Start planning an Arkansas family vacation with outdoor adventure in the mix and you quickly realize why Arkansas is known as ‘The Natural State’.
Home to the Ozark Mountains and Buffalo National River, as well as 52 State Parks, two National Forests and several vast lakes, Arkansas just begs you to get outdoors and go exploring. There are accessible adventures statewide to excite energetic families and something-for-everyone seems to be the Arkansas motto when it comes to keeping kids happy. But with so much to see and do and so many fun activities to choose from, where do you begin? We asked the experts at Arkansas Tourism what their top recommendations are for an outdoorsy Arkansas family vacation. Here’s what they said:
Kids love outdoor adventures all over Arkansas
Arkansas knows no limits when it comes to outdoor family adventures. Bordered to the east by the mighty Mississippi, it’s also where you'll find country's first National River. There are National Parks and the State Park line-up even includes one where kids can mine for real diamonds – another ‘only in Arkansas’ adventure to add to the list. Accessible forests here are vast. Activity packed lakes range from huge to enormous. And whether you’re hiking historic trails or spotting eagles in winter, wherever you adventure in Arkansas you’ll find friendly locals who know what to see and do year-round and are only too happy to share their experience.
Best outdoor adventures for your Arkansas family vacation
- With 100 miles of managed trails, and scenery ranging from dense forest to towering bluffs, hiking around the Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas is an easy adventure that kids of any age can experience.
- A combination of stunning forest and mighty peaks makes Arkansas a natural for zipline thrills. Try the Ozark Mountains for soaring tree canopy tours with swinging bridges in the mix.
- National Geographic named Mountain View one of the country’s 50 Great Adventure Towns. An ideal base for an Arkansas family vacation with kids it gives you everything from daring treetop rope-courses to epic mountain bike trails – it even has a bison farm.
- As the only place in the world where kids can dig for diamonds, Crater of Diamonds State Park in Southwest Arkansas is a unique day out. But with 47 campsites and a fun waterpark in summer, you’ll probably want to stay longer.
- Another adventurous base for an Arkansas family vacation, historic Pine Bluff is home to the excellent Delta Rivers Nature Centre and glorious Lake Saracen – lots of easy going hiking trails here for energetic kids, as well as the Saracen Landing multi-sensory playpark.
Just add water for a fun-filled Arkansas family vacation
Arkansas might be landlocked but there’s water for playing on all over the place, and more than 90,000 miles of rivers and streams, plus over 600,000 acres of lakes, go a long way to earning Arkansas its title of ‘The Natural State’. If fishing is your passion, you can try anything from fly-fishing in the Ozarks to angling on central Arkansas’ loveliest lakes. Sailing isn’t an elitist sport here, it’s affordable for everyone, whether you want to kayak with your kids on the Illinois River or go yachting on enormous Lake Maumelle. You can even spend an entire Arkansas family vacation on the water: houseboat rentals on Lake Ouachita are a huge hit with kids of all ages.
Where to go in Arkansas for floating, boating, fishing and watersports
- For everything from white bass fishing to wakeboarding, Norfork Lake is the Ozark Region’s legendary all-rounder. Kids can even try scuba diving here, and it’s the only Ozarks’ lake with white sand beaches.
- For guided kayaking tours, family watersports, luxury houseboat rentals and over 90 campsites, head to Lake Ouachita State Park. Not only is Lake Ouachita the largest lake in Arkansas, it’s also surrounded by the magnificent Ouachita National Forest.
- A mix of kayaking and whitewater thrills are what makes Siloam Springs Kayak Park on the Illinois River an Arkansas family vacation must-do for older kids.
- Eight state parks in Arkansas are as well known for sandy beaches as spectacular scenery. And if you want to introduce kids to the great summer tradition of swimming holes, you’re in the right state for those too.
Mountain Biking is year-round amazing on an Arkansas family vacation
With its mild year-round climate and vast acres of thrillingly wild terrain, you might not be surprised to learn that Arkansas is fast becoming the go-to state for mountain biking. A prime destination for serious riders, it’s just as much fun for beginners and finding trails to fit any size or style of Arkansas family vacation couldn’t be easier: you can even add mountain biking to a city adventure in Little Rock.
Where to go mountain biking with kids in Arkansas
- A short drive west of Little Rock, visit Pinnacle Mountain State Park for the Pinnacle Mountain Monument Trails. Covering all levels from beginner and skill-building to technical, rides are tucked into the lush woods and hills surrounding impressive Pinnacle Mountain.
- Bentonville in north west Arkansas is the gateway to over 300 miles of Oz Trails in and around the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Well organized with excellent local facilities geared to outdoorsy families, each of the 12 Oz Trails is graded in order of difficulty, and most are shared use, so you can bike or hike.
- Stay in the north west for Fayetteville, another great Arkansas mountain biking city. Not only does it have more than 100 miles of urban trails, it’s only 35 minutes north of Devil’s Den State Park which hosts the Ozark Mountain Bike Festival every spring.
Where to stay on your Arkansas family vacation
The choice of family lodging in Arkansas is as wide as the range of things to do and see on vacation here with kids. Take your pick from historic hotels in downtown Little Rock to luxury resorts in the Ozark Mountains. The Natural State lives up to its name with an extraordinary variety of RV parks and campgrounds, many are set in Arkansas's State Parks, and almost all are surrounded by spectacular scenery. And if you’re looking for something unusual, why not think about family-friendly dude ranches, cozy cottages and cabins, lakeside lodges and houseboats or even treehouses?
- For an everything-on-the-doorstep type of vacation, resorts and lodges in some of Arkansas’s most scenic (and activity packed) locations are perfect for families.
- Kid-friendly hotels in Arkansas vary from the elegant and historic in the heart of Little Rock to affordable motels for relaxed family road trips.
- Whether you want basic comfort or something more luxurious, cabin rentals statewide fit perfectly with outdoorsy, adventurous Arkansas family vacations.
- Come camping or with your RV and you’ll find cost-friendly campgrounds and parks with excellent family facilities by lakes, in state parks and rivers all over Arkansas – you can even camp in wildlife refuges, which kids really love.
Ready for an Arkansas family vacation? Head to Arkansas Tourism for everything you need to help plan your active family adventure in The Natural State.