Arkansas’ Lake Catherine State Park
When we started planning our trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas, several people told us we would be impressed with Arkansas’ state parks. They were not wrong!
We chose Lake Catherine State Park to be our home base for visiting Hot Springs. This 2,180 acre park can be found between Hot Springs and Malvern on Hwy 171. Arriving after dark, we were not able to see much, but when I looked out of our RV window the next morning, I was greeted with the sun rising over beautiful Lake Catherine. Our RV was parked on a bluff (Camp Area A), and we could look through the pine trees, over the lake side section of the campground (Camp Area C) and see the sun rise over the lake. I thought about waking everyone up to enjoy the moment with me, but decided to just sit back, sip my coffee and take a few pictures. They had the rest of the week to enjoy the view!
Whether you are planning a day visit or planning an extended stay, Lake Catherine State Park offers many activities that can be enjoyed by both young and old. Visitors can choose to hike, go boating, do a little fishing or attend an interpretive program led by a park ranger.
Enjoy the peacefulness of the Ouachita Mountains by setting out on one of the parks 3 hiking trails. The Falls Branch Trail is well known for leading you to the Falls Creek Falls, one of the top waterfalls in Arkansas. The trail is 2 miles long and takes about 1.5 hours. As you head down this loop trail, you will walk beside a bubbling creek with several smaller waterfalls, over a rope bridge and beside the lake. You can sit at the top of Falls Creek Falls or at the bottom and enjoy the view. Branching off from the Falls Branch Trail are two more trails offered by the park. Horseshoe Mountain Trail is a 3.5 mile long trail that will take 2-4 hours. This trail will lead you up Horseshoe Mountain and, when you reach the top of the mountain, you will get a great view of Lake Catherine State Park.
Dam Mountain Trail is 4.5 miles long and will take 2-4 hours. This rugged trail offers the best views of Lake Catherine. All 3 trails start at the same trailhead and are very easy to follow. The newly completed Slunger Creek Nature Trail can be found near the entrance of the park. This .6 mile paved path is ADA friendly and can be enjoyed by all. Our family enjoyed reading the signs along the path that told us all about the trees and plants. One interesting fact we learned along the path is that Slunger Creek is the home of the newly found species, the Slunger Creek Salamander. This salamander was first discovered in May of 2011 and can only be found in Slunger Creek. Our family enjoyed hiking in Lake Catherine State Park, and we know yours will, too!
Boat Rentals and Fishing
It was too cold to get out on the lake when we visited the park, but those wanting to get a closer look at Lake Catherine can rent boats at the marina. The park offers flat bottom boats, fishing boats, party barges, and bass boats. Boats can be rented for a half day or for a full day. Prices range from $15-$225 for a half day or $20-$300 for a full day. Renters are also responsible for paying for fuel for motorized boats. Kayaks, canoes, pedal boats and water bikes can be rented by the hour, half day or full day. If you are planning on fishing, you must have an Arkansas fishing license. These can be purchased at the marina.
One of our favorite things about Lake Catherine State Park were the interpretive programs. We visited the park in March, the week before Arkansas schools have spring break, so they only had one ranger leading the programs. Each day the park offered 3 ranger led activities for visitors. (There may be more in peak season.) There was a hike each day led by a ranger, programs about the plants and animals found in the park, and talks about the history of the park.
Our kids were excited to learn that Arkansas State Parks offer a Junior Ranger program. The booklets can be completed during your visit to Lake Catherine or over time after visiting other state parks. The Junior Ranger program requires kids to attend 4 interpretive programs. Knowing we would not be back in Arkansas for a while, we knew we had to complete it all in the week we stayed at the park. We were so impressed with the Interpretive Programs Ranger. He went out of his way to make E and J feel welcome and to teach them about the park. We attended a talk about turtles, went on a magnifying glass walk, enjoyed an owl encounter hike and played games to learn about trees and bats. We attended the owl hike on our last night at the park. Earlier in the day we shared with the ranger that we would be leaving the next morning. So after we completed the hike he pulled out 2 certificates and badges to give E and J. This was the first time they got a junior ranger badge by flashlight! We were very impressed with the programs offered, as well as the kindness and knowledge of the staff at Lake Catherine.
If you are planning on staying the night at Lake Catherine State Park, you have several options. The park offers 20 beautiful cabins that sit right on the shore of the lake. The prices range from $89 a night for a one bedroom four-plex to $187 a night for a 2 bedroom cabin. Traveling with a pet? The park offers 5 pet-friendly cabins. Each unit has access to a dock, picnic table and outdoor grill. They also come stocked with linens, kitchen equipment and utensils.
If you are planning on bringing your RV or tent, you can choose from 70 campsites. Camp Area A is secluded and away from the water, while Camp Area B is along the banks of the lake. Class B sites are available with water and 30 amp for $20 a day and can be found in Camp Area B. Class AAA sites offering water, 50 amp and sewer are $32 a day and can be found in Camp Area A and Camp Area B. The camp has bathhouses located throughout the park and a dump station is available. If you are wanting the camping experience, but do not have outdoor equipment, the park provides a Rent-A-Camp experience for $40 a night. The park provides the tent and cooking supplies. The only thing you have to bring is your clothes, food and sleeping gear. You can also choose to do the Rent-A-Yurt for $55 a night. For those wondering a Yurt is round tent with a wooden floor. Inside the Yurt, you will find bunk beds for 6, a stove, ice chest and a table with chairs. Whichever overnight accommodations you choose, you are sure to enjoy your stay at Lake Catherine State Park. Click here to make your reservations today.
RV Big Rig Information
This park has spots available for big rigs. Our spot said it was big rig friendly. We arrived after dark to find our site (12) was at the top of a hill. We had to pull down the hill and back up the hill. We would not have been able to back into this spot without 4WD. Spot 11 also had this same issue. We talked to a ranger about it and he said they often have rigs that cannot get into that spot. We enjoyed spot 12, but, if you have a big rig and do not have 4WD, you may want to choose another spot.
If you are planning a trip to the Hot Springs, Arkansas, area, Lake Catherine State Park would be a great place to spend the day or for overnight accommodations. This beautiful lakeside park offers your family a plethora of activities to keep both young and old entertained.
Want more information on Hot Springs, Arkansas? Make sure you check out our post, A Family Friendly Guide for Visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas!
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