State Stargazing Guide

7 Awesome Spots for Stargazing in Arkansas

It might be hard to believe it, but there is not a single state in the U.S. that doesn’t have at least one great spot for viewing the night sky. From the coasts to the inland states, from suburban areas to extremely remote and rural spots far from city lights – our big beautiful country is a stargazer’s paradise if you know where to go.

Stargazing in Arkansas Hero

To that end, I’ve been hard at work creating a post like this for every country in the United States; today, I’ll share the best places I know for stargazing in Arkansas. While most people know very little about Arkansas – maybe even you, if you live there – I can tell you one thing: there are some great spots to enjoy the night sky and see the Milky Way if that’s something you want to do.

So whether you call the “Bear State” home or are just passing through, here are some of the best spots for stargazing in Arkansas.

In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the 𐓏𐒰𐓓𐒰𐓓𐒷 𐒼𐓂𐓊𐒻 𐓆𐒻𐒿𐒷 𐓀𐒰^𐓓𐒰^(Osage), O-ga-xpa Ma-zhoⁿ (O-ga-xpa) (Quapaw), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, people, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

Map of Where to Go Stargazing in Arkansas

Stargazing in Arkansas Map
Click to interact with the map.

By popular request, I’ve added a map to this post to help make it easier to understand where each of the best spots for stargazing in Arkansas can be found. I hope this helps you plan the ultimate stargazing trip!

Buffalo National River

Stargazing in Arkansas - Buffalo National River
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Buffalo National River plays in the big leagues, when it comes to stargazing in Arkansas and the world even. Designated a Dark Sky Park in 2019 – the first and only in the Ozarks –, Buffalo National River sits under one of the most extraordinary night skies.

The park has put a lot of effort into preserving natural darkness. It has reduced its light footprint by installing light bulbs that are more efficient and exterior light fixtures that point light directly downward. In any case, you’re in for a real treat.

Hobbs State Park

Arkansas’s largest state park, Hobbs State Park is a gem for outdoor lovers. The park is popular among bikers and a hot spot for the local mountain biking community that has taken over a number of trails. But it isn’t because of the daylight activities that Hobbs State Park stands out as one of the best Arkansas stargazing destinations.

The fun continues well into the night, when the stars come out to play. Also, the Sugar Creek Astronomical Society and Hobbs State Park host star parties with lectures and telescopes for the public at least six times a year.

Lake Fort Smith State Park

Lake Fort Smith State Park is another local favorite. The beautiful landscape punctuated by imposing mountains, lush greenery, and pristine lake views make it irresistible to outdoor lovers. It isn’t very popular among stargazers, but, the truth is that the park is one of the top Arkansas stargazing spots.

As Lake Fort Smith is nestled in a valley of the Boston Mountain Range, light pollution can barely reach the site. You’ll only have to dodge a few trees (it’s a wooded area), but besides that you can explore the universe with just your eyes.

Stargazing in Aarkansas - Camping under the stars
Photo credit: OakleyOriginals via Flickr

Lake Ouachita State Park

If you ask someone where to go stargazing in Arkansas, there’s a high chance Lake Ouachita State Park is the answer. This park is as scenic as it gets, with lush forests and a gorgeous blue lake. What makes it special for stargazers is that the park organizes numerous astronomy events throughout the year.

Most events are held at the Caddo Bend Trailhead. There are ranger and astronomy experts who point out the stars and constellations in the sky. For those who prefer to be on their own, the marinas are excellent spots to gaze at the stars.

Pea Ridge National Military Park

Pea Ridge National Military Park makes a great alternative for those who look for a less crowded place to go stargazing in Arkansas.

The park spans over 4,300 acres, and, besides the visitors center, museum, and a few other buildings scattered around, there’s not much else. You’ll enjoy uninterrupted views of the night sky and utmost solitude to enjoy your astronomic pursuit.

River Ridge Observatory

No list is complete with at least one observatory. In Arkansas, there’s the River Ridge Observatory.

Owned and operated by the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society, the observatory has great programs to introduce the public into astronomy topics and the art of stargazing. The facility is quite small, so free registration is required to attend their observing events.

Stargazing in Aarkansas - Milky Way and light pollution
Photo credit: Buffalo Outdoor Center via Flickr

Withrow Springs State Park

Last but certainly not least, Withrow Springs State Park is yet another great state park for stargazing in Arkansas. Nestled in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, the 786-acres park is a gem full of rolling hills and lush parkland. The property has great campgrounds and trails where you can surf the night sky.

However, the pavilion is ideal for setting up your telescope and, why not, a little picnic. The Astronomical Society of Northwest Arkansas and park staff arrange star parties throughout the year depending on the weather.

Know of any other great places for stargazing in Arkansas, or have questions about these spots on my list? Let me know in the comments below!

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Valerie is the founder and editor of Space Tourism Guide. She grew up in Alaska, has lived across the U.S., and traveled around the world to enjoy the night sky from many different perspectives. Join her on this journey to explore space right here on earth.

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