Sitting at the top of Arkansas's second tallest mountain, Rich Mountain, is Queen Wilhelmina State Park. The park can be reached using the Talimena National Scenic Byway, a 54-mile road that is just as scenic as its name suggests. Although the park doesn't offer much as far as water recreation, it is the perfect place to escape into nature and really appreciate the beauty that surrounds it.
History buffs will love learning about the deep history of the area, including why the park was named after a Dutch Matriarch and the fate that befell the original "Castle in the Sky" Lodge. You can also enjoy a train ride around the park and visiting the Wonder House, which is a mysterious feat of architecture that amazes even the most skeptic visitors. There is no water recreation within the park, but nearby flowing streams are the perfect boating, fishing, and swimming spots.
Despite the fact that there is lodging available in the park's 40-room inn, many visitors like to spend their time at Queen Wilhelmina State Park outdoors at one of the 40 campsites with RV hookups. Not only does it give you a more primitive camping experience, but it also puts you right in the middle of nature and provides more than a few spectacular views of the wildlife around you. Isolated from your normal everyday life, it's the perfect setting to snap a few breathtaking pics and make some family memories.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park is located just off of AR-88 in Polk County, Arkansas in the Ouachita National Forest, so you shouldn't have any problems finding it. The highway is also known as the Talimena Scenic Drive, so the drive to the park is almost as enjoyable as the park itself. The hardest part about finding the park is not getting lost in the scenery and missing the entrance.
The roads inside the park are pretty easy to navigate, even with a large RV. The park is fairly small, so the roads take you practically everywhere in the park, from the lodge and restaurant to the campground and Wonder House. You may want to drive slowly if you're in a big rig on as a few of the park roads that can be a bit winding as you ascend the mountain. Parking may be easier if you bring an extra car, but it isn't totally necessary, especially since there are a miniature railroad and train that will take you along the length of the park.
Some areas, like Lover's Leap, can only be reached using the trails, but that's just part of the fun of exploring this Arkansas park. Still, the roads are in great condition for a state park, with level terrain and no tight turns. Even the campground is just a straight road, so you don't have to worry about struggling with a big rig.
Take in the fresh mountain air and serenity that camping in the mountains affords at the Queen Wilhelmina State Park Campground. The campground offers 40 RV-friendly campsites, with eight Class A campsites featuring water and 50-amp electric hookups, 27 Class B sites with water and 30-amp electric hookups, and five Class C sites with only water hookups. The sizes of each site vary, from 27 feet up to 63 feet long, but booking online makes it easy to make sure you get a site that can fit your equipment.
No matter which type of campsite you get, you're only a short walk from the modern bathhouse. Although there are no sewage hookups available, a dump station is located by the campground entrance to empty your black tank when needed. There is also a lodge available if you're after a more luxurious camping experience, but not many things can beat roughing it 2,681 feet up on Arkansas's second-highest mountain.
All of the sites that aren't reserved are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, but none are set aside for local sale only. Even once you arrive, you must book a site before being able to set up camp as all sites are assigned. All of the standard camping rules are the same, whether you reserve a site or get one on the fly so make sure you know the rules before picking a spot.
If you want to get back to nature in a very real sense, take a hike into the Arkansas wilderness for some real peace and quiet. Solitude surrounds you while you enjoy the sounds of the wildlife as it comes alive in the Ouachita National Forest. Even though you are out in the wilderness, you will still have a fire ring and picnic table, so you don’t have to sit on the ground or lug in any seating. However, you will need to bring your tent, bedroll, and water. If you need to shower or use the restroom, you will have to hike back to the camp’s bathhouse.
Of course, you won’t be that far from the campground that you have to walk for miles. In fact, it is a pretty short walk, but you will feel like you are miles away when the woods surround you and everything just fades away into the distance. If you want to walk deeper into the woods, hike on through the Ouachita Trail as far as you want or take a short walk on the Spring Trail, which will take you back to the Wonder House, which really is a wonder. Since there is only one campsite, make sure you make a reservation as early as possible. You can book the site up to a year in advance.
Were you thinking of spending a night or two in luxury? Curl up in a cozy king-sized bed with the spouse and watch a movie on the big flat-screen television in one of the elegant guest rooms at the lodge. Don’t forget your furbabies! They can come along too as long as you make sure to get a pet-friendly room. Four of the 40 guest rooms have a cozy gas fireplace to make it even more amazing.
If you have the family with you, get one of the queen standard rooms with two queen beds. But if you need more space, you can choose one of the suites that has a king-sized bed and a queen sleeper sofa in the living room with lounge chairs, dining table, satellite television, Wi-Fi, and a refrigerator to keep your food and drinks cold. Some even have a spa tub, and the downstairs rooms are all ADA-accessible. Enjoy the mountain view from the large windows while relaxing in the restaurant or in the room with room service.
Wildlife packs the park, making it the perfect place for any nature lover looking to see some wildlife. Whether you're specifically into birding or wildlife viewing in general, Queen Wilhelmina is rich with it. While exploring the trails, you'll likely run into animals such as raccoons, rabbits, whitetail deer, and maybe even a black bear or armadillo. Common birds in the park include quail, turkey, eagles, and hawks, depending on what time of year you visit in your travel trailer.
Prepare to have your mind blown when you step inside the legendary Wonder House at Queen Wilhelmina State Park. It is a historic house that still amazes and perplexes people to this day, even though it was originally built in the 1930s. Carlos Hill and his brother-in-law built the house to look like an average two-story stone house from the outside after settling on Rich Mountain, but it actually contains a whopping nine stories! Don't leave the park without checking out this architectural marvel.
Unlike many state parks, Queen Wilhelmina State Park has a signature restaurant within the park boundaries, located in the lodge. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a cozy dining area with gorgeous views year-round. Their menu has something that everyone can enjoy, even the pickiest kids. The restaurant allows visitors to enjoy the charm of southern dining while visiting the park. Arrangements can be made for private dining for special events, such as birthdays or weddings, in the upstairs conference room, which has even better views of the mountains.
Queen Wilhelmina has plenty of hiking opportunities for RV guests, with three distinct trails meandering through the park. Despite being in the mountains, the trails have fairly easy terrain and provide the perfect setting for birding, nature photography, and catching some sweet views. If you only have time for one trail, it should definitely be Lover's Leap Trail, which features the scenic Lover's Leap overlook. And if that isn't enough, hop on over to the Ouachita National Forest, where more hiking is available.
Pack up the family and head to the mountains in the RV for a picnic or barbecue like none other. No picnic you've ever had could compare to picnicking in the scenic Queen Wilhelmina State Park. Whether you pack a meal or go out of the park and bring something back, you can enjoy a nice picnic with your friends or family at one of the several picnic areas within the park, all while soaking up the gorgeous views of the park and neighboring Ouachita National Forest.
The whole family is sure to love the guided hikes offered at Queen Wilhelmina State Park, led by knowledgeable park interpreters. The hikes teach about everything from the flora and fauna within the park to the geology and cultural history of the park. Not only does it give you a good chance to observe the wildlife, but you'll also learn how to identify certain species of plants, what makes them unique, and why they're important to the park's ecosystem. The guided hikes are a perfect way to get kids interested in nature and passionate about conservation.