Arkansas is a truly underrated travel destination, but that’s not a bad thing because it translates into tremendous value for its visitors. Its nickname, the Natural State, nails its character right on the head, as Arkansas is blanketed by the lovely rolling hills of the Ozarks. In between are 18 clean rivers that are perfect for rafting, 600,000 acres of lakes filled with fish, and hot springs bubbling everywhere you turn. It’s an outdoor paradise full of things to do, and few people really take advantage of it.
You can dig for gemstones, go spelunking in some of its 2,000 documented glorious caverns, and play a few rounds of sublime golf on the 11 courses on the Nature State Golf Trail. Arkansas is ideal for families thanks to all its fun activities, but it can also appeal to grown-up anglers, hunters, and extreme sport junkies. With 25 wilderness areas, there are days of hiking and camping to work with.
With more than 9,000 miles of rivers and streams, Arkansas is really about as good as it gets in the US for rafting and kayaking. From the rapids on the Ouachita River to relaxing floats down the Buffalo National River, Arkansas really does have a waterway for every purpose. Rafting is one of the main recreational activities in the state and there are outfitters on every single river. Mulberry River Rentals has a hold on the great floating rivers on Turner Bend, while Buffalo River Outfitters covers the famous waterway with which it shares its name.
The limestone caves beneath the Ozarks are another hugely popular outing in Arkansas. There are 2,000 registered cave systems in the state, though only a few are developed for tourism. Adventure spelunking is possible in the wild caves like Cosmic Caverns, though most visitors opt for a relaxed tour of the underworld in living caves like Mystic Caverns. Most caves require tour outfits to guide you in, and the US Park Service is involved in manning the tours of Blanchard Springs Caverns.
Hiking is another premier recreational thing to do in Arkansas. With the Ozarks, the Ouachitas and other smaller mountain groups to choose from, there are miles of well-maintained trails to work with. More than 250 wilderness trails are ideal for day hikes, like those in Devil’s Den State Park. But the Ozark Highlands and Oauchitas National Forest offer a myriad of ways to go backcountry for a few days of camping and backpacking. You don’t need a tour guide to create your own personal adventure in Arkansas.
With 600,000 acres of lakes and 9,700 miles of fishable streams, Arkansas is an angler’s paradise. From river trout to lake bass, there are varied catches and plenty of fishing outfitters on hand like Tolliver’s in Cotter, the trout capital of America.
The Ozarks and Ouachitas are both ideal for adventure sports such as paragliding, mountain biking, zip line canopy tours, and hot air balloon rides. Byrd’s Outdoor Adventure Center covers most of the bases in the Ozarks. There’s also great rock climbing at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch and Sam’s Throne.
Mountain biking doesn’t get much better than the Womble Trail or Syllamo Trail in the Ouachitas. Motorheads can also gear up with four-wheel adventures, ATV rides and motorcrossing in dozens of places. Hot Springs’ Superlift Off Road Vehicle Park is one of the more accessible venues for fun on wheels.