There are eight National Park Services in the state of Arkansas, including one National Park. The remaining national park services are comprised of one National Historic Trail, three National Historic Sites, and a National River. There’s also a National Battlefield and National Memorial. Ready to explore all The Natural State has to offer? Here are some of the best National Parks in Arkansas to visit.
7 of the Best National Parks in Arkansas
1. Hot Springs – National Park
Congress established Hot Springs Reservation in 1832 to preserve the hot springs flowing from the southwestern slope of Hot Springs Mountain. This national park is, therefore, the oldest in the United States, predating Yellowstone by 40 years. Hot Spring National Park is famous for its 47 thermal springs, as well as it vast network of hiking trails through the stunning Ouachita Mountains. You can also enjoy scenic drives, hot water cascades, picnic areas and campsites in the park.
2. President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home – National Historic Site
The President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site is located in Hope, Arkansas. This is the birthplace of Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, who spent the first four years of his life here. His maternal grandparents, Edith Grisham and James Eldridge Cassidy owned the house, and they cared for Bill when his mother, Virginia, was away working in New Orleans. His father died shortly before Bill was born. On a visit, you can enjoy a guided tour of the house and watch a short film in the visitor centre.
3. Pea Ridge – National Military Park
Pea Ridge National Military Park protects and preserves the site of the Battle of Pea Ridge, which took place in 1862. Over 23,000 soldiers were involved in this conflict and the 4,300-acre battlefield honours those who fought and died on these grounds. For those who don’t know their American history, the National Park Services says: “Pea Ridge was the most pivotal Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River and is one of the most intact Civil War battlefields in the United States.” On a visit, you can enjoy the peaceful nature of the park on a bike ride, walk, or guided tour.
4. Arkansas Post – National Memorial
The Arkansas Post preserves and interprets the remains of the original European and Native American settlements on the Arkansas River, as well as the Civil War battle that took place here. The park has plenty of things to do, for example, there is a visitor centre with a museum and theatre, as well as 2.5 miles of paved trails, and the Quapaw village of Osotouy and the Menard-Hodges archaeological site. The park also offers excellent fishing and wildlife watching opportunities.
5. Buffalo – National River
The Buffalo River is 153 miles (246 km) long. The lower 135 miles (217 km) flow within the boundaries of the National Park Service. The river flows freely for 135 miles and is one of the last undammed rivers in the lower 48. Officials established the park in 1972 as the first National River in the United States. Along the river, you can enjoy the peaceful surroundings as well as plenty of activities. For example, you can cruise through the Ozark Mountains down to the White River.
6. Fort Smith – National Historic Site
Fort Smith National Historic Site preserves almost 80 years of history. The United States established the first Fort Smith in 1817 on the edge of frontier and Indian Territory. Through stories, exhibits and artefacts, this National Historic Site traces the town’s origins as a military post during the frontier era. The Fort Smith Museum of History further explores local history and on a visit, you can explore many historical places, for instance, trails, jails, and a courtroom.
7. Trail of Tears – National Historic Trail
The Trail of Tears takes you on a journey of injustice because the route marks the forced removal of the Cherokee. Following the trail is a beautiful way to learn more about American Indian culture and heritage and this dark period in history. As you walk, you follow the route that American Indians took when they were illegally forced to move from their ancestral homelands in the Deep South to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. During the Cherokee removal, historians estimate that 3,000–4,000 of them died during the passage. This is how the route got its name the Trail of Tears. Today, the 5,000-mile Historic Trail passes through nine states: North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas and Oklahoma. You’ll find dozens of certified sites along the route in Arkansas. For example, the Delta Cultural Center, the Fitzgerald Station and Farmstead and Mount Nebo State Park.