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The summer months are upon us in Arkansas and you know what that means. Heat! It’s not crazy hot yet, but it will be in a month, so what are you doing to prepare? Installing a pool? Buying some patio umbrellas? Planning some weekends at the lake or some creek walks and visits to the local swimming hole? We have some ideas for those coming days and weeks when you’ll need some shady getaways. Read on!
When I step out of the sun and into a dark green forest path, I always feel my mood lift as the temperature drops. Fortunately, we have no shortage of shady paths to enjoy in Arkansas. In Washington County, there are the trails at Devil’s Den State Park. The park even features a cave affectionately called The Devil’s Icebox where visitors can cool down mid-hike.
Hobbs State Park and Conservation Area just east of Rogers features a great selection of trails – paved and dirt – for folks of various levels of mobility. There is also an indoor park facility with educational displays and a gift shop for guests who desire a little something to remember the visit by and aren’t satisfied with a “special acorn”.
Directly east across the state and situated between the little towns of Fifty-Six and Allison, you can find plenty of shade at Blanchard Springs Caverns in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. Unfortunately, the caverns and campgrounds are still closed due to Covid-19 precautions, but closure updates can be found here, and it’s still a great place to find some shady adventure.
At Historic Washington State Park, just northwest of Hope in Hempstead County, you’ll find the largest collection of 19th-century buildings in the state. Park interpreters and artifacts provide education about the former pioneer settlement that was an important stop along the Southwest Trail.
But in addition to the shade in the buildings, the enormous Historic Washington Magnolia tree will knock your socks off. Its presence in the park is well-known, and it is designated as one of six historic trees in the county! In fact, every one of them deserves to be revered for its ability to provide shade in southern Arkansas summers.
Just up the road in Hot Springs, Garvan Woodland Gardens offer a cool place to stroll. The garden, which does charge an admission fee for visitors aged 4+, features a number of structures and a variety of flowers and waterfalls to enjoy along with lots and lots of shade.
Of course, Hot Springs itself is a National Park – the first in the country, in fact – and welcomes its fair share of folks each year who visit to walk its shady trails and stroll the historic Bathhouse Row under mature magnolia trees. But if you’re a bit of a water baby, you can enjoy a shady city tour and a lake float via a National Parks Duck Tour.
Head west and spend some time at the Cossatot River State Park Natural Area, a popular destination for kayakers thanks to Cossatot Falls, a rocky canyon that features Class IV rapids. There are 20 miles of hiking trails and a nature center and gift shop for those who are interested in a less heart-pounding adventure, and more souvenirs.
This list should get you started on your summer plans for shady getaways. Additional spots to explore include the featured “special places” in the Ouachita National Forest, Big Creek Natural Area near Wilburn that has a lovely waterfall and a trail rated as moderate for hiking, and Lost Valley Recreation Area near Ponca where you could get a look at Arkansas’ very own herd of elk if you keep your eyes open.
Photos courtesy Arkansas State Parks and Garvan Woodland Gardens
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