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7 Astounding National Parks in Arkansas

A thin stream of water falls down into a shallow pool surrounded by rocks and fall leaves at one of the national parks in Arkansas

Unsplash/Josh Clemence

Arkansas national parks are not as popular or well-known as national parks in other states, but there are still plenty of reasons to visit. The national parks in Arkansas offer a range of natural beauty, culture, history, and activities, from the Buffalo National River’s rugged landscape to Hot Spring National Park’s forested hillsides.

Arkansas has seven national park units; three national historic sites, one national river, one national memorial, one national military park, and one national park. Read on to learn how to get to each one, what you can do there, and what makes them worthy of national protection.

Last updated on August 28, 2021. This post may contain affiliate links.

Map of Arkansas National Parks

A map of Arkansas in blue with all of the national parks in Arkansas in green

National Parks in Arkansas Road Trip Itinerary

A map of a road trip to all the national parks in Arkansas

Fly in/out: Little Rock

Day 1: Spend the day in Little Rock, including a visit to Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.

Day 2: Drive to Arkansas Post National Memorial (1.5 hours). Spend time exploring before heading west and spending the night.

Day 3: The drive from Arkansas Post to your next stop, President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site, is 3 hours. Depending on where you spent the night, it could be shorter. Spend the day at the former President’s home before driving to Hot Springs (1.5 hours) and spending the night.

Day 4: Spend the day at the smallest of the 63 national parks, Hot Springs.

Day 5: Drive to Fort Smith (3 hours). Explore the national historic site and spend the night.

Day 6: Drive to Pea Ridge (1.5 hours) and learn about this significant battle. Spend the night in this area or continue toward Buffalo National River, your final stop.

Day 7: Buffalo National River is about 2-3 hours from Pea Ridge depending on which part of the park you plan to visit. Spend a day hiking or paddling on the river before returning to Little Rock, a 2-hour drive, for your flight home.

Arkansas Post National Memorial

Where the names have no streets

Arkansas Post National Memorial provides national recognition of the three centuries of European-American occupation of the site. Its position was important to the French, Spanish, American, and Confederate militaries. 

The national memorial is situated on a bluff at the confluence of two rivers and provides a view of the Mississippi River to the south and the Arkansas River to the north. It was home to the only Revolutionary War battle in the state and served as the first capital of the Arkansas Territory.

The national memorial commemorates both individual participants in United States history and early American frontier culture. It is an excellent example of historic preservation as well as commemorating historic events.

The national memorial includes an interpretive center and museum. The site also can be viewed from a platform overlooking the national memorial.

How to Get There: click here

Map: download here

Things to Do: Museum, guided tours, hiking, fishing, historic weapons demonstrations 

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Hampton Inn, Best Western, Briarwood Inn, Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (870) 548-2207

Buffalo National River

An aerial view of kayakers on a brown-colored river near a sandy beach

NPS/T. Fondriest

The first National River to be established, this 135-mile waterway is one of the most hidden gems in the Arkansas national parks. Today, it remains one of the last undammed rivers in the continental United States.

Buffalo National River provides a home for a variety of plants and animals. This national river provides a habitat for nearly 200 species of birds, 17 species of fish, and some tree frogs.

Buffalo National River also provides many benefits such as recreation, education, and flood control to the people living near it.

How to Get There: click here

Map: download here

Things to Do: Paddling, hiking, guided tours, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, camping, stargazing

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Hampton Inn, Hotel Seville, Quality Inn

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (870) 439-2502

Fort Smith National Historic Site

A large red brick building on a green parade field with a historic wagon and an American flag

NPS Photo

Fort Smith National Historic Site is an excellent national park in Arkansas that preserves the life of soldiers, the Trail of Tears, scandals, outlaws, and the lawmen who pursued them. The site provides a range of stories that can be investigated through the establishment of Fort Smith. 

By visiting the park, you’ll learn about Fort Smith’s military occupation, western expansion, and the impact both had on Native Americans.

How to Get There: click here

Map: download here

Things to Do: Museum, walking tours, park films, self-guided tours, hiking, become a junior ranger

Park Entrance Fee: $10/person for visitor center/exhibit entrance (valid for 7 days; park grounds are free)

Where to Stay: Courtyard, River Valley Inn, Rest Inn, Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Hampton Inn

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (479) 783-3961

Hot Springs National Park

Quapaw Baths and Bathhouse Row (Hot Springs National Park)

Hot Springs National Park is an interesting park with a rich cultural past. The national park is situated in the middle of the town and provides natural curiosities that have been drawing people here for hundreds of years.

Hot Springs National Park is home to many different plant, fish, and animal species. 

The only national park in Arkansas, Hot Springs includes geology, forested hikes, and creeks. The national park’s history includes hundreds of years of people coming to this site for the thermal springs and mountain views. You can still search for healing in one of the park’s historic bathhouses. 

Hot Springs National Park provides an opportunity for visitors to explore fantastic natural curiosities all while being surrounded by some grand architecture. Of all the national parks in Arkansas, this is the only one of the nation’s national parks.

How to Get There: click here

Map: download here

Things to Do: Hiking, bathing/soaking, scenic drives, bicycling, photography, picnicking, fishing, guided tours

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Arlington Resort, Prairie Palace Covered Wagon, Lookout Point Lakeside Inn, Hampton Inn

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (501) 620-6715

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

20:52-2 Little Rock Central High School

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site is a school with national significance. It may be the most well-known of all the national parks in Arkansas.

In 1957, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation laws were unconstitutional in the Brown v. Board of Education case in Topeka (also a national park site). This court ruling served as a catalyst for further civil rights movements across America.

Shortly after, nine African-American students raised national awareness when they enrolled in Little Rock Central High School. In protest, the Arkansas National Guard was brought in to prevent them from entering the school and national attention followed. The students entered the school anyway. They’ve been known at the Little Rock Nine ever since.

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site preserves national civil rights history. It is still an active high school, so plan your visit during school hours. 

How to Get There: click here

Map: download here

Things to Do: Ranger-guided tours, visitor center, commemorative garden, videos/films

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Wyndham Riverfront, Comfort Suites, Holiday Inn, The Empress of Little Rock

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (501) 374-1957

Pea Ridge National Military Park

The Elkhorn Tavern

Pea Ridge National Military Park commemorates the Battle of Pea Ridge. Visitors to the national military park will be able to explore the battlefields, museums, and monuments that tell the site’s story.

Pea Ridge is one of three national parks in Arkansas that commemorates an event from America’s civil war. This national historic site provides information about the Battle of Pea Ridge, which was groundbreaking for Union troops. 

This battle was a turning point in the war as it decided the fate of Missouri, which was torn between North or South, Confederacy or Union. After the battle at Pea Ridge, Missouri was secured as a Union state. It’s also one of the best-preserved Civil War battlefields in the country.  

How to Get There: click here

Map: download here

Things to Do: Guided tours, hiking, historic weapons demonstrations, museum 

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Sugar Creek Retreat, Beaver Lake Retreat, Rayburn Lodge

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (479) 451-8122 x1227

President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site

President Clinton birthplace #1

President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace National Historic Site commemorates the birthplace of President Bill Clinton. Visitors to the national historic site will be able to explore the former president’s birthplace and childhood home.

The site features small-town America at its best while being home to national significance. Growing up in such an environment greatly influenced the boy who would go on to become the 42nd President of the United States. After all, it is located in a little town called Hope.

How to Get There: click here

Map: download here

Things to Do: Guided tours, museum  

Park Entrance Fee: None

Where to Stay: Holiday Inn, Best Western, Hampton Inn, Super 8, Americas Best Value Inn, Motel 6

Official Website: click here

Speak to a Park Ranger: Call (870) 777-4455

Pin the National Parks in Arkansas

Did you know there are 7 national parks in Arkansas? Click here for the list, including things to do and how to get to each of the Arkansas national parks. Did you know there are 7 national parks in Arkansas? Click here for the list, including things to do and how to get to each of the Arkansas national parks. Did you know there are 7 national parks in Arkansas? Click here for the list, including things to do and how to get to each of the Arkansas national parks. Did you know there are 7 national parks in Arkansas? Click here for the list, including things to do and how to get to each of the Arkansas national parks.

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