Nestled in the Boston Mountain Valley of the Ozarks in Northwest Arkansas, Lake Fort Smith State Park is a beautiful mix of woodland and lakeside landscapes, making it a perfect RV vacation destination. The park’s 260 acres overlook the scenic 1,400-acre Lake Fort Smith, a historically significant water source and diverse wildlife area.
Hikers will find Lake Fort Smith State Park at the western end of the 165-mile Ozark Highlands Trail. One of the top-tier long distance trails in the country, backpackers are drawn to this corner of Arkansas for its natural beauty and geologic features. Additional hiking and mountain biking areas featured in the park are available for all skill levels and short enough for day excursions. The Ozark Mountains are beautiful throughout the seasons, and from the spring blooms to the fall foliage, it’s always a good time to take in the lake views leading into the Ozark National Forest.
Originally constructed in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project, the park was recently relocated in 2008 during the enlargement of Lake Fort Smith. The newly erected park buildings are designed in the original style of the 1930s, recreating a nostalgic camp look while taking advantage of modern conveniences. Once you set up your campervan at your campsite check out the expansive visitor center, which offers a log cabin, covered wagon replicas, and other fascinating exhibits that are open year-round and fun for all ages.
Lake Fort Smith State Park is located in Mountainburg, Crawford County in Northwestern Arkansas. Located 26 miles north of Alma, Arkansas and 32 miles south of Fayetteville, the park should be easily accessible from scenic highway 71. The park entrance is located off of Shepards Springs Road and leads directly to the Visitor Center.
The Visitor Center features a large parking area for your rig while you check-in with the park rangers. Additional parking areas are located near the boat ramp, marina, and playground areas. The campground loop begins directly next to the Visitor Center and pool areas, so the short drive to your RV campsite should be a breeze.
You should have no issues navigating the newly constructed roadways within the park, although once you set up your RV at the campsite you should have no need to drive much as most of the sights are better reached on foot. The Visitor Center, swimming pool, and Polly Crews scenic overlook are conveniently located at the end of the short campsite loops. The Marina and Boat Ramp areas are accessed through park roads and are about a 10-minute walk from the visitor center.
Since its relocation in 2008, Lake Fort Smith State Park now features all-new facilities and amenities. There are 30 RV campsites in the park: 20 class AAA and 10 class B. All the RV campsites are located near the visitor center and pool area, with the class AAA full hookup sites being closest to the lakeshore on loop A. The class B sites are designated on the adjacent loop B and offer water and electric hookups. The Visitor Center and campground are open year-round, along with two heated hot shower houses available for campers to use. A playground and picnic area are located near the boat ramp and marina.
The RV campsites allow for a maximum of eight people, and there are two handicapped accessible designated sites. Each RV site includes a concrete picnic area, and most pads are very level for easy set-up. Sites are available to accommodate RVs and trailers up to 70 feet in length. Reservations are available same-day and up to 12 months in advance.
Enjoy the unique opportunity to explore the 1,400-acre Lake Smith by renting a kayak or boat at the Park Marina. The Marina is open April through October and offers full and half day rentals of kayaks, pedal boats, motor boats, and even party barges. The nearby boat ramp is also available for launching your own equipment and get you onto the water. These beautiful lake waters are surrounded by the Ozark mountains, making your day on the water all the more splendid.
Make sure to pack your swimsuit in your rig and take a dip in the park’s 2,660 square-foot swimming pool complete with wading pool, splash pad, and two water slides. The pool is open seasonally from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Beat the Arkansas summer heat at this fenced and lifeguarded pool, with plenty of lounge chairs available for catching some rays in between dives.
The famous 165-mile Ozark Highlands Trail leaves from the park Visitor Center and treats backpackers to scenic views among the top in the nation. A premier long-distance trail, hikers walk from the park through the Ozark National Forest and follow the Buffalo National River across northern Arkansas. Natural features such as bluffs, waterfalls, and hollows have attracted backpackers from all over the country. Whether you plan on a long excursion or just need a day in the forest, the hiking at Lake Fort Smith State Park won’t disappoint.
The 8,000 square-foot visitor center is a great way to spend time in the park year-round. Exhibits galleries feature a log cabin, a covered wagon, and dioramas of Lake Fort Smith and Shephard Spring. Families will enjoy that much of the gallery is hands-on and highlights include live educational animals. Take a rest in the center’s theater for a 16-minute video about the park’s history and the water resources of Boston Mountain Valley. Exploring Lake Fort Smith State Park will be even more rewarding as you get to know the natural and cultural history it represents.
Don’t leave your binoculars behind in the motorhome, as you’ll want them handy when you take in the stunning views from Polly Crews Overlook. Located near the visitor center, this observation point is a must-see for the sprawling views of Lake Fort Smith and the surrounding Ozark Forest. Ranger-led group bird watching events meet on the Overlook throughout the year to give you a personalized education on the local bird populations. Guided winter songbird walks are offered as an easy and short winter hike option to take in the sounds of the season.
The park interpreters at Lake Fort Smith State Park are at work all year long to provide interesting and educational programming for all ages. From outdoor skill workshops to kid-friendly park ranger programs, demonstrations, and activities are constantly changing to keep visitors coming back. Weather permitting, guided tours are available and outdoor skills sessions are taught including campfire cooking, backpacking, birding, survival, and photography. Indoor programming takes place in the Visitor Center and ranges from historical talks to nature-related games.