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I want to take it all in when I visit one of the 52 Arkansas State Parks. It’s not enough to stop at the visitors center or welcome sign, snap a quick picture and head home. I want to feel like I’ve experienced all of the things the park offers before I get my stamp on my Arkansas State Parks Club 52 Passport.
Here are six activities from my trip to Queen Wilhelmina State Park that helped me get the best park experience. Bonus: Each of these activities is kid friendly.
This is the golden-ticket item that led my family to Queen Wilhelmina. It’s such a unique state park attraction, and besides the views and history, it’s one of the things Queen Wilhelmina is known for. Visitors enter the Rich Mountain Train Depot, purchase tickets and then choose their seats aboard the Rich Mountain Train. The mini-train makes a loop around the park, and the conductor offers bits of trivia along the way. Kids will enjoy the novelty of a mini-train ride, and adults will enjoy the view. After the ride, which lasts about 20 minutes, all can enjoy ice cream and other treats from the depot’s gift shop. It is best to call ahead (479-394-3000) for the most up-to-date prices and open hours.
Known as the “crowning attraction” of the park, the lodge at Queen Wilhelmina offers overnight visitors 40 guest rooms, a restaurant and meeting facilities. Day trip visitors will enjoy visiting the lodge to sit on the porch or in the common room, browse through books about park history, and see a few exhibits about local wildlife. Directly in front of the lodge is a lookout point that offers spectacular views.
There are four hiking trails to choose from at Queen Wilhelmina. The most convenient one is probably the Reservoir Trail because it’s located right next to the lodge. It’s a short in-and-out trail that spans just ⅔ of a mile round trip. While it’s listed as a moderately strenuous trail, my 5-year-old made it without any issues. Other hiking options at Queen Wilhelmina include the Spring, Lovers’ Leap, and Ouachita National hiking trails. For other kid-friendly hike ideas around the state, check out this list.
Because Queen Wilhelmina State Park has such a deep railroad-related history, it only makes sense that it is home to a 1920s steam locomotive. This attraction offers some signage with park history and the opportunity to touch and climb aboard the train engine.
Parents especially will appreciate this park attraction. There is a small playground between the Mountain Glory Train Depot and Queen Wilhelmina Lodge. The playground has a jungle gym, slides, picnic tables and a volleyball court. A quick tip: take binoculars, climb atop a picnic table and take in some great views.
It’s called the Wonder House because it looks like a typical two-story home, but it has nine levels. The home was built in the 1930s, so history buffs will appreciate the historical angel. While the nine levels are labeled on signage near the house and can be seen from outside, a full tour is only available as part of park programming. To check on the schedule of park programs, call 479-394-2863 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on visiting Queen Wilhelmina, check out their website.
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