When you dream about your next vacation, do you close your eyes and think of lush green woods, waterfalls, and wildlife? Do you think about packing a duffel bag or backpack with cozy clothes and comfortable walking shoes for your next trip?
Aspiring hikers and seasoned pros alike, it’s time to lace up those boots and head to the Natural State, a.k.a. Arkansas. With over 300 miles of trails in Arkansas’s state parks and more in the national parks, there are plenty of options to choose from – and you’re guaranteed gorgeous scenery on your hikes.
Get your bug spray ready and take a look at these five top hiking spots in Arkansas.
Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park was originally a Native American reservation. The name says it all – the thermal springs in the park are nearly 4,000 years old. Adventurous travelers, take advantage of the opportunity to soak in the springs!
According to the National Park Service, “There are two concentrated areas of hiking trails within the park, the Hot Springs and North Mountain Trails and the West Mountain Trails. Both of these areas are composed of relatively short, interconnected trails. The Sunset Trail is a longer trail that travels through more remote areas of the park.”
The Hot Springs and North Mountain Trails are popular, so they’re an option for you if you don’t mind sharing your time outside with other hikers. You’ll enjoy scenic views and easy access. the West Mountain Trials are less popular and provide more opportunities to see wildlife.
Distance hikers will want to check out the Sunset Trail, which is 15-17 miles if you complete the whole loop. If you just want to go one way, prepare for 10 miles of hiking.
Buffalo River National Park
Established in 1972, Buffalo National River runs for 135 miles and provides plenty of hiking and sightseeing opportunities. There are more than 100 miles of hiking trails and designated trails for horseback riding. You can check out a wide variety of plant and animal species along the river.
The trials are divided into the Upper, Middle, and Lower districts. In the Upper District, you can hike the Beaver Jim Villines Homestead Trail and see the home of an early fur trapper and trader up close.
Backpackers enjoy the 37-mile-long Buffalo River Trail that follows the south side of the river. But if you’re looking for waterfalls, try the Cecil Cove Loop, which crosses Cecil Creek 5 times (so don’t go during the rainy season!)
For great photo opportunities, try the portion of the Buffalo River Trail that goes from Dillard’s Ferry to Spring Creek. It’s 6.1 miles one way, takes around 4 hours, and will lead you over the Kimball and Stairstep Bluffs for beautiful views.
Petit Jean State Park
We’ve looked at national parks, so now let’s take a look at the Petit Jean State Park. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed native log and stone facilities, built trails, roads, and bridges. There are 33 cabins for visitors to rent and amenities such as playgrounds, picnic areas, and two swimming pools.
Of course, the main attraction is hiking. Explore Bear Cave (if you dare), the Grotto, Natural Bridge, and Seven Hollows. The main draw, however, is the gorgeous waterfall of Cedar Falls.
Cedar Falls is remarkable by anyone’s standards. According to World of Waterfalls, “It featured a classic rectangular shape where Cedar Creek dropped 95ft into a shady grotto surrounded by impressively tall and vertical cliffs.” This beautiful spot is a must-see!
Hobbs State Park Conservation Area
Another state park, at Hobbs you can find trails that are optimized for both hikers and mountain bikers. Some trails are designated only for mountain bikes, so make sure you look closely before you start down any paths.
At Hobbs, you’ll choose from the Tunnel Connector, Sawtooth Downhill, Timberjack Downhill, Return Trail, West Wolf Den Trail, East Wolf Den Trail, the Karst Loop Trail, and others. You’ll climb up hills, hike by ridges, and see the beauty of Beaver Lake up close.
You can also venture to the 22-mile-long Hidden Diversity Trail, which doesn’t focus on capturing the beauty of a single natural wonder, but rather, like the name implies, allows you to appreciate a diverse range of plant and animal species. The trail is accessible for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. It’s 24 miles long, taking roughly 2.5 hours by bike and 6 hours by foot.
Mount Nebo State Park
Last but not least, check out Mount Nebo State Park in the Arkansas River Valley. Appreciate the beauty of this 1,750-foot mountain by hiking or biking along the nearby trails.
Take in the gorgeous waterfalls, rock gardens, pine forests, and the views on your hike. Choose from the different loops, such as Miller’s Goat Green Trial, Chickalah and Hayes Creek Run Downhill (bikes only), and Sunrise Loop.
Read More: Check Out These Four Midwest National Parks