Away We Go

Pre-planning your great-outdoors getaways

Let’s be honest: By the time we’re longing for a bit of R&R, all the best summer-getaway digs have been snatched up. This year, get ahead of the game by booking one of these six escapes now, before it’s too late. 

Waterview Yurt at Degray Lake State Park 

2027 State Park Entrance Road, Bismarck;

We’d venture a guess that at least half of the state’s population might need to Google the word “yurt.” Which is likely because both the name and the structure—a movable permanent shelter (yes, you read that correctly) used by nomads in Central Asia—are relatively new to our State Park system. The draw? They provide a camping experience for folks who just aren’t big on the less-desirable aspects of tent camping—bugs and rain and things that go bump in the night. You still get the stars, the campfire, the quiet, but you also get a roof and a bed. And electricity.

What you also get at the yurts at DeGray Lake Resort State Park is a sweeping water view, and easy access to the lake’s crystal-clear waters. There are only three to book, though, so you might wanna get your name on the list, um, now. This goes double for summer weekends, when a midnight dip in the lake sounds like a pretty fine idea.

GET OUTDOORS: You can rent a solo or tandem kayak from the park’s marina, or sign up for one of the interpreter-led kayak tours (some of which take place by the light of a full moon). Been there done that? Give stand-up paddleboarding a go—it’s only a $25 rental for the day, so you’re not out much if things go south.

Longbow Resort | By Douglas Keck, Capture Arkansas

Longbow Cabin at Longbow Resort

4349 Prim Road, Edgemont;

Midway between Greers Ferry Lake and Mountain View, there are four “cabins” at the Longbow Resort in Prim. Why the quotation marks? you may ask. Whelp, when you start looking into these properties—which range from a treehouse-like structure perched 30 feet above a stream to the bluffline abode with an indoor waterfall and walls built into the face of the rock—it seems downright wrong to just call them “cabins.” Come summer, it’s the Longbow Cabin that’s the draw: Just beyond the back door—and we mean just beyond—a 30-foot waterfall empties into an aquamarine swimming hole hemmed in by moss-covered limestone bluffs. Take a dip—it’s your private “pool” for the weekend, after all—or just curl up in the hammock slung over the stone patio and snooze with the splashing of the falls lulling you to sleep.

GET OUTDOORS: Your two-story cabin comes with its own private hiking trail and, again, its own waterfall, so you’re basically going to be enjoying the great outdoors without leaving your rental. But should you feel the need to stretch out a bit, Devils Fork Recreation Area at Greers Ferry Lake is just 13 miles south.

Dogwood Hills Guest Farm

544 Cozahome Road, Harriet;

At this bucolic B&B near the Buffalo River, you can’t really help but unplug, as good cell signals can be hard to come by. But even if the three-bed, two-bath guest house set on a 40-acre working farm came WiFi-ready, once settled on the grounds, your screen-savvy brood would find plenty of other ways to spend their days. There are mini-horses to be petted (like Pollywog) and dairy goats to be snuggled (Sammie and Mr. Nibbles). There are Jersey cows that need milking (that’d be Dew Drop) and eggs that need collecting (feel free to name these yourself). And if that’s not your jam, there’s plenty else to do nearby: The river is just minutes away, as are the charming Ozark towns of Gilbert, Marshall and Leslie.

You’ll want to wander back to the homestead by evening, though; chances are there’s a family-style meal and a movie being projected in the barn loft, or a bonfire with the farmhands to enjoy. At the very least, you’ll want to spend some time stargazing from the comfort of the hot tub on the back deck, as this neck of the woods offers some of the darkest night skies in the state. The only struggle? Resisting the urge to Instagram it all.

GET OUTDOORS: You can’t be this close to the Buffalo without getting out on the water. The closest outfitter is just 10 minutes from the farm, and your hosts will be happy to make arrangements—you can even ask them to pack you a lunch. If water’s not your thing, try the Indian Rockhouse Trail for a 3.5-mile hike through lovely hill country to its namesake cave, which offers a welcome respite from the heat of the summer.

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Cabin 61 at Mount Nebo State Park

16728 State Highway 155, Dardanelle;

Can we just pause for a minute and appreciate the Civilian Conservation Corps? The New Deal-era program not only employed thousands upon thousands, but gave us stunning architectural gems like the cabins—hewn from logs and native stone hauled out of the surrounding hillside—that now sit atop the 1,350-foot-high plateau we know as Mount Nebo. Had these cabins not been built back in the 1930s, generations of Arkansans wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the views like the one seen from Cabin 61’s back door. Which is, in a word, spellbinding.

From each of the one-bed, one-bath cabin’s back windows, you can take in panoramic views of the Arkansas River valley below—on a clear summer day, it’s said you can see 100 miles of the river. The real show, however, happens on the flagstone patio out back come sunset. Be sure to book your stay early enough in the season that lighting a fire in the patio’s huge stone fireplace still seems like a good idea. Because it most definitely is.

GET OUTDOORS: It might be tough to tear yourself away from that view, but know that more mountaintop vistas await you elsewhere in the park. The 3.5-mile Rim Trail is accessible from the cabin, which means you can hop on and head east to Sunrise Point in time for the show, continuing on to Varnall Springs if you’re feeling plucky.

Kauai Grotto at Eureka Springs Treehouses, Caves, Castles & Hobbits

526 W. Van Buren, Eureka Springs;

There’s just something about retreating to a stone-walled hobbit hole underground that sounds appealing when the Arkansas summer really starts blazing. But even if this Eureka Springs “grotto” were very much above ground, we’d still fancy a stay—it’s that lovely. Stone walls, stone floor, stone counters, stone ceiling: It could seem cold if it weren’t for all the luxurious amenities added in, like a ginormous jetted tub, a spa shower, a fireplace and an impossibly fluffy king-sized bed, not to mention the resort’s perks, which include pristine walking trails, rock gardens and a waterfall. It’s The Shire if The Shire’d been designed by a four-star hotelier.

GET OUTDOORS: The 1,600-acre Lake Leatherwood City Park is 3 miles away. Filled with hiking and biking trails (21 miles of ‘em), it features a spring-fed lake formed by one of the country’s largest hand-cut limestone dams. For a more meditative nature experience, Fay Jones’ Thorncrown Chapel is just a mile up the road from the grotto.

Buffalo National River | By Greg Disch, Capture Arkansas

Cabin X at Buffalo Outdoor Center

4699 Highway 43, Ponca;

It’s easy to feel “away” when you’re at the Buffalo. (Remember that iffy cell service we mentioned earlier?) But while plenty of the Buffalo Outdoor Center’s cabins feel remote, Cabin X, a one-bedroom home plunked down on its own private mountaintop, might just be the most secluded of them all. Because seriously, there ain’t much around, folks: just a dusty farm road, some rolling pastures and a 30-mile-wide panorama of Upper-Buffalo country, which can be viewed from Cabin X’s covered wraparound deck. Or from the fully stocked kitchen. Or the gas-fireplace-lit living area. Or the outdoor hot tub. (You get the picture.) The view’s just, well, everywhere—so much so that on even the hottest of summer days you’ll be able to enjoy that floating-above-the-clouds feeling, even if you’re just curled up on your very-air-conditioned king-sized bed.

GET OUTDOORS: Late spring and early summer are the best times to go waterfall hunting near the Buffalo.  A favorite among locals and would-be locals alike is Twin Falls near Camp Orr—after a good rain, you can often spy triplets.