clumsy person and had no issues with this trail, but if you’re somewhat worried about it I would just suggest bringing along a walking stick.
Since our trip was made during Covid-19, unfortunately we were unable to go inside any of the local businesses that lined main street. There are plenty of local restaurants downtown to stop in and eat lunch. They also have a variety of shops to wander in, and even a couple of beautiful murals. Sugarloaf Mountain
I was so sad that the trails were closed when we went, once again due to Covid-19. However, this is a very popular spot to hike in the area and I look forward to going back and doing it soon. They have a couple of different trails, the most popular one leading straight up to the top is the Summit Trail. The views from atop the mountain look absolutely stunning from the pictures I’ve seen.
John F. Kennedy Memorial Overlook
The Greers Ferry Dam was dedicated by President John F. Kennedy on October 3rd, 1963, just 50 days before his death. It’s right off the road and easy to get to, worth a stop to see the mighty Greers Ferry Dam.
The cascading creek was literally 5 minutes from the parking lot on a super easy trail, no climbing. It was beautiful to see the water flowing down the stair step looking rocks. There were people of all ages here, from babies to elders. You can bring your kids here to play in the creek, it’s safe and not deep at all. Little Red River, which is what the Greers Ferry Dam flows into. Here you can fish for trout if you’d like, just beware of the sirens warning that the dam is going to open. Jack’s Fishing Resort. They offer screened in back porches that overlook the White River and the room was extremely clean, however I will admit the place is a little outdated. There are several places to stay in the area whether it be cabins, campsites, airbnb’s, or a motel; so just go with whatever floats your boat!
Here are some places and things to do in this area:
Downtown Mountain View
This area is full of local shops and restaurants. You could spend a couple hours exploring all there is to offer here. I suggest grabbing lunch at one of the local cafe’s and browsing around the shops for neat finds and handmade items.
Blanchard Springs Caverns
This cave system is located in the well known Ozark–St. Francis National Forest. There are 2 different tours you can take through the caverns, we chose the Dripstone trail as this one is considered the easiest and most visually pleasing one. The caverns are always cool, around 58 degrees, and they keep them pretty dark so as to not disturb “the living cave”.
You can easily walk the paved trail to see where the spring gushes out of the caverns at a rate of 3000 gallons a minute. It is extremely cold, and while yes there is an area you can get in, even on a hot day it would be too cold for me. You can also spot bats flying out of the top cave opening if you look closely. Mirror Lake and Waterfall
Mirror lake is such a pretty blue color, and it’s also very clear. My favorite part of this area is the waterfall. Getting down to it is an easy trail, not too steep or difficult. Once down there, if you’re brave enough, you can swim/submerge in the freezing water. This waterfall is always flowing as it feeds from the lake, and it’s so beautiful to see in person. On a hot day it feels good being at the bottom and feeling the cool breeze coming from the falls. Old Mitchell Mill
When you’re going down to the waterfall, you’ll come across this old mill structure. From 1900 to 1928, using the force of water this mill provided ground corn and ginned cotton. It’s neat to see the remains of this 2 story structure, and also pretty cool to get a shot of the waterfall looking through the window. Creek Swimming
There are a couple areas you can hangout and swim in right near Blanchard springs. We’ve never made a point to hangout at any of them, but I imagine if we had children it would be nice to sit while they played in the water. Your three options are Blanchard at Point 24, Gunner Pool at Point 25, and Barkshed at Point 26.
There are several spots to fish around this area, the most popular being on the White River. There are even a couple of tour companies that will take you on guided fishing tours, which we have never done but I’ve heard is worth it. The couple of times we have fished have been in Mirror Lake. The majority of people in the area will be fishing for trout, as that is the typical fish found here.
My entire childhood and adult life I had wanted to go to a drive-in movie, and I finally crossed it off my bucket-list after visiting here. In my opinion, this is a must do when in Mountain View. A tip I wish we would have known though, is to bring your own AM/FM radio to listen to the movie. We took our dog and a couple of lawn chairs and had a great time sitting under the stars and watching a movie. FYI – You can buy snacks at the concession stand, or you can also bring your own.
Ozark Folk Center State Park
I’ve yet to visit the Folk Center, but if you’re interested you could spend quite some time here. There is a craft village where locals create and sell their handmade items, and you can also go to workshops and make things yourself. Music is the focus of this park, as they host live concerts playing their Ozark Mountain sounds. They have several events and festivals throughout the year here, and plenty to do for the whole family.
Arkansas has plenty to offer for everyone, and I urge you to see some of its beauty when given the chance. I love being able to explore in my own “backyard” and recommending neat places for others to visit in my state. I hope that if you’re ever in Arkansas you will check out a couple of these places and enjoy them as much as I have.
State Blog Posts: