There are 52 Arkansas State Park and they each have their own personality, missions, and amenities. We wanted to know your top five. So we asked our readers, “which three Arkansas State Parks are your favorites?” Why three? Because we didn’t want anyone to blow a gasket trying to come up with just one. Arkansas State Parks are known as one of the best state park systems in the country. Much of this is due to the support of the citizens of Arkansas when they passed the Conservation Tax, also called “Amendment 75” in the mid-1990s.
What is Amendment 75?
Amendment 75 allowed for 1/8 of one cent of all sales taxes to go to four state conservation agencies. The money is split by the legislation, 1% going to Keep Arkansas Beautiful, 9% going to the Arkansas Heritage Commission, 45% going to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and 45% going to Arkansas State Parks. This has equated to approximately $30,000,000 a year going to the state parks alone. The management of these funds along with funding from state appropriations, public and private grants, and operational revenue (revenue from camping, lodging, restaurants, etc.) is how, over the past 25 years, these parks have become state of the art in the world of public land management. The impact of these funds becomes more and more limited each year due to inflation, extra staffing to manage new facilities and the continued aging of parks infrastructure. Still, the parks remain ahead of most park systems in the county.
Your Favorite Parks
This is a simple survey of our readers. We did not break this up into park types (historic, recreation, etc.). Be aware that larger parks with more facilities, and closer to larger population bases would sway the results, but that’s okay. You may be surprised at where some of the parks landed. First, let’s look at the parks that came in between 6th place and 10th place. The top ten in such a tough competition puts these five parks at the top of the country. We’ve included the percentage each of these parks received. You can also click on the park’s name to go to their website.
- Lake Ouachita State Park – 6%
- Woolly Hollow State Park – 5%
- DeGray Lake Resort State Park – 5%
- Mount Magazine State Park – 4%
- Lake Catherine State Park – 3%
Now for the Top Five:
- Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area – 8% –
Near Rogers, AR on the shores of Beaver Lake, Hobbs is the largest Arkansas State Park at over 12,000 acres. Conversely, it has few extra amenities. There is a beautiful modern visitor center, educational pavilion, a firing range, and some rustic hike-in/bike-in camping. The main amenity of this park, besides the natural beauty of the area, is the accessibility of this beauty via hiking and mountain biking trails. This includes the first Monument Trail System in the state. The Karst geology allows for quick draining trails making this a favorite of hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers during rainy times of the year. Besides the standard park programming, the park also hosts trail running and mountain biking events.
- Pinnacle Mountain State Park – 11% –
Pinnacle Mountain is located just on the western outskirts of Little Rock, the highest populated city in the state. Like, Hobbs State Park, Pinnacle Mountain State Park does not have a lot of extra amenities, it doesn’t even have overnight camping. What it has are trails and elevation. These trails aren’t limited to hiking and mountain biking, they also have a water trail. The hiking trails on the park’s namesake are the most popular giving those who venture to the top 360 degree views of the area. Also like Hobbs State Park, Pinnacle Mountain hosts a Monument Trail System. Due to its proximity to a large population base, these are some of the busiest trails in the state but with over 20 miles of trails and access to the 223-mile Ouachita National Recreation Trail, it’s still easy to get away from people.
- Mount Nebo State Park – 12%–
Mount Nebo State Park is one of the original state parks, its older facilities were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Many of the cabins at the top of the mountain feature incredible views of the river valley below. Although hiking and mountain biking are the main draw to the mountain, the park also features a hang-glider launch. This park also has Monument Trails, a small campground, some hike-in/bike-in campsites, seasonal waterfalls, a visitor center, and beautiful views to start and end your day at Sunrise Point and Sunset Point.
- Petit Jean State Park – 13% –
The first Arkansas State Park is Petit Jean State Park. The Civilian Conservation Corps began building many of the buildings, bridges, and other features of this park in 1933. Known for wonderful hiking trails, campgrounds, a historic lodge, cabin, and restaurant operation, beautiful views, an iconic waterfall, fishing and paddling lake, and a public swimming pool, this park also has such unique features as lakeside YURT camping options and it’s own small airport with fly-in camping. Boat rental is available from the historic boathouse and a paved trail for walking and bicycling ties most of the park together. A new state-of-the-art visitor center recently opened on the shores of Lake Bailey. This park has something for everyone.
- Devil’s Den State Park – 14% –
Some of the most unique rock formations in the state can be found at Devil’s Den State Park. This is the most recent park to open a Monument Trail System. Even if you don’t mountain bike, we recommend hiking the Devil’s Racetrack Trail to see incredible rock work and walk or ride behind a waterfall. Devil’s Den is another Civilian Conservation Corps park with a rich history. The remoteness of the area guarantees a retreat from phones and computers. You can camp along Lee Creek, stay in a historic cabin, swim in the public pool, or spend the night in the new camper cabins. The park also has a seasonal restaurant. The first mountain bike trails in this park opened over 34 years ago and the park has served as host for the Ozark Mountain Bike Festival for over 33 years making this the birthplace of Arkansas Mountain Biking.
We found it interesting that all four parks that host Monument Trail Systems found their way to the top five. We are reminded of something we were told many years ago, the main thing that people expect and want to do when they go to a state park is to enjoy a trail.
If you’d like to find out more about all of the parks or to make a reservation, visit ArkansasStateParks.com.
Make sure you visit our Survey Page to have your opinion heard every month.