Best Camping in Arkansas

By Nathan Swartz

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.

See a map of all camping in Arkansas.

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.

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Recent Arkansas Campground Reviews

Apr 16, 2024

"Beautiful Area, Camp Needs TLC"

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Update April 2024:You MUST have reservation.gov reservation to stay. That’s awkward as cell service is very poor at camp. Located in the Ouachita Mountains, this camp is naturally beautiful. While it’s not on Arkansas’ largest lake, Lake Ouachita, it does connect to the spectacular 40+mile Ouachita Vista Trail for hiking and mountain biking. ...
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julia
43 reviews
Apr 15, 2024

"Friendly, Clean, Large Sites"

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We received an email saying that our site was open and we can come early. We appreciated that as we were about three hours early. We were at site 18. There really isn’t an unsuitable site. They are well spaced out and each area gives you a lot of room. That being said, sites 6 - 9 (no shade) are right on the edge of the water where you’ll have...
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Randy
19 reviews
Apr 14, 2024

"Greatly appreciate this FREE camping spot."

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Hats off to the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission for providing a place to allow us to overnight. Three sites, no hook ups but we did not need them. Fairly trash free, looks like great fishing but we were just spending a night on our way to Maine.

Norman
7 reviews
Mount Ida, AR

Tompkins Bend Campground

Apr 13, 2024

"Hiking, biking, Boating—Perfect!"

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This CoE camp has many sites, most are large, altho little vegetation for privacy. Many are on Arkansas’ largest lake—Lake Ouachita. Many are water and electric for $24 ($12 with Access Pass-a bargain). Some tent only for $14/$7. Most campers are boaters, but the 20 mi one way Ouachita Vista Trail is great for hikers or mountain bikers. Road...
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julia
42 reviews
Griffithville, AR

Lake Des Arc Dispersed Camping

Apr 13, 2024

"VERY Nice Boondocking"

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Definitely worth the stop. A handful of people drove through the area for sightseeing and there were a couple boats tooling around on the lake, but other than that it was incredible peaceful. It's kept quite clean. All roads are asphalt, and the area is flatland so leveling isn't too difficult. Additionally, 90% of the spots are solid...
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Bob K
128 reviews