Sylamore Creek near Mountain View.

Top 5 Adventure Towns in Arkansas

Last week we asked our readers to vote for their favorite adventure town in Arkansas. Sticking to our format of one question, one answer made this a tough call for any. We had 58 respondents who shared with us their favorite place to base an Arkansas outdoor adventure.

#4 (Tie) – Harrison 8.62%

The Buffalo National River near Harrison.
The Buffalo National River near Harrison.

Located in the north-central part of the state and the center of the Ozark Mountains, Harrison is known as the gateway to the Buffalo National River. With over 130 miles of some of the most beautiful floating in the country plus over 100 miles of incredible hiking trails, the Buffalo River offers some of the best outdoor adventures in the state. Harrison is also on the northern end of Scenic Highway 7 which takes travelers by car, motorcycle and bicycle through the heart of the Arkansas Ozarks. Another popular activity is to watch the Elk in nearby Ponca, Arkansas. Harrison is also home to the Arkansas Hot Air Balloon Championships and if going up is not your thing go deep into the Ozarks at Mystic Caverns.

#4 (Tie) – Mountain View 8.62%

Sylamore Creek near Mountain View.
Sylamore Creek near Mountain View.

Billed as the Folk Music Capital of the World, Mountain View is so much more. Just north of town is the Sylamore National Forest, home to the Syllamo Mountain Bike Trails, an International Mountain Bicycling Association Epic Trail, The Sylamore Trail which follows beautiful bluff lines along the Sylamore Creek, and Blanchard Springs and Caverns. If mountain biking, hiking, backpacking and the Wild Cave Tour aren’t enough you can always enjoy fishing and boating on the White River or enjoy Loco Ropes at Ozark Folk Center State Park giving you a higher perspective on the Ozarks. After a full day of adventure, kick back at the town square and enjoy some authentic folk music and down home food.

#3 – Fayetteville 12.07%

Lake Fayetteville in Fayetteville.
Lake Fayetteville in Fayetteville.

The southern terminus of the Razorback Regional Greenway Trail, Fayetteville is growing as an outdoor destination. Driven by a college town atmosphere and recent construction and improvement of local trails like those at Mt. Kessler and Lake Fayetteville, this home to the University of Arkansas is well positioned as an adventure destination. The International Mountain Bicycling Association recently named it as a Ride Center and a few weeks ago it became one of the anchors of the newly recognized Regional Ride Center, the first in the country. Besides the road and mountain bike trails in town, the city is also near the birthplace of Arkansas mountain biking, Devil’s Den State Park and is also the closest major city to the Upper Buffalo Headwaters Mountain Bike Trail system, an IMBA Epic. When you’re done with all the adventure for the day, enjoy an evening on Dickson Street near the campus for music, food and drink.

#2 – Little Rock 13.79%

The Big Dam Bridge in Little Rock.
The Big Dam Bridge in Little Rock.

Setting the tone for the Natural State, the state capital, Little Rock is an adventure seekers dream. One of the focal points is the Big Dam Bridge, the longest bike/pedestrian bridge in the country built specifically for that purpose. The BDB connects the Arkansas River Trail on both sides of the river. The Trail goes east to connect again at the Clinton Library Bridge creating an over 15-mile paved loop. The ART also goes farther west from the BDB to cross the two rivers bridge and go on to Pinnacle Mountain State Park and beyond. Along the River Trail are miles and miles of hiking and mountain biking trails all easily accessible from downtown hotels. Once you get to Pinnacle Mountain State Park, you can connect to the 222-mile Ouachita National Recreation Trail to start a backpacking trip that could take you all the way to Oklahoma. For those who enjoy floating, the Big and Little Maumelle Rivers provide slow moving trips from Pinnacle Mountain moving back toward town. If you want a real wetlands experience, head to Fourche Creek on the southern border of town to float among the cypress trees in the 1,800-acre core bottomland region. Several breweries and restaurants are located in downtown along with plenty of lodging options.

#1 – Hot Springs 17.24%

Grand Avenue and Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs.
Grand Avenue and Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs.

No real surprise here, Hot Springs often shows up on national lists of adventure towns. Home to Hot Springs National Park which is not the first but is the oldest National Park in the country. This happened because it was protected by President Andrew Jackson long before there was such thing as a National Park. Besides the hiking trails and beauty of the park which is located in the center of town, Hot Springs is also surrounded by the Ouachita Mountains. IMBA Epic trails are nearby with the closest being the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail. For those who want to cool off in clean waters, Hot Springs is home to several of the cleanest lakes in the country, Lake Catherine, Lake Ouachita and Lake Hamilton. More adventure can be found in one of the three nearby state parks, Lake Ouachita State Park, Lake Catherine State Park and DeGray Lake Resort State Park.

Once you’re done with playing in the mountains, enjoy the spas along bathhouse row. The Buckstaff still offers traditional spa facilities and the Superior now houses a local brewery and restaurant. Historic hotels line Grand Avenue just down the street.

(All photos above courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism)

Next Survey

Get your vote in for the next Arkansas Outside, 1 Question, 1 Answer Survey. Vote for your favorite day hike now.