Fall is a great time to take an overnight hike or canoe trip in Arkansas, and we have plenty of opportunities across the state.
If you prefer a traditional getaway with the comforts of home, Arkansas State Parks are great destinations. Some, like DeGray Lake State Park and Petit Jean Mountain State Park, offer five-star accommodations. DeGray Lake State Park also has a beautiful golf course, but staying true to the outdoorsy spirit we will limit the accommodation suggestions to the campsite.
Most state parks have full-service campgrounds that can accommodate larger RVs. They have water and electricity connections and waste tank disposal facilities.
Most state parks also have areas for tent camping with water and electricity, and some have areas for primitive tent camping. Primitive sites only have tent mats with no amenities.
Several of my favorite state parks for camping are Withrow Springs State Park near Huntsville, White Oak Lake State Park near Camden, Lake Fort Smith State Park in Mountainburg, Lake Dardanelle State Park near Russellville, and Village Creek State Park near by Wynne.
The fall foliage is vibrant and the weather is pleasant in the Ozarks in mid-October, making Withrow Springs a prime destination. Its wooded nature gives the campsite an intimate and warm atmosphere and you can take hot showers in the public baths. For this reason, I sometimes camp there when hunting in the nearby Madison County Wildlife Management Area.
Excellent wading for bass and crappie is available at the southern edge of the park at War Eagle Creek.
You can also camp in Madison County WMA, a great place for a weekend squirrel hunt. The WMA has a large number of primitive campgrounds. These are cleared areas in the woods with no amenities, but they are extremely peaceful and private. You can get out of your tent and start hunting immediately. The WMA also offers quick access to great smallmouth bass fishing on the Kings River at Rockhouse.
Lake Fort Smith State Park is very modern and provides an excellent camping base for bass fishing kayaking trips on Lake Fort Smith. The western terminus of the Ozark Highlands Trail is also located here. You can have someone drop you off and pick you up a few weeks later at the Richland Creek Recreation Area, the eastern terminus of the OHT.
Ozark National Forest
The Richland Creek Recreation Area, operated by the US Forest Service, is just one of the many great camping / hiking / fishing options available in the Arkansas National Forests. It’s remote and difficult to reach, but it’s a tidy, well-designed campground with enough privacy. Each site has a fire ring, lantern pole, and tent mat. There is also room for recreational vehicles, but there are no utilities.
Smallmouth bass fishing is surprisingly good in Richland Creek despite its small size in this area. You can go up or down to reach areas with little fishing.
The Ozark Highland Trail begins at the campsite. You can arrive on a Friday, hike the Richland Creek Wilderness Area, camp overnight, and leave on Sunday.
Other options in Ozark National Forest are Wolf Pen Recreation Area near Oark, Redding Recreation Area near Cass, Fairview Recreation Area near Pelsor, Haw Creek Falls Recreation near Hagarville and Ozone Recreation Area near Ozone.
Wolf Pen and Redding are found on the Mulberry River, providing direct access to great smallmouth bass fishing. Fishing is better in Redding, but the campground is too much of a place to party, being so close to Arkansas 23. Wolf Pen is much quieter, but the Mulberry is smaller which limits fishing.
Fairview Recreation Area sits on top of a mountain on State Arkansas 7 north of Dover. No fishing is available there, but you can hike the Ozark Highlands Trail to the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area, which is home to secluded fishing holes. It’s a full day hike, so you’ll need to camp in the wilderness.
The Ozone Recreation Area is also on top of a mountain on Arkansas 21. There is no fishing, but there is a trailhead for the Ozark Highlands Trail. The campsite loop is shaded, and the pitches are quite private.
The Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area is located on Haw Creek off Arkansas 123. Excellent fishing is available at nearby Little Piney Creek. A footpath for the Ozark Highlands Trail is also nearby.
All of these areas lie within the boundaries of the National Forest, providing limitless possibilities for squirrel and deer hunting with archery equipment, muzzle chargers and firearms. modern.
Ouachita National Forest
In western Arkansas, the Little Pines Recreation Area near Waldron is a multi-use destination on Hinkle Lake, a much unknown bass and crappie lake. The campground also provides easy access to excellent squirrel, deer and quail hunting in the Blue Pine Restoration Zone which encompasses the area. You read correctly. Quail. The pine barbon restoration area is home to the hardiest quail populations to be found on southern public lands.
Crystal Recreation Area is a small, neat and secluded campground near Norman, very close to the Caddo River. You can wade the Caddo near Norman, or you can launch a canoe at Caddo Gap.
Primitive car camping is also available at the Fourche Mountain Recreation Area near Rover and the South Fork Recreation Area near Hollis.
Bard Springs Recreation Area, my favorite campsite in the Ouachita National Forest, is just across the mountain from Shady Lake Recreation Area. Both are close to great fishing on the Little Missouri River, which is stocked with rainbow trout starting in November at the Albert Pike Recreation Area.
These areas are all convenient for the Ouachita Trail and the Womble Trail, both internationally renowned for hiking and mountain biking.
All of these campgrounds provide access to excellent deer hunting in the Ouachita National Forest. It is subject to state-wide deer hunting regulations and no special permits are required.
Arkansas Wildlife Management Areas are teeming with unmanaged campgrounds, like the one in Madison County WMA, which provide secluded bases for squirrel and deer hunters in the fall. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Bryan Hendricks)