There are more than a few great spots to camp here in Arkansas. Between the spirit of the Ozarks and the Ouachitas alone, there is so much to take in on these beautiful trails that backpacking often offers the perfect camping experience. Here are five of the most beautiful backpack camping spots in the Natural State. Please remember trail etiquette and only camp within the designated areas…and don’t forget to bring your camera!
Spanning the entire Ozark National Forest, the nearly 210-mile-long Ozark Highlands Trail is often called one of the most scenic trails in the United States. The western terminus (trailhead) of this ultra-popular trail is located at Lake Fort Smith State Park, just north of Mountainburg on US 71. Camping outside of the park’s recreational areas is permitted once visiting backpackers have hiked beyond the first six miles.
At nearly nine miles in length, Pigeon Roost Trail is located within Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area in Northwest Arkansas. You’ll find the trailhead just east of War Eagle Road, also known as Benton County 98. This popular spot is a stacked double-loop trail, with a smaller four-mile loop designated for day hiking and a longer 8.5-mile loop for overnight hiking. Backpackers wishing to camp may do so at one of the five primitive, first-come first-serve, camping sites on a ridge overlooking beautiful Beaver Lake (contact Ranger for availability).
The popular Ouachita National Hiking Trail, also known as the National Recreational Trail, is located off Highway 300 in Little Rock and is designated for both hiking and backpacking. Although this entire trail is an exhausting 222 miles long, you’ll enjoy a beautiful (and less strenuous!) 2.5-mile stretch in Pinnacle Mountain State Park. The beautiful Ouachita National Hiking Trail will take you along the edge of the Big Maumelle River as well as through some scenic upland forests and rocky hillside areas.
At almost 10 miles in length, this trail offers some of the best hiking in the state for beginning backpackers. Cove Lake Trail, located within Mount Magazine State Park as well as the Ozark National Forest, features a variety of native wildlife and beautiful landscapes, like white-tailed deer and virgin hardwoods. Hunting is allowed inside the Ozark National Forest (where overnight camping is permitted), so visitors need to be aware of the seasons and should wear bright colors when appropriate.
This awesome trail is located within Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area just south of Mena, Arkansas. The River Corridor Trail is an excellent trail for backpacking as it winds its way through some of the most scenic (and rough!) terrain in the Ouachita Mountains. Visitors are asked to limit camping to these areas: the Ed Banks, the Sandbar, the Cossatot Falls, and the Highway 278 access areas.