Spanning four states, the Ozark Mountains offer hiking, hot springs, rivers, and caves spread across various parks and rugged wilderness areas in the central U.S. If you're looking for an outdoor getaway in Arkansas, consider these five top spots for getting back to nature in the Ozarks with the entire family.
Situated along Northern Arkansas' Ozark Mountain range, Bull Shoals Lake is a man-made lake that has a well-earned reputation as an ideal spot for lunker bass fishing. As the site of the country's fifth largest concrete dam and the final impound of the White River before the water reaches the Mississippi, it's replete with coves and lake arms that provide plenty of options for boating, fishing, water sports, swimming, and scuba diving.
If you need a place to rest after a busy day of water activities, Bull Shoals-White River State Park provides visitors with campgrounds, pavilions, picnic sites, and playgrounds that are ideal for unwinding with family and friends.
Hang on to those fishing poles and head east to Norfork Lake for bass, crappie, catfish, and walleye fishing. The dam on the lake is located along North Fork River, and the shoreline extends an impressive 550 miles.
Along a backdrop of rising bluffs, the lake area is a prime location for hiking, camping, and bird watching, while commercial docks provide opportunities for boating, diving, and water sports. Spring wildflowers and colorful fall foliage in the surrounding valley add to the area's rich beauty, making it a great place to visit across the seasons.
Beat the summer heat by exploring Blanchard Springs' underground limestone caves. This "living cavern" is an Ozarks treasure, with water-carved passages, an underground river, and fascinating rock formations to explore on one of three guided tours, each with varying levels of difficulty and cave access.
In the surrounding Ozark National Forest, enjoy swimming, biking, hiking, and camping at Blanchard Springs Campgrounds. Mirror Lake offers a haven for trout fishermen, and the area also includes a natural amphitheater and vocational cottages where demonstrations of various trades — such as blacksmithing and quilting — take place for visitors.
Venture deep into the Ozark valley to Devil's Den State Park, a paradise for hikers. The many well-maintained, multi-use trails offer gorgeous views in a natural setting throughout the park. One of the most beloved is Yellow Rock Trail, a moderately difficult three-mile hike that rewards sightseers with stunning views of Lee Creek Valley from magnificent Yellow Rock.
Campsites and cabins are located throughout the park, including hike-in spots for more adventurous travelers. Embark on a wet-water day hike up Lee Creek, or head underground into Devil's Den Cave. Many of the trails in the park are also bike- and horse-friendly.
Take the kids on a special outdoor escapade to Eureka Springs. This small Victorian-style village offers outdoor adventure along with bits and pieces of history. Take advantage of the gorgeous natural surroundings during the day and then relax in one of the town's historical hotels in the evening.
Outdoor exploits include cave tours, paddle boarding, hiking, and zip-lining, one of the area's prime attractions. From 300 feet in the air, take in the pristine beauty of the surrounding Ozarks as you whoosh down 2,000 feet of zip line. If you want a more cultural outdoor experience, attend The Great Passion Play in an outdoor amphitheater under the stars. The 67-foot Christ of the Ozarks statue is visible on the horizon as you watch the play.