When people think about camping, images of sleeping on the hard ground in the heat of summer surrounded by hoardes of mosquitoes comes to mind. With year-round universal recreation tents, or yurts, this doesn't have to be the case. Yurts are circular-framed, tent-like structures that often include wooden floors, windows, beds or cots, and are sometimes climate controlled. During our visit to Petit Jean, we stayed for two nights and hiked the Seven Hollows Trail on day one and the ever-popular Cedar Falls Trail on day two. I was proud of my 5-year-old daughter for hiking almost the entire 5-mile loop of the Seven Hollows Trail on her own with a minimum of piggyback rides. She remarked that she was "climbing like an iguana, jumping like a frog and crawling like a lizard!" Yurt camping at Petit Jean proved to be the perfect combination of luxury camping and getting to enjoy the great outdoors.
Petit Jean State Park, located just outside Morrilton, is well-known for its spectacular vistas, scenic hiking trails and Cedar Falls. What better way to enjoy one of the best state parks in Arkansas than by planning an extended stay in a yurt? Four yurt sites are available to rent at Petit Jean State Park. The yurts at Petit Jean have electricity, screened windows, an ice chest, stove, lantern and cots that can sleep up to six people. The yurts do not come with climate control and linens are not provided. Guests should bring cooking and eating utensils, matches and linens. Other activities at Petit Jean include fishing, swimming and hiking. Daily rental rates are $55/night.
Petit Jean State Park
Catherine's Landing, an RVC Outdoor Destination, has different sized yurts to rent. They sleep anywhere from four to six people to six to 12 people. The yurts come with Wi-Fi, a grill and a picnic table, deck and a fire ring. Daily rates start at $80/night and up.
While camping at Catherine's Landing, you can rent a boat to fish or explore Lake Catherine or stay on land and swim in a saltwater pool. Or, you can zip through your stay at Adventureworks Zip Line, Also available is the Bovine Nine disc golf course.
RVC Outdoors (Catherine's Landing)
DeGray Lake Resort State Park in Arkadelphia has four yurts available for rent. The yurts at DeGray Lake have electricity, wood floors, screened windows, an ice chest, double burner stove, table and chairs, and bunk beds and can sleep up to six people. Like the yurts at Petit Jean State Park, they do not come with climate control and linens are not provided. Guests should bring cooking and eating utensils, matches and linens. Other activities at DeGray Lake Resort include golf, a swimming beach, horseback riding, boat rentals and hiking trails. The park is minutes away from the Iron Mountain bike trail. Daily rental rates are $55/night.
DeGray Lake Resort State Park
Do you have an ATV youíre wanting to ride in cool places? What about a lifted 4x4 that you built specifically with rock crawling in mind? The Hot Springs Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) Park has more than 1,200 acres for you to explore in 4x4s, UTVs, ATVs, dirt bikes and mountain bikes. The trails range in difficulty from one diamond for the novice to five diamonds for the most experienced and rugged of vehicles. Fees start at $15 per day for ATVs and $30 per day for SUVs/UTVs, with annual memberships available for discounted rates. For those who want multiple days of fun, they have on-site cabins and campsites for rent, as well as a convenience store and restrooms with hot showers. They are open year-round Thursday through Monday, 9:00 a.m. to dusk, and closed only during the week of Christmas. Be sure to checkout their website for monthly park events.
Hot Springs Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) Park
Located on 400 acres in northwest Arkansas, the Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari in Gentry is an experience for the animal lover in you! The safari consists of a 4-mile drive-through, a petting zoo and walk-through areas. Kids can also enjoy camel and pony rides to add to the experience. They have over 85 species of animals, which include wild/exotic felines, mammals, hooved animals, primates, birds, canines and reptiles. They are open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (including holidays) and admission rates are $10 for children under 13 (two and under are free), and $15 for anyone 13 or older.
Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari
Tip: Don't forget extra batteries, a camera with video capabilities, or fully charged smartphone to record those special moments and joy of ziplining for the very first time. With all the adventuring available, there is plenty of opportunity to capture the joy, happiness and excitement of friends and family enjoying the outdoors.
Tip: If you bring kids on outdoor adventures, make sure you have plenty of drinks and snacks. Let them set the pace and be prepared for lots of stops. Happy kids equal happy parents.
Playing in the water is deeply engrained in our collective psyche and it is impossible to overstate just how lucky Arkansans are that here, all roads really do lead to water. And with the opening of the Siloam Springs Kayak Park last year, getting out and playing in the water as we were meant to do just got easieróand more exciting.
Kristian Underwood, long-time canoeist and instructor with the Arkansas Canoe Club (ACC), clarifies the name of the park for me, as it recently changed from Siloam Springs Whitewater Park. "Even though it's a kayak park, it is for canoes, too."
The name change was necessitated by the misconception that this paddlers' destination was akin to a wet-n-wild park. However, paddlers who frequent the park do claim that it is a family-friendly place for those who respect the powerful and unforgiving nature of moving water.
"It is an exhilarating spot designed for paddlers to gain experience with spins and rolls," Underwood explains
Steve Reynolds, another experienced paddler and member of the ACC, and touted by his peers as the ambassador to this project, worked with the city of Siloam Springs and helped to secure a grant from the Walton Family Foundation for the engineering of two waves created by constriction of the waterway.
Located on the Illinois River, it serves as a "park and play," saving the logistical and time commitment of floating longer sections of the river, or for when no other rivers around can be run because they're dried up. With pride, Underwood says, "You donít have to go to North Carolina or Colorado to get whitewater experience."
Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP) Rentals
One of the newest fitness activities to make a splash here in Arkansas is stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). It is essentially paddling while standing up on oversized, buoyant surfboards. With all the lakes and rivers in The Natural State, one can SUP just about anywhere in the state. Stand-up paddleboarding makes for a full-body workout and also provides a better vantage point than being close to the water in a canoe or kayak.
Melody Elliot of SUP Outfitters in Eureka Springs is extremely passionate about the sport and super excited to share her love with those wanting to try it out. Having lived in Hawaii where SUP originated, she brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to Arkansas. She is a certified SUP instructor and provides rentals, lessons and ECO tours on Beaver Lake. For the more fitness-inclined, Melody also hosts SUP Yoga events. Rentals start at $20/hour while classes start at $30/person depending on the group size. If you are interested in trying out this incredibly fun, safe and enjoyable sport, please call ahead for reservations.
Opening in May 2015, Barefoot Paddleboards is bringing SUP rentals and lessons to DeGray Lake Resort State Park in Arkadelphia. Their goal is to provide outdoor recreational fun and promote wellness and fitness. Rental rates start at $20/hour and lessons are $50/person for 30 minutes in duration, which also include a one-hour rental. They are open seven days a week from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., but reservations can be made for a special sunset paddle.
OUACHITA OUTDOOR OUTFITTERS
Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters, located in Hot Springs–just a stone's throw from Lake Hamilton–is another outfitter that can take care of your paddling needs. While they have all sorts of outdoor gear and watercraft for sale, they do rent out kayaks and stand-up paddle-boards for a very reasonable fee ($30-$40/day). Even though their stand-up paddleboards are inflatable, they are just as rigid as a hardboard, and provides for ease of transport. The staff at Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters is very friendly and knowledgeable, so be sure to drop by for a visit while in the Spa City.
Ouachita Outdoor Outfitters
The state is bustling with zipline parks but Loco Ropes, located at the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View, has an additional adventure in the form of a treetop adventure ropes course. They have two types of adventures available: The Tower Adventures Package which includes the 300-foot Flying Pig zipline, the Hotshot Freefall and Planks Peak Climbing Wall, and the Treetop Adventures Package, which is a high-wire ropes course with three different segments. The Tower Adventures Package starts at $7.50/attraction, while the Treetop Adventures Package starts at $15 depending on which ropes course you want to try out. There are height and weight restrictions but the staff is Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) certified for your utmost safety. They are open March 1 through November 30, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
If you're going to be in Eureka Springs, the Ozark Mountain Ziplines needs to be on your "to-do" list! Their two-hour guided zipline tour gives you a unique way to experience the flora and fauna of the hardwood forest canopy located around Eureka Springs. They also offer a nice hiking trail for those who don't want to zipline but would like to accompany their group. There is a weight limit and children must be at least three years of age. A two-hour tour costs $89/person plus tax.
Ozark Mountain Ziplines
Located in the rugged area of the Ouachita Mountains between Hot Springs and Malvern, the Zip Lines at Ouachita Bend bring ziplining to central Arkansas. The zip lines and guides are ACCT certified and the zip tour combines hiking through natural areas with up to a seven-line zipline course. The basic tour (two zips) starts at $40/person while the full tour (seven zips) takes about three hours and costs $95/person. The zipline park is located on Hwy 171 approximately 2 miles from I-30 near Malvern.
Zip Lines at Ouachita Bend
For the most extreme thrill seekers, Skydive Skyranch in Siloam Springs is your ticket to skydiving. They offer tandem skydives for those new to skydiving, which allows you to free fall for 25 to 50 seconds with an experienced, licensed instructor. They also offer static line and accelerated free fall (AFF) classes for those wishing to learn to how do solo skydives. A tandem skydive takes anywhere from three to four hours to do while the classes are all-day sessions. Those interested must be 18 years or older and under 220 pounds. Those over 220 pounds may be able to jump at the discretion of the instructor for an additional fee. A single tandem-jump starts at $195 with additional costs for photos and/or videos.
Do you have a group where everyone wants to do something different? Rowdy Adventures may be for you! Not only do they have ziplining, they also have 4-wheeling, horseback rides, a giant 55-foot swing, a rock climbing wall and canoeing, adding a huge variety for the outdoor adventurer. Tours start at $40/person for the basic zip line tour all the way up to $130/person for the Rowdy Explore Tour, which includes all the activities listed above. By reservation only, they also offer night ziplining illuminated by glow sticks. That sounds like a unique way to experience ziplining like never before! The course is also ACCT certified and they are located off exit 54 on I-30 (Okolona exit) just south of Arkadelphia.
The Upper Buffalo River is one of the most scenic and treasured recreational areas in Arkansas. Designated as America's first national river, its cool green waters provides amazing scenery among massive towering bluffs, numerous waterfalls and historic cultural sites. The Buffalo Outdoor Center (BOC) is located just outside Ponca, and is ready to help you plan your Buffalo River adventure. They have cabins for rent–including several with amazing, panoramic views–and some units have hot tubs and Wi-Fi. The BOC also rents canoes and provide shuttles to get you where you need to be. The Riverwind Lodge is available for the once-in-a-lifetime special occasion. There is also a zipline canopy tour that lasts two to three hours for those who want to see the Ozark Mountains from a different perspective. Hiking trails and swimming spots are plentiful. After a fun day playing in the outdoors, be sure to reserve a spa treatment at the Riverstone Spa. With such a huge variety of activities, there's something for everyone at the BOC.
Buffalo Outdoor Center
Tip: If you bring kids on outdoor adventures, make sure you have plenty of drinks and snacks. Let them set the pace and be prepared for lots of drink and snack stops. Happy kids equal happy parents.
Tip: Ideally, a helmet or chest-mounted action camera (like a Go-Pro) would be perfect for recording all of your outdoor adventures, whether on land, in the water or in the air. This way you can capture all those "can't miss" moments. And the Go-Pro's can capture decent still photos as well to add to your scrapbook or photo album.