Washington to Ozark National Forest Road Trip Guide


Head west from the nation's capital in Washington D.C. through Virginia and Tennessee, to a great RV campground and park at the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. The 1149 mile trip can be taken over several days so you can visit numerous parks and interesting attractions on your trip. Take Interstate 66 west from Washington D.C. to Interstate 81, and Interstate 40 to exit 64 in Arkansas where you will head north on Highway 64, and Route 21, to Route 16 which provides access to the Ozark National Forest. During your stay in Washington D.C. camp at metro RV parks, or state and country parks, to the west in Virginia prior to your RV road trip.

Before you leave, be sure to take in the many historical sites in the city. Visit museums including the National Museum of Natural History and the National Gallery of Art. Stroll the National Mall and tour the monuments, including the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. Hike along, or paddle on, the Potomac or Anacostia River. Take a walk through the vast Rock Creek Park or enjoy waterfront activities at Chesapeake Bay just east of the city. Don't forget wonderful shopping and dining opportunities and live entertainment to discover in this vibrant city before heading out on your three state cross-country tour.

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Max RV length
Max trailer Length
Road trip length: 7+ days
Recommend rig: van
audience: couple

Point of Interest

National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden, Washington DC

Visit the National Mall in the capital for museums, monuments, and memorials, and arrange a stroll through the fabulous National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. The garden is situated just west of the National Gallery of Art, on the north side of the “Mall”. The sculpture garden is open year-round, and offers skating on an ice rink among the beautiful sculptures with lights and music from November to mid-March, weather permitting.

During the spring, summer, and fall, visitors can explore the garden's magnificent sculptures, which include permanent, special, and temporary sculptures. The gardens occupy just over six acres and are shaded with elegant canopy trees and carpeted with colorful flowers in the spring and summer. Flowering trees in the spring make the garden especially attractive, as do the fall colors of the leaves in the autumn. There is also a cafe with indoor seating to sit and enjoy a meal at the Sculpture Garden.

A few notes: visitors are reminded not to touch the artworks. Service animals only are permitted, no pets. Bicycles, skates, and skateboards are not permitted on the sculpture garden paths but can be left at public entrances.

Roanoke Pinball Museum

“Pinball Wizards” will be delighted by the Roanoke Pinball Museum as they head west on Interstate 81 past Roanoke, Virginia. The museum is dedicated to cultivating the history, art, and science of pinball and its role in American culture. The museum features fully playable games from the 1930s through to the modern day. Located in the downtown Roanoke area, this museum has limited parking. If you have a large unit or tow vehicle, you can leave it at local recreation areas and parks.

There are approximately 60 machines, and admission to the museum allows visitors the opportunity to play exhibiting pinball machines while learning the history of these unique games and admiring their art and design. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, weekly, and closed on Mondays. Pinballers can play on vintage machines from the 70s and 80s including Banzai Run, Captain Fantastic, Fireball, and Jungle Queen, or try more recent additions such as Lord of the Rings, and Ripley’s Believe or Not games.

Rock Creek Recreation Area

An excellent campground for an overnight stay can be found as you travel east on Interstate 81, just southeast of Erwin, Tennessee. The Rock Creek Recreation Area Campground is located in the Cherokee National Forest which is a 655 598 acre park featuring heavily forested and mountainous terrain and wilderness. The park contains 20000 different species of native flora and fauna, along with sport fish like walleye, bass, and crappie, for fishing activities. Lakes in the park are excellent for water sports like windsurfing and water skiing. There are hundreds of designated trails for hikers of all skill levels and the 2192 mile, Appalachian trail runs through several sections of the park.

The Rock Creek Recreation Area has 27 single sites and five double sites with electric hookups. Some sites are reservable, and some are maintained on a first-come, first-serve basis. Sites can accommodate RVs up to 45 feet in length. Amenities include showers and flush toilets and an RV dump station. The campground is located on the banks of a 96-acre lake with a swim beach, boat launch, fishing pier, and playground.

Fort Dickerson Park, Knoxville

Passing through Knoxville, Tennessee, on Interstate 40, take a quick side trip south across the Tennessee River to the historic Fort Dickerson Park. There are two parking areas, one off the Chapa Highway near the fort, and one at Augusta Avenue, near the quarry lake. Parking space for large units may be limited, but large lots in nearby commercial areas, or at area campgrounds can accommodate RVs.

Fort Dickerson Park is an interactive Civil War Fort with an urban wilderness area. The Civil War fort is considered to be one of the most well-preserved earth forts from the era, with three replica cannons. The fort and park are located on the river across from the downtown area, and vantage points in the park provide excellent views of the skyline and the Great Smoky Mountains.

The park also features a quarry, lake, and four miles of multi-use trails. Amenities include a swim area and picnic shelters. The park occupies 85 acres, and the four mile hiking trail is gravel surface and rated as easy to moderate in difficulty. The quarry lake is open for swimming during the summer months and is a great spot to cool down during hot sunny weather. Facilities at the lake include restrooms, a dock, a concession stand, and lockers for kayaks and canoes.

Patsy Cline Museum, Nashville

As you continue down Interstate 40, you will pass through Nashville, Tennessee, famous for its country music history and culture. Many museums, historic sites, and live performance venues pay homage to the country music art form in the city. One of the most famous country artists of the 20th century, Patsy Cline, tragically died at the age of 30, in 1963, but she left an indelible mark on county music before her passing. The Patsy Cline Museum in Nashville celebrates and her much-loved music and work.

The museum displays hundreds of artifacts, videos, recordings, and personal belongings of the music legend, and highlights the songstress's contributions to country music and American culture. There's even a gift shop with licensed Patsy Cline merchandise where you can pick up a unique souvenir! The Patsy Cline Museum is situated just above the Johnny Cash Museum, in the central area of the city, and parking for large RVs and trailers in the region is problematic.

Leave your RV at a campsite at the Nashville East KOA or Cedars of Lebanon State Park which has over 100 sites. Both campgrounds are located convenient to your route along the Interstate.

Delta Fair and Music Festival

Continuing through Memphis, Tennessee, try to coordinate your trip for late August to early September, when you can take in the Delta Fair and Music Festival. This annual event includes live music performances, carnival thrill rides and games, a livestock show with crafts, and food offerings, as well as RV friendly camping. The fair takes place at Memphis’s Agricenter International and is a popular event for locals and visitors alike. Check out the upcoming schedule at Event Details.

Listen to music performances, dance the night away, sample local agricultural products and food at this nine-day event. You can camp on-site if you reserve ahead, but spots are limited so be sure to secure a spot early. The campsites at the fairgrounds are available year-round with permanent facilities and include RV hookups, a dump station, flush toilets, showers, and laundry facilities. Alternate camping sites can be found at city RV parks, and state parks out of the city limits.

Esse Purse Museum & Store

For a really unique experience, sure to please the “handbagaholic” in your travel party, stop at the Esse Purse Museum and Store as you pass through Little Rock, Arkansas. The purse museum is one of only three such museums in the world and tells the story of the evolution of 20th century American women through their purses and contents. The museum is connected to a store that sells high end and unusual handbags, handmade jewelry, and accessories.

The museum has temporary exhibits and a permanent exhibit which features handbags and their contents from 1900 to 1999. The handbags are grouped by decade and the stories of what women’s lives were like are told through the exhibits of the purses, necessities, and everyday items they toted around with them! Photography and exhibits display the art and culture of women's fashion handbags through the decades.

When you're done checking out the museum, you will love shopping in the Esse Purse Store where you can shop until you drop and discover quirky and eclectic finds, handcrafted wares, and handbags galore! There are also souvenirs, giftware, and other accessories available for purchase. And if you're looking to camp nearby, try the Little Rock KOA.

Lake Dardanelle State Park

Continuing west on Interstate 40, pass just north of a scenic spot on the Arkansas River at Lake Dardanelle State Park where the forests of the east meet the open plains of the west. From here you can see the Ozark Mountains to the north which are your final destination. Lake Dardanelle is a 34 3000 acre reservoir lake with 315 miles of shoreline and excellent fishing. Boat rentals are available here and you can venture out on the water with rented kayaks, sailboats, party barges, stand up paddleboards and even jet skis.

Nature lovers will enjoy the trails around the lake, and the plentiful wildlife in the area. The park facilities are available all year, due to the relatively warm climate in the region. There are two large campgrounds here that accommodate RVs. The Russellville Campground has 57 sites that are reservable with full hookups, or electric and water only sites. Many sites are right on the lakefront.

Amenities include flush toilets and shower houses, boat ramps, pavilions, and a dump station, as well as a camp store. The Dardanelle Campground accommodates Class B RV units, with 18 sites that have water and electric hookups. This campground is at a separate location but is also near a boat dock and launch, and has a playground and shower house. A special attraction at the park is the 7000-gallon freshwater aquarium located in the visitor center!


Your final destination is Ozark National Forest, Arkansas, which spans 1.2 million acres in the Ozark Mountains including the highest point in Arkansas, at Mount Magazine. This vast wooded area harbors a variety of wildlife and is popular for hiking, fishing, and camping.

Camping for RVers is provided at the Blanchard Springs Campground which has 18 sites with firepits, grills, picnic tables, and lantern hanger. There are modern restrooms and hot showers, water supplies, and an RV dump station. The campground is available on a first-come, first-serve basis and has access to the Sycamore creek, which is within walking distance of the campground. There is a swimming area, and a paved trail to a waterfall. The Blanchard Springs Caverns cave system is located nearby and is ideal for sub terrainian explorations!

The Barkshed Campground is more centrally located in the Ozark National Forest and offers primitive camping sites with vault toilets, best for RVers looking for a more natural and peaceful camping experience. Looking for RV rentals to enjoy the park in the region? Got to Ozark National Forest RV Rentals for options.

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