Camping in Arkansas
Nicknamed the Natural State, Arkansas is home to some of the most free-camping in the country. Tourists from around the world flock to its state and national parks, and the Ozark region is world-renowned for its spectacular outdoor activities.
Arkansas State Parks
At around $20 - $35 per night, Arkansas State Parks are some of the most affordable in the nation. Some have full hookups, others only electric or water, and Hobbs State Park even offers free primitive tent camping.
Like most state parks, Arkansas' offering typically focuses around a particularly exceptional natural feature, in most cases a body of water. Woolly Hollow and Petit Jean State Park, both north of Little Rock, are excellent examples of precisely that type of waterfront camping. Campsites tend to be spread out, providing plenty of privacy, and the parks themselves offer an abundance of things to do beyond just enjoying your site.
Mount Magazine State Park is a climbers paradise, offering not only challenging rock climbing routes in a gorgeous setting but the opportunity to go hang gliding as well. At the opposite end of the spectrum, anglers find solace in the streams of Cane Creek State Park, where biking, birdwatching, and the world's longest bayou round out the experience. Additional state parks like Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Lake Ouachita, and Crater of Diamonds State Park help to round out the quintessential Arkansas camping experience.
With dozens of locations, residents and travelers alike could spend an entire summer exploring the culture and natural spaces the state park system provides.
Arkansas National Parks
While the state is full of national parks honoring everything from the Trail of Tears to Brown v. Board of Education, its largest and most well-known is Hot Springs National Park. Full hookups camping is available immediately within the park at Gulpha Gorge Campground, a highly sought-after primitive campground with minimal amenities. Operating on a first-come, first-served basis, it can be next to impossible to get a spot without some serious diligence. Still, it positions you ideally for exploring this relatively small national park.
If fighting with other campers over the next available spot isn't your thing, plenty of private RV parks are available just outside of the park's entrance.
Buffalo National River also has official campgrounds, free dispersed camping, and nearby private parks as well.
Free Camping in Arkansas
The state's Game and Fish Commission provides dozens of free places to camp, with free dispersed camping available at Dagmar Wildlife Management Area. Peppering the eastern half of Arkansas, these are basic camping areas, often down a gravel road where you'll find little more than a stone fire ring and peace and quiet. Don't expect much else, including trash cans or drinking water, so be prepared to pack everything out that you bring with you and be fully prepared with any supplies you'll need before you head into the forests.
Public land offering free campsites is just as prolific in the state's western regions. Army Corps of Engineer sites like Cedar Fourche Campground provide amenities like flushing toilets, showers, and fire pits but don't cost a dime. Even more free camping is provided by the forest service, with places like Sam's Throne Recreation Area providing the perfect basecamp to exploring the lakes and myriad of other outdoor opportunities.
Even as free camping costs nothing, it does come with a price, and that is knowing how to pick up after yourself, choosing a previously-established campsite, and practicing Leave No Trace Principles.
Learn more about Free Camping in Arkansas.
Arkansas RV Parks
Camping in style is available all across the Natural State. Cozy up alongside the Mississippi River at Tom Sawyers RV Park, explore the region around Hot Springs National Park on perfectly level pads at Catherines Landing, or keep it rustic (but still with hookups) while exploring the Ozarks via Mulberry Mountain Campground.
For a real treat, visit Eureka Springs, one of Arkansas' most adorable villages, where a stuck-in-time atmosphere and private RV campgrounds like Wanderlust RV Park keep those in the know coming back year after year.
Learn more about Arkansas RV Parks.
Arkansas National Forests
Home to three of them, both free, dispersed camping and official campgrounds can be found in both the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests. On the eastern end of the state, St. Francis National Forest is the third and smallest option.
In Ouachita National Forest, Crystal Campground is an excellent example of the official campground style of free camping, where picnic tables and fire rings accompany specifically designated spots. Always be sure to check fire restrictions with the forest service before deciding to have a campfire.
Heading north into Ozark National Forest, Brock Creek has both designated sites that come with the typical amenities and dispersed camping nearby.
The forest service provides more information on where you can find free camping, along with more details on how to find an appropriate site when staying on public land.