Favorite Ozark Campgrounds
Blanchard Springs Recreation Area, hidden away deep in a narrow forested valley, is one of the most beautiful campgrounds in the Ozark Mountains. Though Blanchard Springs is a popular destination, the campground is at the far end of the complex where it's peaceful even on the busiest weekend.
Sylamore Creek, a clear spring-fed creek, meanders through camp, paralleled by the Sylamore Creek Trail. There are two swimming holes in the creek, miles of trail to hike, and caverns to explore. Nearby Ozark Folk Center is a wonderful place to learn about Ozark Mountain history and traditions. As you enter Blanchard Springs, you'll get a quick tour of the area, passing the caverns on the descent from AR 14. Turn left at the T at the bottom of the hill, drive past the picnic area and beach, and cross Sylamore Creek into the first campground. A spur to the right leads to sites 18, which are packed a little too close together. To the left are sites 913, with much better spacing between each camp. Sites 9, 11, and 14 are choice sites next to Sylamore Creek.
To reach the best campsites, drive past site 14, splash through the creek on a concrete slab, and pull into the upper campground loop with sites 1631. This remote loop at the far end of the complex is very quiet, has secluded sites, and even has its own swimming hole near the loop entrance. Sites 16, 19, 20, and 21 are wonderful camping spots on the banks of Sylamore Creek. Behind site 28 a spur trail leads to the Sylamore Creek Hiking Trail.
Sites 26a and 26b form a double site for small groups and families. This back loop is definitely the place to be.
Blanchard Springs is a wonderful place to be during the heat and humidity of an Arkansas summer. Stately old pines and hardwoods shade all 32 sites. A beautiful swimming hole is just downstream from the campground, which is complete with a gravel beach, shower house, picnic sites, and impressive rock outcroppings. After your swim, go to the picnic area and check out Shelter Cave, a deep undercut hideout at the base of a tall bluff.
Another place to beat the heat is Blanchard Springs, at the opposite end of the recreation area from the campground. A paved trail with beautiful stonework bridges, walls, and steps leads out to a low bluff in the hillside where the spring tumbles from its outlet and splashes into a pool. Gushing 5,000 chilly gallons per minute, the spring water cools the hollow below the outlet before it's caught in Mirror Lake just downstream. The cold waters of the lake are home to a trout population just waiting for you to try your luck.
The coolest place in the park is Blanchard Springs Caverns, a living cave whose formations are still growing. The caverns showcase otherworldly stalactites, stalagmites, columns, walls of flowstone, and underground lakes and streams that feed the spring you just visited.
When you go back outside, take a hike on the 14-mile Sylamore Creek Trail. It begins near the White River 5 miles east of camp and runs to Barkshed Recreation Area 9 miles to the west, following the clear pools and riffles of North Sylamore Creek the entire way. A good destination is Gunner Pool Recreation Area, 5 trail miles west of Blanchard Springs. The last mile before Gunner Pool has impressive bluffs and vistas. Site of CCC Camp Hedges in the 1930s, Gunner Pool, with scenic cliffs overlooking North Sylamore Creek, must have been a great place to live and work. The rest of the Sylamore Creek Trail to Barkshed continues past more bluffs, creeks, and hollows just as beautiful as those you'll see on your way to Gunner Pool. Spend a few days at Blanchard Springs and hike this backcountry gem.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication