Cover photo for Matt Mayo

RV Camping in Arkansas / Sep '23 Update

Matt Mayo
Trip dates: August 9 - 31, 2023

I spent the month of August RV camping at 7 different spots in Arkansas and 1 in Oklahoma. This was the longest contiguous time that I had spent living out of my Airstream camper - a full month! If you're curious about Arkansas state parks take a look here -> Arkansas State Parks Guide. Living up to its namesake, the natural state, there are over 50 state parks.

Here are the places where I parked my trailer in the northwestern region of Arkansas. Spending time in the heavily forested and Arkansas river and lake areas.
RV Camping in Northwestern Arkansas
I started in Little, Flock Arkansas which is part of the Bentonville/Fayatteville metro area. This is also known as Northwest Arkansas (NWA) to the locals, which is somewhere around 500,000 people in a series of small towns that stretch across Interstate-49. I stayed at a Hipcamp for a week and camped with only electrical, which was needed to have AC in the heat that went up to triple digits. My hosts Tami ad Gene were very hospitable and made the stay as comfortable as could be. They gave me some tomatoes and a slice of strawberry shortcake pie. They also invited me to watch the lighting storm one evening, which was spectacular. The sky was lit up with lightning strikes every few seconds. Gene also helped me swap out a tow hitch ball on my mount. Very handy. I saw so many deer on this property just outside the town of Rogers Arkansas. One afternoon I saw about 20 just off their driveway!
Tami's Strawberry Shortcake Pie

Next was the beginning of my Arkansas State Park adventures in Lake Dardanelle State Park. My camper was setup in a nice level spot just inwards from the lake with full hookups. 
Lake Dardenelle State Park, Arkansas
I enjoyed evening walks by the lake and a hike through the forest just behind the lake.
Lake Dardenelle, Arkansas
After few days I went off to Lake Ouachita State Park somewhat close to the town and national park in Hot Springs. Spots in the Hot Springs campground were not easy to come by so I figured I'd camp out here and then head into Hot Springs when I could get a reservation. Lake Ouachita turned out to be really nice. The state park is in a ridged area that borders the Lake. Like many lakes in Arkansas and across the country this is a reservoir, but I couldn't tell just by looking. I did two hikes. Dogwood was a short in the forest hike and Caddo Bend was their flagship hike that went across a ridge by the lake that was once hit by a tornado. See these videos for a peek into those experiences.
Hiking Caddo Bend Trail in Lake Ouachita State Park, Arkansas
After doing the 4 mile hike in Caddo Bend I started to experience heat rash from being out on so many 90+ degree days. Arkansas typically has high humidity and the heat index is often about 10 degrees higher than the temperature. My body is still acclimated to the California coastal weather having lived there for over a decade until moving out this way earlier this year.

My next stop was Hot Springs National Park where I camped at the Gulpha Gorge Campground with full hookups. I was able to snag a spot along the creek. It was the best camping experience I've had thus far. I drank coffee and watched the little fish swimming around and water bugs surfing the surface of the creek. It was still quite hot and due to my heat rash situation and I decided against hikes, but would love to return to hike and also bring my mountain bike.
Hot Springs Gulpha Gorge
I climbed the stairs up to Mountain Tower to see the spectacular view of the surrounding areas of the park. Here's a video for a tour of the tower and view. I also drove around the park and stopped at several lookout points. The nature in and around the park is simply beautiful and heavily forested.
Mountain Tower at Hot Springs
View from Mountain Tower

I also ventured into the town of Hot Springs. The park itself encompasses bath row in the town of Hot Springs and about 8 buildings that are still or were former bath houses. They bath houses reside on park lands. All of the hot springs are enclosed, unfortunately, but there are several places the public can access free spring water. The water that surfaces from the 100+ springs is water that fell onto the land thousands of years ago. The park material states that water today comes from the time of the great pyramids in Egypt!

I then went off to Mount Nebo State Park, which also had tons of deer in the area and the campground was well spaced out and peaceful. This is the highest peak in Arkansas. It was still pretty hot so I decided to head off to the Fort Smith area after a couple days and seek out a place to rest and recuperate with good cell access, laundry, and facilities. This resulted in a stop the Sallisaw KOA just across the border from Fort Smith, Arkansas in Oklahoma. A great place for full timer RV'ers that need a clean comfortable place to stay, but not something I would recommend for a weekend camping trip, as it's in the middle of nowhere and dang hot in the summer.
At a rest stop in Oklahoma

After a couple of days in Oklahoma I went to Lake Fort Smith State Park. The campgrounds here were by far the most spacious and nice. It was still hot so I spent my days in Fort Smith. If you're looking for nice coffee shop in that area I recommend Fort Smith Coffee Company. They have two locations in town great for working with good coffee and things to eat.
After Fort Smith I went back into the Bentonville/Fayettle metro area and stayed at the Bike Camp Hipcamp (in Arkansas) with just electrical - for the a/c.  The highlight for me is their outdoor shower. Nothing like showing outdoors! That was my last RV stop and right after I stayed in a room at an Airbnb in Bella Vista, Arkanas. This was a nice break from all the summer RV camping. It made me want to ride bike trails.
AirBnB in Bella Vista

My big takeaway from this camping trip is that I don't think the full-time RV life is for me. It can be a bit lonely on the road by myself and difficult to build community when I'm always on the move. As a secondary reason, there's also a lot of things that need to be done to operate and maintain the trailer such as tank dumping/sanitization, tires, electrical, etc., that you don't have to worry about when living in a typical house or apartment.

The trailer is now in storage and my next adventure is in Texas and Louisiana.