Arkansas Tourism is giving you a chance to win a free trip to explore the state’s diverse backcountry — by plane. Short flights are a quick way to move between idyllic sites to get the most out of your trip.
Arkansas has mountains, waterways, and valleys ready for exploring, and you can experience more of it by taking to the skies. Backcountry flying lets you soak in more scenery and outdoor activities to get the most from a travel vacation in the Natural State.
We’ve highlighted some of the must-see spots — many of which are remote, but accessible through backcountry aviation. The Backcountry Aviation Trip will send one lucky person (and a guest) to see it all.
The winner will land on a grass runway, unload their packs and other gear, and be on their way to more adventure. Common attractions include the state’s renowned mountain biking trails, paddling an undisturbed river, or even ziplining through the treetops.
The contest ends June 30, and one winner and a guest will spend 4 days (3 nights) on a backcountry trip this fall. Just in time for nature’s added color!
There are more than 60 airstrips within a 100-mile radius of Bentonville, Arkansas. It is a hub for backcountry aviation trips, as the northwestern section of the state has a plethora of rivers and streams. Once you land, the waterways will let you, or a lure, float downstream.
Like a good improv routine, adventure in Arkansas takes a “Yes, and” approach. Your day’s itinerary can include different activities. For instance, you can fish in the morning, mountain bike midday, and then settle into that night’s sleeping spot, whether that’s a cozy cabin or in a tent.
Below are some of the popular destinations in the Natural State, along with different outdoor activities and sights available there.
Take in the mountains and waters of the Ozarks from above with a flight from Fly Oz and Thaden Field. They’ll get you where you need to go in the backcountry and from there, you can hike, climb, and mountain bike.
Of course, the Bentonville mountain bike trails are a destination in and of themselves. The singletrack options are just part of the small city’s bike-friendly network of roughly 350 miles of trails that connect to area highlights, like the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Some of those other trails are perfect opportunities to explore remote areas by gravel bike.
Buffalo National River
The Buffalo National River is home to several geological wonders along the river. Most of these are bluffs, a steep shore with exposed rock stained by years of water seeping over and from its cracks. One unique experience away from the water is to zipline through the tree canopy.
However, paddling the river is the best way to see highlights like the Painted Bluffs at Buffalo Point where you can stop to swim, fish, or camp. In the fall, eagles are common sights atop the colorful trees. Further down is Ludlow Bluff, the largest on the river bend, towering almost 600 feet above the water.
Kayakers typically end their trip on this stretch of the river at Rush Landing, an abandoned mining town with hiking trails and campsites. The town of Poncas has several cabins, campsites, and RV parks for overnight stays, too.
At night, you may notice more stars than normal. The area is remote and wild, and that lack of development allowed it to qualify as an International Dark Sky Park.
The Arkansas portion of the Kings River is undammed, one of the few free-flowing rivers in the country. It’s a tributary of the White River, and it rises and runs north into Missouri, making for unique waterfalls and overhanging trees.
So, it’s little surprise these scenic stretches are popular for paddling and fishing. You can try to catch an Ozark Bass, a sunfish with red irises only found in the region’s rivers. That said, there are trophy bass and heavy channel cats in these waters.
A baitcasting reel, a medium-action rod, and 10- to 12-pound line are appropriate, according to Arkansas Tourism.
Hobbs State Park
For classic hiking and camping, Hobbs State Park offers short trails for short-legged youngsters. Explore the limestone formations and larger multiuse trails for hikers, runners, and horseback riding.
Mountain bikers should check out the world-class Monument Trails, the latest addition to the park’s trail system. There are campsites available along the more remote portions of the trail, too.
Aerial Adventure in Arkansas
Backcountry flying cuts to the chase. You throw your gear on board, climb in, and you’re off to the next adventure. No lines, no tickets, no inflight announcements.
Arkansas’ topography is diverse — from cliffs spilling waterfalls into rivers, to deep mountain forests — there’s a lot to see and do. You can rent a car and make your way at your leisure.
However, the fastest way is to pop in and out with the help of a small plane. And if you’re lucky, you might just be able to do that for free.