I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. I lived there until I was 18 and went off to college out of state.
Even as I’ve lived in other cities and traveled around the world, I still visit Arkansas at least twice per year. I want to see my family and friends. And honestly, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the state that I didn’t have when I was a kid.
When we spend our childhood in an area, it seems mundane. Lame. For those of us who are antsy travelers, our hometowns feel like prisons we need to escape from. 17-year-old me thought I was so much bigger than Little Rock!
Now, every time I return home, I discover something new that I love about my home state. New restaurants open. Downtown actually seems cool. (When did that happen?) I drive out to hiking trails I never visited as a teenager.
Since I have a new appreciation for Arkansas, I want to share some of my favorite places with you. Consider this a native Arkansan’s ode to the Natural State.
More posts about my favorite places:
1. Hawksbill Crag
Hawksbill Crag is one of the most photogpraphed, if not the most photographed, spots in Arkansas. I also know several people who have been proposed to on the crag. Because, come on, who wouldn’t want that view during the most romantic moment of their life?
Hawksbill Crag is located on Whitaker Point Trail, a three-mile loop located in the Ozark Mountains. The trail is short and easy, so there is no excuse to not go see this natural wonder!
2. Hot Springs National Park
You could probably guess from the name that this national park’s main attraction is its hot springs. There are 47 hot springs, to be exact, and they come out of Hot Springs Mountain. Who doesn’t love relaxing in geothermal water??
Another fun and historic attraction is Bathhouse Row, where you can look at eight bathhouses built between 1892 and 1923.
There are also campsites and over 26 miles of hiking trails in the park.
3. Little Rock
Little Rock is Arkansas’s capital. It’s historically significant, as Little Rock Central High School was where the Little Rock Nine, or the first nine African American students to be integrated into high schools during the Civil Rights movement.
Little Rock is also home to Heifer International, a famous global nonprofit that provides farm animals to people abroad and trains them how to become financially successful with these animals. They take the phrase “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime” very seriously.
Heifer International is located next to the Clinton Library and Museum. Because even if you know nothing about Arkansas, you’ve probably heard that Bill Clinton is from the state!
Aside from these fancy buildings, Little Rock has also jumped on the bandwagon for local food and beer. Places like The Root Cafe and Lost Forty Brewing will give you a taste of what Arkansans grow, eat, and drink.
4. Crater of Diamonds State Park
Do you like the idea of digging for diamonds? You might not know that there is one place in the world where you can legally do it.
Yep, only one place. In the entire world. And it’s in Arkansas.
Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only diamond-bearing place open to the public on Earth. And yes, that means you can dig for diamonds! I’ve visited and dug for them myself.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find a rare diamond and get rich. But people have done it!
Fayetteville, home to the University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Razorbacks! (We’re not bragging too much about the Razorbacks this season, though. I mean, we love them … but yikes.)
The University of Arkansas is located in Northwest Arkansas, so I recommend visiting during the autumn. The rolling mountains are freaking gorgeous in the fall.
Some of Fayetteville’s other attractions include the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, Clinton House Museum, and the adorable downtown area.
6. Petit Jean State Park
Petit Jean is a great park for a weekend camping trip. There are a ton of camp sites and over 20 miles of hiking trails. My personal favorite trail here is the 4.5-mile Seven Hollows Trail!
If you’re in the park, I also recommend visiting Cedar Falls. The trail is only two miles round-trip, and you’ll get to enjoy a freaking gorgeous waterfall.
You can also rent fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, and water bikes. (By the way, does anyone actually know what a water bike is? I’d never heard of it before looking on Petit Jean’s website. Comment below to put my mind at ease!)
7. Mount Magazine State Park
Mount Magazine is the tallest mountain in Arkansas. The government has paid tribute to the mountain by creating a state park here, complete with tons of hiking trails.
Huckleberry Mountain Trail is 34 miles long and great for backpackers.
Mount Magazine State Park is also a hub for rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, and even hang gliding!
I heard about this park about five years ago, and I’ve been itching to go ever since. The timing has never worked out for me, and I’m super bitter about it!
8. Eureka Springs
Eureka Springs is the quintessential small, Southern town.
The town is a hub for car shows and motorcycle rallies. If that’s not an adorable small town feature, I don’t know what is. There are also a ton of local businesses that draw in tourists.
My favorite part about Eureka Springs is that it is well-known for gorgeous wedding venues. My favorite is Thorncrown Chapel, a 48-foot tall glass chapel in the woods. Many refer to it as the most beautiful chapel in the world.
9. Buffalo National River
Fun fact: The Buffalo was America’s first National River!
One of the most popular things to do here is rent a canoe with your friends and paddle down a section of the 135 miles of water.
This is also a great place to dabble in fishing if you’re new to this hobby. You can take your own gear, or if you’re completely inexperienced, you might want to sign up for one of these guided fishing trips.
Spend your days on the river and sleep at one of the campgrounds at night. If you need a break from the water, there are numerous hiking trails you can explore.
10. Ozark National Forest
The Buffalo River runs through Ozark National Forest. This forest is also where you’ll find the stunning Ozark Mountains and the Whitaker Point Trail (Hawksbill Crag) that I mentioned above!
Many travelers don’t know that Arkansas is home to a 218-mile backpacking trail called the Ozark Highlands Trail. Hiking this full trail is definitely on my Travel Bucket List!
The Ozarks also contain many miles of mountain biking trails and good spots for rock climbing.
Basically what I’m saying is, if you’re outdoorsy, Ozark National Forest is the place to be!