After traveling through Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, we finally arrived to our next destination: Hot Springs, Arkansas. This was the beginning of the next leg of our USA by RV trip, which I am calling Mid-Country. This section covers a nearly 1500-mile journey across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas on the way to Colorado.
TIP: Due to the abundance of hiking trails all along this itinerary, I highly recommend downloading a phone app “AllTrails” (Download AllTrails here: Android, IPhone). The database on the trails is enormous and you will find the information about length, difficulty levels and read reviews of pretty much any hiking trail in the USA. I found the app to be extremely useful!
The USA by RV: Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs is a popular vacation getaway, surrounded by Ouachita Mountains, and is set among several natural hot springs, after which the city is named. The spring water has been believed for centuries to have healing properties and even became a legend among Native American tribes.
Where We Stayed in Hot Springs, Arkansas
There are many great parks around Hot Springs, Arkansas, due to the city’s location amongst beautiful mountains, forests and lakes. Because of the popularity of the place, sometimes it is hard to find a spot! But we got lucky with a great waterfront site in Lake Catherine State Park.
The Park hosts a couple of easy, but very picturesque hiking trails. The most popular of these is the Fall Branch Trail. It is only a 1.6 mile loop, but it is packed with beautiful views along valley streams, mountain ridges and the shoreline of Lake Catherine. Don’t forget to pick up the trail guide in the office. It will tell you all about this unique natural area and explain the stops along the way.
What to Do in Hot Springs, Arkansas
- Enjoy a thermal bath. The biggest thing Hot Springs is famous for are, or course, the thermal baths. There are several bath houses, located right next to each other. We chose Quapaw Baths. It features four thermal pools with different temperatures. It also has a café and a free drink station with the mineral water from the springs. Due to social distancing during COVID-19, they limited the number of visitors to the Baths, so we had to wait about 30 minutes for someone to come out so we could go in. In the end it was worth the wait! Often we were completely alone in a pool! You can get massage and SPA services there, as well. The entrance to Quapaw Baths costs $20 per person and you can stay as long as you want.
- Take a drive and hike a trail or two in Hot Springs National Park. Hot Springs National Park is the oldest Federal Reserve in the United States and a really beautiful natural park. There is a scenic drive you can take with parking stops at the hiking trailheads. Most of the hiking trails had steep ups and downs, but there are a couple that go pretty evenly around the mountain. We chose a moderate 3-mile long Hot Springs Mountain Trail. The trail was very enjoyable and the views were spectacular.
- Visit the Gangster Museum of America. You can learn how in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s mineral water, gambling, bootlegging, and other extreme pleasures brought visitors from all over the world. Some of the most notorious criminals in America used to come here and co-existed with the quaint population of this little valley town. The general admission ticket is $15.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HOT SPRINGS ACTIVITIES ON TRIPADVISOR!
No matter how much we wanted to stay longer in Hot Springs, soon we had to leave. The Labor Day Weekend was fully booked at Lake Catherine State Park. My advice to you: try to book any possible holiday dates well in advance, so you don’t run the risk to become “homeless”!
The USA by RV: Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma
Our plan was to cross Oklahoma on the way from Arkansas to Kansas. We called probably close to 10 campgrounds and finally found a park near Lake Eufaula. They had sites with no sewer, but since we only booked for three days to wait out the Labor Day Weekend, the lack of sewer was no problem. Pretty much every no-sewer campground has a pumping station somewhere near the entrance/exit, so you can empty your holding tank on the way out.
Where We Stayed at Lake Eufaula
The Arrowhead Area at Lake Eufaula State Park has several campground areas, both with full hook-ups and water-electric only. We had a water-electric only site, but the campground was nice and rather quiet, even with all the Labor Day craziness. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here.
What to Do at Lake Eufaula
- BOAT. Lake Eufaula is an enormous man-made lake, covering 105,500 acres and boasting 800 miles of shoreline. Just like the famous Lake of the Ozarks (and a lot of other lakes around Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas), it was created by constructing a dam and a hydroelectric plant. So, naturally, water sports are big here. There are plenty of places to rent a boat and enjoy a day on the water.
- HIKE. We found several hiking trails right at our campground at Arrowhead Area. We tried out an easy short 0.5-mile loop called Arrowhead Nature Trail. The cool thing about this particular trail is that there are signs with trivia questions (and answers!) along the way, so you can actually learn some interesting facts about the State of Oklahoma.
- TAKE A SCENIC DRIVE. Carlton Landing is a new luxury neighborhood, nestled on the shores of Lake Eufaula. The scenic overlook on the road to the neighborhood is one of the best-kept secrets around! Relax on a comfortable rocking chair and enjoy the spectacular view. You don’t have to be a resident to visit.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT LAKE EUFAULA ACTIVITIES ON TRIPADVISOR!
When my friends heard that we are going to cross Kansas from East to West, they all said: “good luck! There is nothing to see. It’s pretty boring!” But I would like to prove them wrong. There are plenty of really cool places to see in Kansas, as you will find below!
The USA by RV: Milford Lake, Kansas
When we arrived to Milford Lake, the weather turned bad. A cold front was blowing through Colorado, sending a lot of rain to Kansas. It rained literally for four days non-stop. But we still had a couple of very nice days filled with activities.
Where We Stayed at Milford Lake
The lake is surrounded by several campgrounds. We chose Flagstop RV Resort. The campground is full with RVs, but most of the people only come for weekends from Nebraska and use the RVs only as a weekend summer getaway. Needless to say, while it’s pretty quiet during the week, there is a lot of partying going on during weekends. There was even a live band on Saturday night, right at the campground! The lake is beautiful and serene, and there is plenty of space for walking.
What to Do at Milford Lake
- Go to The Oz Museum. Since the weather was bad, we decided to do some chores, such as service our car and do some shopping. In the meantime, we ran into a really cool Oz Museum! It’s a lot of fun, especially if you like the movie. For lunch, eat at Toto’s TacOz next door!
- Have some fun at the Rock City. It was surprising to learn that once upon a time parts of Kansas were covered by sea. The sea water contained calcium carbonate, which is a cementing agent. Slowly but surely it cemented loose grains of sand to small fossils or shells. With time those structures grew and became these incredible sandstone formations! When water disappeared and rain and wind eroded the land, these unusually round rocks surfaced. They are really cool and fun to climb, too!
- Visit the Mushroom Rock State Park. The park is similar to the Rock City and hosts some “mushroom-looking” rock formations which are truly unique. Both parks have walking and hiking trails.
The USA by RV: Lake Scott, Kansas
We had to break our drive from Milford Lake to Colorado, so we found a place right in the middle for a couple of days.
Where We Stayed at Lake Scott
We stayed at the Lake Scott State Park campground, which proved to be a real “oasis” in the midst of the Great Plains. We absolutely loved it!
What to Do Around Lake Scott
- Take a walk or a bike ride. Lake Scott has a perfect bike trail around the lake. You can enjoy a couple of hours of beautiful view and a moderate workout. A trail goes through a small , but authentic pueblo village.
- Rent a kayak. Lake Scott State Park offers kayaks and other water toys for rent.
- Visit Monument Rocks. As I already said before, once upon a time this area was covered by water, which was the Western Interior Seaway. This sea left us unique rock formations, made of the native Niobrara Chalk. The Monument Rocks are located on private land, but you are free to roam the area from dawn to dusk!
- Explore the Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park. Badlands are highly eroded land that is literally impassable. I guess, this particular one was named so, because it reminded someone of mountains in the Middle East. There is a short trail that leads to the overlook point, but I highly recommend taking the long 3-mile one that goes across the whole park (1.5 miles each way). It’s easy and leveled and there are several benches along the way.
- Look at fossils at Keystone Gallery. It’s a small museum/store where you can see some really cool fossils of interesting dinosaur species and even some monster fish! There are also some minerals and souvenirs for sale.
- Discover Scott City. The town has several FREE museums such as El Quartelejo Museum (history from Native Americans to Pioneers) and the Jerry Thomas Gallery and Collection (Art Gallery).
Finally, after our last stretch (and crossing a town with a cute name “Kanorado” LOL), we were finally in Colorado. To get to Estes Park, you can take either Hwy 36 or Hwy 34, the first being the more popular choice. However, we decided to take Hwy 34. We knew that we were going to take Hwy 36 on the way out and wanted a different way in. We didn’t regret! The road winds through the steep granite walls the Big Thompson Canyon and the drive is really impressive. More about our nearly 3-week RV trip through Colorado in the next post!
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