Where To Camp In The Ouachita National Forest
Situated among oak forests and serene lakes, more than 20 campgrounds provide excellent bases for exploring the areas hiking and biking trails, floating on the water, or casting a line for bass and walleye. Whether youre looking to park your RV or pitch your tent, most of the developed camping and recreation areas are open from April to September, with a few open year-round. Many sites have electrical and water hookups, vault or flush toilets, and picnic shelters. A few locations even feature showers, drinking water and dump stations.
Here are a selection of Arkansas campgrounds that come highly recommended by campers on The Dyrt.
How To Pick A Campsite
If you are going to an area where others have camped before, pick a site that has been used before. Plants, soil and wildlife are impacted by new campsites so using existing ones will minimize your impact in the forest. If there is no existing campsite, then follow these Leave No Trace guidelines.
- Camp on bare soil if possible, to avoid damage or killing plants and grass.
- Do NOT camp within 100 feet of any water source, plants near water are especially fragile.
- Do not camp in the middle of a clearing or meadow try to make your campsite less visible so that other visitors will see a “wild” setting
- Do not try to level or dig trenches in the ground at your campsite. Pick a tent site that is already level with good drainage.
Talimena National Scenic Byway
The 54-mile Talimena Scenic Byway traverses some of the highest mountain tops in this part of the United States. The roadway was built in 1969 specifically for this purpose so more people could see these beautiful sites. At 2,681 feet above sea level, Rich Mountains peak is the second-tallest point in Arkansas. On the Oklahoma side, The Winding Stair Mountain range rises to an elevation of around 2,400 feet.
At either end of this scenic byway are awe-inspiring state parks. In between are numerous recreation areas, including some great hiking areas. You can also take advantage of the unique opportunity to stand with one foot in Arkansas and one in Oklahoma.
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What Is Unique About The Ouachita Mountains
Ouachita National Forest isnt the only national park to straddle state lines. But because it covers so many different counties, it has 12 separate districts more than any other national forest.
Another unique claim to fame is something that makes it popular with rockhounds. Were talking quartz crystals, and, in fact, you can even mine them yourself in the southern part of the forest. Specifically, a town called Mount Ida is the epicenter of this activity. You can dig for crystals at various mines or purchase them at area shops.
What Is Dispersed Camping
Many people enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers. Dispersed camping is the term used for camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground. Dispersed camping means no services such as trash removal, and little or no facilities such as tables and fire pits, are provided. Some popular dispersed camping areas may have toilets.
There are extra responsibilities and skills that are necessary for dispersed camping. It is your responsibility to know these before you try this new experience. Camping rules and regulations apply to make your experience safe, and to keep the natural resources scenic and unspoiled for other campers.
Visitors are primarily responsible for their own safety. Keep in mind, trails and roads may be open for use, but please recreate responsibly and follow public health guidelines regarding social distancing while you recreate in National Forests. Law enforcement and search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19 issues. High risk activities such as rock climbing or motorized activities that increase your chance of injury or distress should be avoided. For the most current and accurate information about COVID-19, contact your local health officials or visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov. Information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is available at: www.usda.gov/coronavirus.
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Activities In Ouachita National Forest
Whether you’re looking to relax in complete solitude or take advantage of the amazing recreational activities at Ouachita National Forest, you’ll have plenty of nature to view. Bring your off-highway vehicles, and head to the 600-acre Renegade Ranch OHV trail. Horse owners love the popular Billy Creek Trail, Fourche Mountain Trail, and Sugar Creek Equestrian. These trails are also great for hiking and mountain biking and are rated as moderate to difficult. They are also ideal for bird watching, geocaching, and observing wildlife.
Caney Creek Wilderness Area
Caney Creek Wilderness Area is the largest designated wilderness area in the State of Arkansas. At 14,460 acres, this area features: rugged, nearly untouched forests, scenic overlooks, flowing streams and hiking trails.Many Recreation areas can be found in the Caney Creek Wilderness Area, including: Little Missouri Falls, Wolf Pen Gap, Alpert Pike, Crooked Creek Falls, the Blue Hole and many, many more. Hiking is also a popular draw to this area. The recreational opportunities are truly endless.
U.S. Wilderness Areas do not allow motorized or mechanized vehicles, including bicycles. Although camping and fishing are usually allowed with a proper permit, no roads or buildings are constructed and there is also no logging or mining, in compliance with the 1964 Wilderness Act. Wilderness areas within National Forests and Bureau of Land Management areas also allow hunting in season.
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Where Can I Disperse Camp
Typically, dispersed camping is NOT allowed in the vicinity of developed recreation areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas, or trailheads. Many people drive out on Forest Service roads into the woods and find a clearing or a spot near a stream or with a view of the mountains. Do not drive on meadows to access your camping site. Drive on existing roads to prevent resource damage. To prevent resource damage please keep your campsite within 150 feet from a roadway.
Rv Camping Just Stepsfrom The Lake
My husband and I stayed for five nights in one of the RV camping spots and were very happy with our site. Full hookups, level lot, mature shade trees and just steps away from Lake Ouachita. We kayak, so it was great to be able to easily put in without having to transport our kayaks to a ramp. Our views were gorgeous and the park has lots of great scheduled activities. We took the boat tour of the lake, which featured a bit of history and geology of the region. We also enjoyed the stargazing event. We were boated out to a small island where a ranger showed us various constellations and talked about the night skies. It was breathtaking! We are traveling the country, and this is one of our favorite state parks.
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Sample Itinerary For An Ouachita National Forest Weekend Getaway From Dallas Tx
Friday: Arrival, swimming, and sunset hikes!
- Stop 1: Cossatot River State Park
- Stop 2: Check in to campsite/hotel
- Stop 3: Sunset hike at Queen Wilhelmina State Park
Saturday: Road trip to Hot Springs!
- Stop 1: Garvan Woodland Gardens
- Stop 2: Lake Catherin State Park
- Stop 3: Hot Springs National Park
- Stop 4: Lake Ouachita State Park
Sunday: Swimming Holes and home!
- Stop 1: Little Missouri Falls
- Stop 2: Start the drive home!
A weekend getaway to the Ouachita National Forest is the perfect way to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With all the hidden natural wonders, its no wonder its considered the natural state! Be sure to follow along on for more dog-friendly USA road trip itineraries and stops!
The Latest And Highly Recommended Campgrounds And Rv Parks In Ouachita National Forest
The fun starts once youve decided to find new sites and start filling up your experience bank in RVing. The more tours we have, the wider our perception will be. Besides, the world has many natural gifts to offer that are just waiting for our discovery.
Ouachita National Forest is one of the treasures we are referring to a while ago. Thats why weve decided to create a list of the most recommended RV parks, campsites, and tons of scenic views in the county that could be your next favorite place on earth.
This gem welcomes RV enthusiasts, nature lovers, or those who seek greener air to breathe. However, before being too excited, we also recommend scanning the information and reminders that we provided to smoothen your RV escapade in Ouachita National Forest of the West Central part of Arkansas and the Southeast portion of Oklahoma.
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Camping In Ouachita National Forest
A variety of services can be found at developed campgrounds nearby that include full-service RV hookups. With an RV, you can experience the solitude of the forest and still come home to a warm, comfortable bed. Whether you’re an RV pro or haven’t yet had the chance to experience the RV lifestyle, it’s wonderful to have your own living space. When you rent an RV from RVshare, you’ll have campers, fifth-wheels, big rigs, and more to select from to suit your family’s budget and size.
Ouachita National Forest Weekend Getaway
Arkansas is quickly becoming one of my most favorite states to visit. I dont know if its because of the peacefulness of the miles and miles of dirt roads, the ability to disconnect in with no-service, the private swimming holes, or the unique hikes, BUT Arkansas is definitely a hidden gem in the United States. If you are looking for a relaxing weekend getaway, here is the most perfect Ouachita National Forest weekend itinerary. Complete with the best things to do in the Ouachita Mountains, best hikes in southeastern Arkansas, a trip to Hot Springs National Park, and of course all the dog-friendly things to do in the Ouachitas.
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Rv Parks And Campgrounds
The Lake Ouachita State Park campground offers 103 different campsites with direct access to the lake. Campers also can choose from one of the many privately-owned RV parks in the surrounding area. In Hot Springs, campers will find the All Seasons RV Park and Baileys RV Park. However, if you are looking for a campsite right on the lake, Brady Mountain Campground, Crystal Springs Campground, Denby Point Campground, Joplin Campground and Tompkins Bend Campground are your best bets.
There Are 2 Rv Camping Location Maps On This Page
These maps and information are provided to assist you in finding RV camping locations in the Ouachita National Forest of Arkansas. Locations displayed are approximate, and are offered only as a guide and should not be used for navigation. Public lands are administered by USA and state government departments, and you should consult with the local public land management office for specific RV camping and access information if you are unsure of local policies.
To find free RV camping sites in the Ouachita National Forest, you need good maps. We recommend the Arkansas Atlas & Gazetteer by DeLorme Publishing Company as a great paper recreation atlas. Put that together with DeLorme Topo 6.0 Software and you have a powerful set of tools to find great RV camping sites.
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Ouachita River Haven Resort
This first destination on our list could be your all-year-round holiday destination. It is nestled in the Countys Ouachita National Forests and is 46-mile away from Hot springs. Owned and managed by two united couples, the Haven feels intimate, as they, too, live within the property surrounded by nature.
There are various recreational activities available in the area, including fishing for anglers enthusiasts, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and mountain biking for travelers who love the adrenaline rush.
The campground has 14 Primitive Campsites and four areas with water and electric hookups for campers and RVs. All sites provide total privacy because of their widely spaced perimeter so that you also wont feel crowded by strangers.
Though they provide the primary necessities such as electricity and water to make every guest comfortable, we wanted to note that there are no septic dump-sites in the area. Having a clogged toilet is a nightmare, but using the best RV toilet papers could be a good preventive measure.
- Booking in advance is highly recommended
- Leashing your pet/dog is a must for others safety
- Be responsible for the waste products of your pets
- No leaving of trash on the site
- Loitering outside designated areas is prohibited
- Trailers above 32-feet are not allowed
- No dumping of septic tanks on the ground
THINGS TO DO
Camping Ouachita National Forest In Arkansas
Camp Arkansas had the privilege of speaking with Terence, about camping in the Ouachita National Forest. He also gave us great insights on what activities you should do while in the forest and just how big the Ouachita National Forest really is.
Terences Favorite Thing To Do In The Forest
Terences Favorite Campsite in the National ForestShady Lake recreation area, near Mena, Arkansas. The recreation area is a campground, tucked in the mountains on the bank of a beautiful lake. It offers opportunities to fish, swim, or canoe.
Camping in the Ouachita National Forest
When was Ouachita National Forest founded? How did it start?In 1906, Gifford Pinchot, then Chief of the USDA Forest Service, sent Cornell-trained forester William Logan Hall to Arkansas to select the areas of land that would eventually become the two designated national forests.A proclamation by President Roosevelt on December 18, 1907, created the Arkansas National Forest on reserved public domain lands south of the Arkansas River, which is today the Ouachita National Forest. Pinchot remarked that this forest was the only major shortleaf pine forest under Federal government protection.
Just before leaving office, President Roosevelt added lands from the public domain to the gross area of the Ozark NF on February 25 and to the Ouachita NF on February 27, 1909.
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Jump In A Swimming Holes In The Ouachita National Forest
- Cossotot River State Park: A quiet state park located down a 6-mile dirt roadjust think of it as a scenic drive through the Arkansas forest :). Once you arrive, there is plenty of parking close by the river . Once here, its just a short walk to the falls, where you can find a private spot to cool off!
- Little Missouri Falls: An even more remote swimming area than Cossotot. Little Missouri Falls are located 31 miles southwest of Mena. From the parking lot, you will see a picnic area and a trail. The trail will take you to the falls. For detailed directions,
- Fall branch Trail: Just 17 miles from Hot Springs National Park, you will find a perfect small swimming hole along the Fall Branch Trail in Lake Catherine State Park. Lake Catherine is also a perfect spot to jump in a cool off!
Tip! Make sure to pack your Keens as you will want to be able to walk in the creeks/swimming holes/ and lakes to cool off.
Get The Most Out Of Ouachita National Forest
Established in 1907 as the Arkansas National Forest, this is the oldest national forest in the southern United States. It was first explored by Hernando de Soto and his party of Spaniard explorers in 1541. The French came afterward, who named many of the places within the region. The name was changed from Arkansas to Ouachita in 1926, after the French spelling of the Native-American name Washinta. Translated, this means good hunting grounds. The forest almost became a national park in the 1920s, but that effort was vetoed by President Calvin Coolidge.
Originally established over an area of 590,000 acres, the Ouachita currently encompasses nearly 1.8 million acres. Within this area are six designated wilderness areas, as well as the Ouachita Mountains, one of the few east-west-trending ranges in the U.S. These mountains are the source of several major watersheds, including the Arkansas and Ouachita rivers. In addition to its many recreational benefits, the forest also serves as a habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife, including some threatened and endangered species.
Image from The Dyrt camper Nicki M.
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Hot Springs National Park Koa Kampground
- Type : Tent / RV / Cabin
- Reservation : Yes
One of the closest campgrounds to the National Park without actually being in it is the KOA Kampground for this specific park. It is nestled into the foothills in the Ouachita Mountains and gives you a relaxing place to stay surrounded by nature while visiting this interesting park and its city.
At the campground, there are a variety of campsites available for rental year-round. These have 50 max amp electrical hookups, Wi-Fi connection, and some of them have cable TV. Accessible to anyone using the campground is a pool, although this is only open from May into October.
These sites are dog-friendly and give you a chance to get to know other campers with some of their communal areas. There are showers and restrooms throughout the campsite for convenient use.