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Old 06-29-2016, 08:10 AM
 
11,786 posts, read 9,693,744 times
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Since you enjoy outdoor activities, and since you'll be in Arkansas in the middle of what has started out to be a very hot summer, head for the hills! I was glad to see you listed Petit Jean State Park - it's atop Petit Jean Mountain, one of several flat-topped mountains in the Arkansas River Valley, and includes wonderful CCC era cabins and a lodge with a spectacular view out back. It fills up fast on weekends, but you might be able to get a room (modest in size, but all you need included) on a weekday night. PJ is pronounced '"Petty Gene", btw. One of those Arkansas things, like "Ouachita" and for that matter, "Arkansas" itself.

The park includes very scenic views of the river valley below at its eastern end, lots of trails of varying length and difficulty, unique turtle rock formations, additional rock formations which are fun to explore, especially the Bear Cave area, very scenic Cedar Falls, and the Indian Cave, the short trail to which includes turtle rocks, the "cave" (really a rock shelter), and ancient petroglyphs.

The mountaintop is usually a few degrees cooler than the valley below, and the shade of the forest helps lower temps as well. There's also a nice breeze which frequently blows along Cedar Canyon and comes up to visit the Mather Lodge overlook.

If you can't stay at Petit Jean, consider grabbing lunch there and seeing Cedar Falls (from above), the Arkansas River Overlook and Petit Jean's grave (ask them to tell you the story at the lodge), the Bear Cave, and the Indian Cave. It takes around 90 minutes to reach PJ from downtown Little Rock, in my experience.

If you can squeeze it in, see Blanchard Springs Caverns and the nearby Arkansas Folk Center. The cave is spectacular and very well presented, and offers a variety of trails. If you have to budget your time, go for the easiest trail - while it is not physically challenging at all, it includes huge cave rooms (three football fields combined) which are richly decorated with stalagmites and stalactites, flowstone, dripstone, and just about every other cave formation you can name. The tour guides are very well informed and enthusiastic about this treasure. The actual springs are a short, extremely pretty drive away from the cave and should not be missed.

The nearby Arkansas Folk Center State Park in Mountain View has a village with craftspeople demonstrating traditional crafts of various kinds, plus it offers traditional accoustic old-time music several nights each week. The restaurant is interesting, especially in the evening and early morning, as wild animals come out of the surrounding woods to feeding stations just outside the floor to ceiling glass windows on three sides of the large room. You can purchase homemade jams and jellies here (you'd probably want to mail them home) along with all those handcrafted items.

The nearby river is spring-fed, limestone bluff-lined, and great for canoeing or kayaking.

However, this area is in north central AR and is not on any Interstate or four-laned road. The various routes there are all quite pretty and enjoyable, but still look much as they did fifty years ago, which is part of their charm, but you won't be able to burn the wind getting there, so plan accordingly. Service stations can be few and far between, so start out with a full tank and keep an eye on it. Of course, once you're in Mountain View itself, gas and other supplies and accommodations are readily available.

The stretch between Memphis and Little Rock is rice country, the Grand Prairie. I drove it going to and from LR about two and a half weeks ago. Watch for small planes making low dips and dives - they're cropdusters, and there's a flying school about midway between LR and Memphis. But keep your eye on the road, too - lots and lots of trucks use this route, and most of it is still four-laned.

There's an attractive welcome center just off I-40 in West Memphis, AR, but accessing it is tricky. I've been there several times, but missed the second turn, which is abrupt (off the service road) on my recent trip. However, if you can figure out how to get there, it has a well-informed staff (or did when I managed to find my way in last year) and lots of maps, brochures, and other materials.

The only hill until you reach Little Rock is the wooded Crowley's Ridge (pro. "crawly"), which has an interesting geological history. You'll cross the ridge just as you reach Forrest City, and if you turn north (right if you're heading to LR) at the first big Forrest City exit and go about a block, you can find a peach stand with delicious locally grown peaches and other produce on the right. Close to the peach stand is the Ole Sawmill Restaurant, which offers ample and delicious homestyle meals at a very reasonable price.

Try their buffet - I enjoyed six different vegetables, including the very Southern and properly cooked rice, candied yams, green beans, and corn off the cob, along with homebaked hot rolls, iced tea, and hot banana pudding topped off with soft-serve vanilla ice cream for dessert. That rice tasted like my childhood memories of Christmas dinners at my grandparents' Conway house...cost for this lunchtime feast was under ten dollars.

Once in LR, check out what used to be named the Territorial Restoration downtown. It's next to the Arkansas History Museum, and includes original early cabins, a pioneer tavern, and more. The Clinton Presidential Library is more museum than library for casual visitors, and is large, typically crowded, very well-done and interesting - it can take more time than expected to see it properly.

LR can be oppressively hot and humid, particularly downtown by the river (downtown is considerably lower than the more residential, hilly part of western LR), so you may want to cut back on visiting the outdoor attractions and natural areas along the river in favor of air conditioning. Otherwise, go as early in the morning as you can manage.

So glad you're heading for this underappreciated, yet friendly and beautiful place on your vacation. Have a great time (and don't miss the barbecue in LR. The Shack is gone, alas, but there are other places...).
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Old 06-29-2016, 08:38 AM
 
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
77,813 posts, read 91,270,154 times
Reputation: 48802
Quote:
Originally Posted by CraigCreek View Post
Since you enjoy outdoor activities, and since you'll be in Arkansas in the middle of what has started out to be a very hot summer, head for the hills! I was glad to see you listed Petit Jean State Park - it's atop Petit Jean Mountain, one of several flat-topped mountains in the Arkansas River Valley, and includes wonderful CCC era cabins and a lodge with a spectacular view out back. It fills up fast on weekends, but you might be able to get a room (modest in size, but all you need included) on a weekday night. PJ is pronounced '"Petty Gene", btw. One of those Arkansas things, like "Ouachita" and for that matter, "Arkansas" itself.

The park includes very scenic views of the river valley below at its eastern end, lots of trails of varying length and difficulty, unique turtle rock formations, additional rock formations which are fun to explore, especially the Bear Cave area, very scenic Cedar Falls, and the Indian Cave, the short trail to which includes turtle rocks, the "cave" (really a rock shelter), and ancient petroglyphs.

The mountaintop is usually a few degrees cooler than the valley below, and the shade of the forest helps lower temps as well. There's also a nice breeze which frequently blows along Cedar Canyon and comes up to visit the Mather Lodge overlook.

If you can't stay at Petit Jean, consider grabbing lunch there and seeing Cedar Falls (from above), the Arkansas River Overlook and Petit Jean's grave (ask them to tell you the story at the lodge), the Bear Cave, and the Indian Cave. It takes around 90 minutes to reach PJ from downtown Little Rock, in my experience.

If you can squeeze it in, see Blanchard Springs Caverns and the nearby Arkansas Folk Center. The cave is spectacular and very well presented, and offers a variety of trails. If you have to budget your time, go for the easiest trail - while it is not physically challenging at all, it includes huge cave rooms (three football fields combined) which are richly decorated with stalagmites and stalactites, flowstone, dripstone, and just about every other cave formation you can name. The tour guides are very well informed and enthusiastic about this treasure. The actual springs are a short, extremely pretty drive away from the cave and should not be missed.

The nearby Arkansas Folk Center State Park in Mountain View has a village with craftspeople demonstrating traditional crafts of various kinds, plus it offers traditional accoustic old-time music several nights each week. The restaurant is interesting, especially in the evening and early morning, as wild animals come out of the surrounding woods to feeding stations just outside the floor to ceiling glass windows on three sides of the large room. You can purchase homemade jams and jellies here (you'd probably want to mail them home) along with all those handcrafted items.

The nearby river is spring-fed, limestone bluff-lined, and great for canoeing or kayaking.

However, this area is in north central AR and is not on any Interstate or four-laned road. The various routes there are all quite pretty and enjoyable, but still look much as they did fifty years ago, which is part of their charm, but you won't be able to burn the wind getting there, so plan accordingly. Service stations can be few and far between, so start out with a full tank and keep an eye on it. Of course, once you're in Mountain View itself, gas and other supplies and accommodations are readily available.

The stretch between Memphis and Little Rock is rice country, the Grand Prairie. I drove it going to and from LR about two and a half weeks ago. Watch for small planes making low dips and dives - they're cropdusters, and there's a flying school about midway between LR and Memphis. But keep your eye on the road, too - lots and lots of trucks use this route, and most of it is still four-laned.

There's an attractive welcome center just off I-40 in West Memphis, AR, but accessing it is tricky. I've been there several times, but missed the second turn, which is abrupt (off the service road) on my recent trip. However, if you can figure out how to get there, it has a well-informed staff (or did when I managed to find my way in last year) and lots of maps, brochures, and other materials.

The only hill until you reach Little Rock is the wooded Crowley's Ridge (pro. "crawly"), which has an interesting geological history. You'll cross the ridge just as you reach Forrest City, and if you turn north (right if you're heading to LR) at the first big Forrest City exit and go about a block, you can find a peach stand with delicious locally grown peaches and other produce on the right. Close to the peach stand is the Ole Sawmill Restaurant, which offers ample and delicious homestyle meals at a very reasonable price.

Try their buffet - I enjoyed six different vegetables, including the very Southern and properly cooked rice, candied yams, green beans, and corn off the cob, along with homebaked hot rolls, iced tea, and hot banana pudding topped off with soft-serve vanilla ice cream for dessert. That rice tasted like my childhood memories of Christmas dinners at my grandparents' Conway house...cost for this lunchtime feast was under ten dollars.

Once in LR, check out what used to be named the Territorial Restoration downtown. It's next to the Arkansas History Museum, and includes original early cabins, a pioneer tavern, and more. The Clinton Presidential Library is more museum than library for casual visitors, and is large, typically crowded, very well-done and interesting - it can take more time than expected to see it properly.

LR can be oppressively hot and humid, particularly downtown by the river (downtown is considerably lower than the more residential, hilly part of western LR), so you may want to cut back on visiting the outdoor attractions and natural areas along the river in favor of air conditioning. Otherwise, go as early in the morning as you can manage.

So glad you're heading for this underappreciated, yet friendly and beautiful place on your vacation. Have a great time (and don't miss the barbecue in LR. The Shack is gone, alas, but there are other places...).
I do pretty much agree with you. yes, Clinton Library is a museum more than a library. We have visited about 4 or 5 presidential libraries; they are all museums.

Probably by now, we have all given the OP enough suggestions to totally confuse him. I think it is now, up to him to decide which direction is best for him.
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Old 06-29-2016, 08:59 AM
 
Location: Jacksonville, FL
11,368 posts, read 15,358,362 times
Reputation: 7507
I was never planning on spending more than one full day in Little Rock. I was only planning to drive into Little Rock on the first night after landing in Memphis. Then, the next day (Sunday) doing only activities in the Little Rock area. Then sleep a second night in LR, then the next morning (Monday), head northwest.

As for hiking/walking, I like short, sweet hikes lasting no more than 30-60 minutes.

The biggest worry I have is being able to get a hotel for each of the remaining six nights I'll be there. So far, i only reserved a hotel for the first night of my vacation, in Little Rock on Sat night.

I can't wait!
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Old 06-29-2016, 09:20 AM
 
Location: Leaving fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada
3,989 posts, read 7,337,787 times
Reputation: 7786
Quote:
Originally Posted by nep321 View Post
how do you pronounce Ouachita?
wash i ta
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Old 06-29-2016, 09:45 AM
 
42,423 posts, read 26,419,649 times
Reputation: 14073
Quote:
Originally Posted by nep321 View Post
I was never planning on spending more than one full day in Little Rock. I was only planning to drive into Little Rock on the first night after landing in Memphis. Then, the next day (Sunday) doing only activities in the Little Rock area. Then sleep a second night in LR, then the next morning (Monday), head northwest.

As for hiking/walking, I like short, sweet hikes lasting no more than 30-60 minutes.

The biggest worry I have is being able to get a hotel for each of the remaining six nights I'll be there. So far, i only reserved a hotel for the first night of my vacation, in Little Rock on Sat night.

I can't wait!
If you're coming to Northwest Arkansas, you shouldn't have any problem booking a hotel room. There are dozens of hotels here, at multiple price-points, and you're coming in July. Lots of rooms.

Since you've expressed an interest several times in visiting Oklahoma as well, I'm going to suggest that if you do come to Northwest Arkansas, you might drive over to Natural Falls State Park. It's very scenic and has several hiking trails.

Natural Falls State Park | TravelOK.com - Oklahoma's Official Travel & Tourism Site
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Old 06-29-2016, 10:11 AM
 
Location: Jacksonville, FL
11,368 posts, read 15,358,362 times
Reputation: 7507
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC at the Ridge View Post
If you're coming to Northwest Arkansas, you shouldn't have any problem booking a hotel room. There are dozens of hotels here, at multiple price-points, and you're coming in July. Lots of rooms.

Since you've expressed an interest several times in visiting Oklahoma as well, I'm going to suggest that if you do come to Northwest Arkansas, you might drive over to Natural Falls State Park. It's very scenic and has several hiking trails.

Natural Falls State Park | TravelOK.com - Oklahoma's Official Travel & Tourism Site
Yeah, I would like to see some of eastern OK also. And wow....that Natural Falls State Park looks NICE! I should definitely go there!
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Old 06-29-2016, 10:27 AM
 
42,423 posts, read 26,419,649 times
Reputation: 14073
Quote:
Originally Posted by nep321 View Post
Yeah, I would like to see some of eastern OK also. And wow....that Natural Falls State Park looks NICE! I should definitely go there!
Just pack sunscreen and drink lots of water. Also some bug spray. I've had a pretty good year, but picked up a tick last weekend after cleaning out birds' nests in the eaves.
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Old 06-29-2016, 10:33 AM
 
Location: Atlanta metro (Cobb County)
2,068 posts, read 1,090,341 times
Reputation: 2315
Pinnacle Mountain State Park is conveniently located on the western outskirts of Little Rock and has great views. The trail to the summit (especially on the east side, if I recall correctly) is steep and difficult, so it probably would be best to plan on this during morning and evening hours given your visit is during the hot season.

https://www.arkansasstateparks.com//...park.aspx?id=3

Have a great trip - Arkansas has a lot of beautiful places! I would recommend bidding on Priceline for accommodations you still need to schedule.
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Old 06-29-2016, 11:01 AM
 
11,786 posts, read 9,693,744 times
Reputation: 21624
Earlier in this growing thread, someone commented about Fort Smith - the actual historic fort, now a national historic monument, is well-preserved and has an extremely interested history, including changing hands numerous times during the Civil War (it was the jumping-off place for the Indian Territory - whoever controlled Fort Smith had a good grasp of the IT) plus the era of "hanging Judge Parker" later on.

It's not so well-known that during the last year or so of the Civil War, numerous local rural civilians were offered refuge from Bushwhackers and other renegades who were preying on the countryside. Many families moved into the fort for protection, and some, including my own ancestors, were offered and accepted passage down the Arkansas River and up the Mississippi to southern Illinois for the duration of the war. My folks came back right after Appomattox, found their house still standing but the rest of the farm in bad shape, and rebuilt their lives.

So if you have time, check out the fort at Fort Smith. You can also easily drive over the Oklahoma state line just west of town, to add another state to your record!
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Old 06-29-2016, 11:27 AM
 
Location: Jacksonville, FL
11,368 posts, read 15,358,362 times
Reputation: 7507
Quote:
Originally Posted by CraigCreek View Post
Earlier in this growing thread, someone commented about Fort Smith - the actual historic fort, now a national historic monument, is well-preserved and has an extremely interested history, including changing hands numerous times during the Civil War (it was the jumping-off place for the Indian Territory - whoever controlled Fort Smith had a good grasp of the IT) plus the era of "hanging Judge Parker" later on.

It's not so well-known that during the last year or so of the Civil War, numerous local rural civilians were offered refuge from Bushwhackers and other renegades who were preying on the countryside. Many families moved into the fort for protection, and some, including my own ancestors, were offered and accepted passage down the Arkansas River and up the Mississippi to southern Illinois for the duration of the war. My folks came back right after Appomattox, found their house still standing but the rest of the farm in bad shape, and rebuilt their lives.

So if you have time, check out the fort at Fort Smith. You can also easily drive over the Oklahoma state line just west of town, to add another state to your record!
I've already visited Oklahoma four years ago. But I would like to visit eastern OK because it seems like a nice place to visit.
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