Arkansas is a state fairly dripping with outdoor adventure activities. And as such, the state hosts many visitors who are looking to sleep outdoors, amidst the wilderness they’ve been exploring.
Then there are those folks who are fine with being out in the woods by day – but prefer a little more comfort at night. For these folks, there is glamping, and in Arkansas, they’re in luck – the state’s glamping options are expanding by the day. Here are some prime Natural State glamping options, and things to do nearby each of them.
Lake Fort Smith
In Northwest Arkansas, near the Oklahoma border, you’ll find Lake Fort Smith State Park, one of those natural wonderlands that turns first-time travelers into repeat visitors. There are some campsites here, but if you’re looking to upgrade ‘camp’ to ‘glamp,’ consider a stay at the StoneWind Retreat, located about 13 miles west in the community of Chester, AR.
At the retreat you can get a massage or take a qigong class to get your inner energy in order (qigong is a movement-based exercise and martial arts system similar to, but distinct from, tai chi). You can also crash in a yurt. These reimagined versions of traditional Central Asian nomad tents come with a slate of plush amenities, including a fully furnished kitchen, central heat and A/C, a view of the mountains, a log flame gas stove, and (why not?) a hot tub.
If you can pull yourself out of the yurt, Lake Fort Smith State Park is certainly no slouch. Nestled in the Boston Valley, the lake is a gem, and a good spot for both fishing and kayaking (but no jet- or water-skiing allowed). The park also is rife with hiking opportunities; the Shepherd Spring Trail includes a waterfall and good ridge views, while the park itself represents the western terminus of the 218-mile Ozark Highlands Trail. Go ahead, earn that massage at your yurt.
Eureka Springs is another Northwest Arkansas gem. It’s a pretty town of high winding roads and 19th-century architecture all threaded together with a bunch of cool indie businesses slinging everything from good coffee to comic book memorabilia. You get a mixed bunch of tourists out here, from bikers in black leathers to folks proudly flying rainbow flags.
A few miles south of Eureka Springs’ main strip, Iris Hill is a dedicated glamping spot where the glam comes via semicircular wooden pods. The interiors are simple, and you’re getting climate-controlled comfort and easy access to town as part of the deal.
Eureka Spring itself does not lack for activities, including its wonderful 3.5-mile historic loop, one of the few historical architecture walking trails that also ends up giving you a good workout (this town – and we cannot overemphasize this – is hilly). Hikers and bikers should not miss Lake Leatherwood City Park, which despite the name is not some kind of small plot of urban green space, but is rather a beautiful slice of wooded mountain country surrounded by some 21 miles of trails. There is also the site of the Lake Leatherwood Gravity Project, a collection of downhill biking trails that has become legendary in mountain biking circles.
It goes without saying what kind of landscape you’re going to get in the area around Mountain Home, in North Central Arkansas. There’s no shortage of nature in this part of the world, and if you want to access it in a bit of style, you can rent a glamping tent from the folks at Ozark Glamping Co. The setup here is a little different; Ozark Glamping Co will set up tents for you within a 30-mile radius of Mountain Home (they’ll travel further for a fee).
As government run campsites restrict commercial activity, they tend to set up at private campgrounds; their website provides a list of areas where they can pitch their big, airy tents, which can potentially include kitchen set up, a front porch, and luxury add-ons like string lighting or a bocce court.
What to do around Mountain Home? There’s plenty of bodies of water for exploration, including the White River, which is a popular destination for float trips, guided fishing trips, canoe excursions and river camping. Nearby Norfork Lake is ringed by 550 miles of coastline and 19 developed parks for easy, family friendly recreation.
In some ways, Hot Springs was the original Arkansas travel destination. The eponymous hot springs this area was named for were popular with Native Americans, who believed in the power of their healing properties, and they haven’t stopped attracting guests since. If you’re going to go glamping in the area, Hot Springs Treehouses is a solid bet that hits the sweet spot between rustic and luxurious. This spot is more glamp than camp; the treehouses are finely appointed cabins with great views, plush furniture, resort-quality bedding, and hot tubs.
Once you’ve finished relaxing (well, if you’ve finished relaxing), there’s plenty of adventure activities in the area. Some of the most popular include rafting along the Ouachita River or hiking around Horseshoe Mountain or Falls Creek Waterfall at Lake Catherine State Park. In addition, Adventureworks Hot Springs is a reliable blast – this is a park with swinging rope bridges, cargo nets, and a series of zip lines that connect over the forest canopy.