Updated: Feb 8, 2020
There is no reason to be bored this weekend. If you are living in the Ozarks or visiting the Ozark Mountains for the first time, there are plenty of awesome things to do outdoors here. Come enjoy them with us!
The Ozarks are actually comprised of three separate and distinct plateaus: the Boston, Springfield and Salem Plateaus. Hardwood forests dot the range, comprised of sandstone and shale in some spots and chert and limestone in others. There is plenty of wild country to explore here: the Ozark National Forest spans 1.2 million acres.
If you are one of those folks who prefers a different, more rugged camp experience, primitive camping is allowed almost anywhere in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests and the Mark Twain National Forests unless there is a sign stating otherwise, or it is a wildlife food plot. Wilderness Area Camping in any of the designated Wilderness Areas is welcome. Located throughout the Forests are areas that have been campsites for many years. These are located along roadsides, trails, mountain tops, or near streams. Camping at dispersed locations have additional responsibilities: "Leave No Trace" so others can have a similar backcountry experience. The Ozarks are known for the clear mountain streams, but please filter water before drinking! Beware of stream crossings after heavy rains! Water will not be available in some places, so you must pack it in or use a water filtration system. Aside from dispersed camping in the Ozark National Forest and Mark Twain National Forest you’ll find plenty of wonderful campgrounds that range from primitive to luxurious. Devil’s Den State Park, Richland Creek and White Rock Mountain are good places to start looking.
The Ozarks are a serious paddlers’ playground. The Buffalo National River is the crown jewel of the region, stretching 150 miles. Other float-friendly options include the Mulberry River, Kings River, White River, Spring River, Big Piney Creek, Crooked Creek, Eleven Point River, Illinois Bayou, Little Red River, Strawberry River, Current River, Gasconade River and More! Whether you want to flow through fast-moving rapids or enjoy the scenery on a laid-back voyage, you can’t pick a better place than the Ozarks.
The 218-mile Ozark Highlands Trail is only the beginning of the great hiking opportunities here. There’s the breathtaking Pedestal Rocks Loop, the Lost Valley Trail, Hemmed In Hollow and countless other trails to explore. Outdoor enthusiasts will find hundreds of miles of amazing Arkansas trails designed for day hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, ATVs and water trails. You can download complete maps of the Ouachita National Forest, Ozark-St. Francis National Forest and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sites for reference.
Arkansas is home to two nationally-recognized long-distance backpacking trails. The Ouachita National Recreational Trail stretches 223 miles west to east across the rugged Ouachita Mountain range and is known for its solitude. Farther north, the Ozark Highlands Trail passes through the Ozark Mountains on its grand 218-mile journey from Lake Fort Smith State Park east to the Buffalo National River area—some of the most treasured and scenic lands in the state.
The same rivers that make these mountains so ideal for floating also make for some unforgettable fishing. The Spring, Little Red and White Rivers are renowned trout-fishing streams. Anglers on the hunt for bass should check out the region’s lakes, including Bull Shoals Lake, Greers Ferry Lake, Norfork Lake and Beaver Lake.
The beautiful Ozark and Ouachita National Forests in Arkansas are overland destinations for those travelers looking for raw beauty and history of the region. The 140 mile long "High Water Mark" track is a BEAUTIFUL area with lots of good elevation change, clean and clear creeks and rivers, waterfalls, and caves. Exploration of this area is limitless and it will take years to see it all.