5 Best Places to Camp Along the Arkansas Buffalo River (Upper District)

Plan your next camping trip along the Arkansas Buffalo River! This article features all the best campgrounds, camping details, swimming holes, and hikes to compliment your next outdoor adventure at Buffalo National River National Park, located within the Ozark Mountains.

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Tylers Bend Campground area

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Best Camping in Buffalo National River (Upper District)

The Buffalo National River is one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48, meandering 135 miles through the Ozark Mountains. The river is a protected river and part of the National Park Service. It is America’s first national river.

Buffalo National River is a beautiful part of the state, and we can’t wait to share more details with you for some of the best camping in the Arkansas Ozarks!

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Along with camping, the area is home to incredible hiking trails, fishing spots, places to kayak, canoe, explore waterfalls, caves, and wildlife. The Ozarks are steeped in history and full of early homesteads, homesites, railroads, former mines, and remnants from prehistoric Native Americans. The Buffalo National River area has miles and miles of hiking trails to explore.

If you are looking to relax and kick back in nature, the Buffalo National River has several excellent spots for camping along its banks, with take-outs for folks floating the river. These take-outs with campgrounds give campers a great place to park their small RVs or set up tents. The take-outs provide access to the river for canoeing, kayaking, tubing, fishing, or just playing in the water.

Map of Arkansas Buffalo River Camping (Upper District)

1.    Steel Creek Campground

Known for the iconic bluffs surrounding the campground, Steel Creek Campground has great proximity to some epic hiking trails, one of the main park service offices, and a fun watering hole with a rope swing. There is also a take-out area to launch watercraft.

The night sky here is incredible!

From Jasper, AR, Steel Creek Campground is roughly 25-30 minutes away.

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Steel Creek Campground

Steel Creek Campground Details

  • Tent-camping only
  • Camp in designated sites
  • $20/night – reservations are accepted
  • Dogs are allowed in the campground (but not on the trails)
  • Flush restrooms are open mid-March through Mid-November
  • The campground is open year-round, along with the vault toilet
  • The road into the campground is an easy road to drive (hilly and steep, though)
  • Horse trailers are allowed
  • RVs and trailers are not allowed
  • There are no camping fees November 15 through March 14 – but the restrooms are closed (except for vault toilet)
  • Campfires are allowed and there is a fire pit
  • There is a picnic table at the campsite
  • There is no cell phone reception here

Steel Creek Campground Reservations

Make a reservation ahead of time at recreation.gov.

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Hiking near Steel Creek Campground

Best Hikes Near Steel Creek Campground

Below are hikes you’ll love trekking when camping at Steel Creek:

Buffalo River Trail – is one of the main backpacking trails through Buffalo National River National Park. It can be accessed right from the Steel Creek Campground.

Centerpoint to Big Bluff (Goat Trail) – is a popular backcountry hike in the area featuring incredible views of the Buffalo River Valley and a steep bluff trail known as the Goat Trail. This hike is not for folks who are afraid of heights. However, it is totally worth doing (and is one of our favorite hikes in the area)! Read more about hiking the Centerpoint to Big Bluff (Goat Trail) trail here. It takes about 15 minutes to drive to the Ponca Trailhead from Steel Creek Campground.

Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag – is one of the most iconic hikes in all of Arkansas! Hiking the Whitaker Point Trail is such a fun experience. It features the famous Hawksbill Crag! Hike during the week to beat the weekend crowds. Read more about hiking the Whitaker Point Trail here. The Whitaker Point Trailhead is roughly a 40-minute drive from the Steel Creek Campground.

Lost Valley Trail – is one of the most popular hikes in Buffalo National River! The trail features caves, waterfalls, and an enormous 200-foot bluff shelter. The Lost Valley Trail is about 15 minutes from the campground. Get all the trail details here!

Hideout Hollow Trail – is located about 30 minutes from the campground, near Compton. Hideout Hollow features a 50-foot waterfall. Walk up stream further to see another small waterfall. It is a quiet and easy hike.

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Oboz Women’s Hiking Shoes

2.    Kyles Landing Campground

Accessing Kyles Landing takes campers down a steep, winding gravel road. You probably want to have a high clearance vehicle to camp here.

Once you get to the bottom and into the river valley, the campground has campsites right next to the Buffalo River. Campers are met with massive, towering bluffs surrounded by forest.

The campground is well maintained, and there is an easy put-in and take-out point for floating the river along with a huge gravel bar (depending on the water level). The color of the Arkansas Buffalo River is incredible here. It is the most beautiful teal color!

From Jasper, Arkansas, Kyles Landing is about 15 minutes away.

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Kyles Landing Camping area

Kyles Landing Camping Details

  • Tent-camping only
  • Camp in designated sites
  • $20/night – first come, first serve
  • Dogs are allowed in the campground (but not on the trails)
  • There is good access to the river to float, fish, and hike
  • Flush restrooms are open mid-March through Mid-November
  • The campground is open year-round, along with the vault toilet
  • You’ll want a high clearance vehicle to access the campground; the road is a steep and winding gravel road.
  • There are no camping fees November 15 through March 14 – but the restrooms are closed (except for vault toilet)
  • Campfires are allowed and there is a fire pit.
  • There is a picnic table at each site.
  • There is some cell phone reception.
  • Group campsites are available.

Check out more details from the National Park Service.

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Kyles Landing river campsite

Best Hikes from Kyles Landing Campground

Check out these incredible hikes to explore while camping at Kyles Landing along the Buffalo River:

Hemmed in Hollow Trail from Kyles Landing – is one of the largest waterfalls in the Midwest, towering over 200-feet. There are a few ways to hike to the waterfall. You can hike from the campground and go through the river, or hike from the Compton Centerpoint Trailhead. Do some research to pick the best route for your adventure. This trail is very remote and within the Ponca Wilderness Area.

Indian Creek Trail – The trailhead is located on the southwest side of the campground. It is a pleasant hike through the woods featuring a small waterfall.

Eye of the Needle – A short 15-20 minute drive from the campground, the Eye of the Needle Trail is known for its hole in the rock “eye of the needle” features and waterfall. This is considered a hard hike, and hikers will get wet (and muddy) during the wetter seasons.

Buffalo River Trail – the main backpacking trail for the national park goes through the campground area.

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Patagonia Men’s R1 Pullover Fleece

Patagonia Women’s Synchilla Fleece

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3.    Ozark Campground

Known for its extraordinary emerald, blue swimming hole next to the bluffs, Ozark Campground is excellent for camping along the Buffalo River.

The campground is not far from the town of Jasper – roughly 15 minutes away. It is really easy to access.

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Ozark Campground swimming hole

Ozark Campground Details

  • Tent + Small RVs allowed
  • Camp in designated sites
  • No hookups
  • $20 night – first come, first serve
  • Dogs are allowed (but not on the trails)
  • Flush restrooms are open mid-March through Mid-November
  • Open year-round + vault toilet
  • Easy road to access (hilly)
  • There are no camping fees November 15 through March 14 – but the restrooms are closed (except for vault toilet)
  • Campfires are allowed, and there is a fire pit.
  • There is some cell phone reception.

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Ozark Campground river campsites

Ozark Campground Hiking

The Buffalo River Trail (BRT) goes right near the campground. You’ll see the trail sign along the access road.

4.    Erbie Campground

To camp at Erbie, we recommend accessing from Highway AR 7 coming from Jasper or Pruitt. From Jasper, the campground is about 30 minutes from town with the majority of the drive down a gravel road.

If you’re up for an even more off-the-beaten path adventure, go the long way from Compton. It takes about an hour to get to Erbie from Compton, AR.

Campers will need to cross a low water crossing at the Buffalo River. If the river is low, it isn’t a problem to cross with a high-clearance vehicle. But if the river isn’t low, then you’ll have to turn around.

The Erbie Campground feels remote and backcountry. However, it is also quiet, and there are some neat backroads and historic sites to explore.

There is excellent access to the river from the campground along with a nice swimming hole.

Visitors might even catch the elk roaming the fields nearby!

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Erbie Campground river take out

Erbie Campground Details

  • Tent + Small RVs allowed
  • Camp in designated sites
  • No hookups and no running water
  • No camping fees – first-come, first-serve
  • Dogs are allowed
  • Open year-round + vault toilet only
  • Fairly secluded campground
  • Campfires are allowed, and there is a fire pit.
  • No trash service – pack out what you pack in
  • Group sites are available.

Erbie Campground Hiking

The Buffalo River Trail goes right past the campground. This is an excellent place to camp if you are backpacking the Buffalo River Trail.

Campers can also walk to the old Parker-Hickman Farmstead which is about a mile away.

If you aren’t familiar with this area, we recommend having a topo map since cell phone reception is hit and miss.

Erbie Campground on YouTube!

Would you like to see more details for the Erbie Campground?

Check out the video below to plan your next adventure camping along the Arkansas Buffalo River.

We 4×4 through the Buffalo National River at the low-water river crossing!

YouTube video

5.    Buffalo Outdoor Center

We wanted to add the Buffalo Outdoor Center to this article because it is one of the best (and only) places to camp with a larger RV near the Upper Buffalo.

The Buffalo Outdoor Center RV Park is a private RV park not part of the National Park Service. But, it is another one of our favorite places to camp when we are exploring the area because they have full hookups, wifi, and hot showers! It is nice to camp here in our Aliner when we visit for multiple days.

AND the campground is two (2) minutes away from the Centerpoint to Big Bluff (Goat Trail) Trailhead, making it a super convenient place to stay when hiking in the Ponca Wilderness.

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Buffalo Outdoor Center RV Park

Buffalo Outdoor Center Details

  • RV, trailers, and motorhomes only (no tents)
  • There are designated campsites
  • Full hookups
  • Grills and picnic tables
  • No campfires
  • Make reservations ahead of time
  • Dogs are allowed
  • Open year-round
  • Easy access and clean facility
  • Great bathrooms with privacy

For rates – visit the Buffalo Outdoor Center to get the most current rates.

Buffalo Outdoor Center also has cabins for folks not interested in camping while out exploring the area.

Are you hiking near Ponca? Then you’ll love adding these hikes to your camping trip:

Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag

Glory Hole Falls Unique Sinkhole Waterfall

Lost Valley Trail in Buffalo National River

How Much Does It Cost to Enter Buffalo National River?

There is no entrance fee to enter the Buffalo National River Park boundaries.

Even though Buffalo National River is part of the National Park Service (NPS), hiking is free, and so is some of the camping (as mentioned above).

Final Thoughts on Arkansas Buffalo River Camping

The Buffalo National River is near and dear to our hearts. It is one of the closest national parks to where we live in Oklahoma, and we love how rural and remote the camping and hiking are.

Along with jaw-dropping backcountry hikes, there are some pretty incredible places to camp right next to the Buffalo River. The water is the most beautiful teal color. Our pictures are not photoshopped!

The first time we ever saw the Arkansas Buffalo River, our jaws dropped because we couldn’t believe how clear and blue the water was. We literally felt like we had been transported to a glacier in another country. The Buffalo National River is an extraordinary place.

Thanks for reading and happy camping!

Ashlee + Pablo


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Are you planning to camp at any of these places soon?

We’d love to hear about your Arkansas Buffalo River camping adventures!

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation writer and founder of The Happiness Function based in Oklahoma. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and has a passion for the outdoors. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking.

12 Comments

  1. Burt Randall on March 2, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    I love you all sharing your Youtube videos !!

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 4, 2022 at 6:30 pm

      Hey Uncle Burt! Thanks for checking out our YouTube Channel. We are so excited about it!

  2. Jade on March 23, 2022 at 10:42 am

    Thank you for sharing this! I’ll be sure to refer back to this post the next time I’m in Arkansas.

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 23, 2022 at 11:45 am

      Thanks for reading, Jade! Have a great trip.

  3. Jen Nilsson on March 23, 2022 at 11:15 am

    When I was traveling in the van, I relied so much on posts like these. Thank you so much for doing what you do! I saved this for if (when!) I find myself on the Buffalo River!

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 23, 2022 at 11:46 am

      Jen – thanks for reading and commenting! You will love visiting Buffalo National River!

  4. Angela on March 23, 2022 at 12:44 pm

    Looks like some great places to camp – love the rock formations and rivers nearby.

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 23, 2022 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks for reading, Angela. We hope you have a great time camping along the Arkansas Buffalo River!

  5. Brittany on March 23, 2022 at 7:53 pm

    Arkansas looks so beautiful! I’ve never heard of the Buffalo River, but I would love to travel here after reading your post. I love how blue the water is. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 26, 2022 at 9:30 am

      Hi Brittany – We hope you have a great visit to the Buffalo National River when you visit sometime 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  6. Marianne on March 24, 2022 at 9:50 am

    Lots of great information. We only passed through Arkansas briefly on a road trip, so I would like to go back and do some exploring.

    • Ashlee Fechino on March 26, 2022 at 9:31 am

      Hi Marianne – thanks for reading. You’ll have to stop along the Arkansas Buffalo River next time you visit!

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