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Need inexpensive trip: Northeastern Arkansas or Amarillo/Palo Duro Canyon?

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Feb 23rd, 2012, 09:11 AM
  #1
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Need inexpensive trip: Northeastern Arkansas or Amarillo/Palo Duro Canyon?

I am thinking of planning an inexpensive spring break trip. I first thought of the Amarillo area - Route 66, Cadillac Ranch and Palo Duro Canyon.

Then I thought of NE Arkansas..drive via Ft. Smith, see Univ. of Arkansas in Fayetteville, the new museum in Bentonville, hike in a state park, visit Eureka Springs.

Any thoughts? We're in the Dallas Ft. Worth area, so it would be about a 6 hour drive to either area. Thinking March 11-16.
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Feb 23rd, 2012, 10:09 AM
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I was going to say stick with north WEST Arkansas but I think that is what you meant.

Palo Duro Canyon is fine but not much else to do. Cadillac Ranch is a bunch of cars stuck in the ground covered in graffiti. I was disappointed.

We are in the north east Texas area as well. Our three favorite state parks are all situated on top of "mountains" along the Arkansas River---Petit Jean State Park (great hike to a waterfall), Mt. Magazine State Park (highest point in Ark.), Mt. Nebo State Park. They are around 40 miles from each other but each is different. Petit Jean is voted the best state park in Ark every year.

If you like to canoe/kayak, the Buffalo River National Recreation Area is a great place.

Eureka Springs is a neat town with great architecture and lots of touristy things going on.

A drive from Mena, Ark to Talihina, OK along the ridge of a mountain range is called the Talimena Drive. You might include this on your drive up or back.

If you are ever looking for a fall trip, this a beautiful area!

Make reservations early. This area is popular.
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Feb 23rd, 2012, 10:13 AM
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It gets down to a simple question: which do you want more, desert scenery or history / culture?

There's lots to do in NE Arkansas, with Eureka Springs being a central point. *IF* you are interested in getting visual imagery of Bible history from an explicitly Christian perspective (but still historically accurate), then it can be fascinating. There's also a fair amount of forest scenery there, so you can do some hiking. There's also a battlefield park if you're interesting in the ACW.

But Palo Duro Canyon has scenery that beats anything in that area. Again, *IF* you enjoy desert hiking, you can see some neat views here. The problem is, that's about ALL you can get. If you realize that desert hiking is not your idea of fun, you're kind of stuck.
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Feb 23rd, 2012, 11:06 AM
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Yes, I meant northwestern. I think I keep making that mistake because Arkansas is east of us. I'm having a hard time getting anyone up for Palo Duro, because three years ago we hiked down and up the Grand Canyon on spring break.

I figure with Arkansas, we can see a bit of history (Ft. Smith and/or a battlefield), start the college visits (walk around U of Arkansas) (we'll have a HS kid with us), experience a bit of culture (the new museum in Bentonville),and be touristy (Eureka Springs.)

I really don't know if I can sell this trip at all to the family. On prior spring breaks we have gone to Paris, Barcelona, Costa Rica and cool places in the US. But those were better times financially.
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Feb 23rd, 2012, 05:30 PM
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I too have hiked to the bottom and back up of the Grand Canyon during my spring break. That was enough of that sort of thing!

How about the coast. It takes about the same amount of time to get to Galveston. It can still be a little chilly to get in the water but there are other things to do in the Galvesotn/Houston area.
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Feb 23rd, 2012, 05:32 PM
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Just a couple hours north of Eureka Springs is Branson, Missouri.
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Feb 23rd, 2012, 08:26 PM
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Thanks but just trying to choose between those locations.
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Feb 24th, 2012, 05:09 AM
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I live 5 miles from Fort Smith and hike a ton in AR all the time.
Here would be the highlights IMOP for all the places you mention

In Fort Smith-See Judge Parker/Historical Site
Northwest Arkansas-The brand new Crystal Bridges Museum

Here are the absolute best hikes in Arkansas IMOP. I have hiked hundred of miles in AR and have hiked all of these trails multiple times. I will rank them in order starting with the best.

Gloryhole Falls-This is the best small waterfall I have seen anywhere. search for it on youtube.

Triple Falls-This is only 1 quarter mile walk. They are called twin falls, but they are really triple falls. Catch this waterfall just after a rain and I guarantee you it is as pretty as anything in Hawaii or Costa Rica.

The Lost Valley-3 waterfalls. You need a flashlight for this one. The last waterfall is at the back of a short cave.

Pedestal Rock- 2 Loop trails. 3rd tallest waterfall in Arkansas is on this trail.

Hemmed in Hollow-you can hike the difficult 5 mile hike or better option is to kayak/canoe to it. This is the tallest waterfall between the Appalachains and Rockys.

Hawksbill Crag (aka Whitaker Point)-This was on the cover of Rand Mcnally Road Atlus about 7 or 8 years ago. very pretty.

All of the above are near Jasper, Ponca- The Upper Buffalo River. www.buffaloriver.com has very nice cabins. You would need to bring your own food as there are just a few options for dining. Bill Clinton stays in the cabins occasionally.

Cedar Falls trail at Petit Jean. The trail there with the Turtle Rocks is good also. The lodge here is very old, but was supposed to be refurbished this past year(may still be ongoing-not sure). The food there is ok

Mt. Nebo has very nice hiking trails for views.
Mt Magazine has nice trails for views as well. The lodge there is very nice. The food there is ok. Personally, I like Nebo and Magazine better in the fall for fall foliage. I like to hike Buffalo River area in the spring for the waterfalls. Petit Jean can be done at any time. All of the above have good camping spots.

Hot Springs National Park isn't much in my opinion. A lot of people like Eureka Springs. It is one of our least favorite places. We do like Branson. If you go to Branson. Don't miss seeing The Haygoods.

I have been to 29 of our National Parks. While some of them do have some really awesome sights, Northeast AR (you say northeast, but i think you meant northwest)is really nice and ranks pretty high up on some of the places I have seen.

Here is the deal with the waterfalls. They will be going ok if we don't have much rain. If we have just a bit of rain then the Buffalo River is a great place to kayak or canoe. Do spend the extra $10 or $20 to rent a wetsuit(just in case you were to turn over). If we have had a lot of rain, then hike to all of the waterfalls. All of these falls you can get up close and personal with.

Buy a guidebook by Tim Ernst. He has just a regular hiking guide and a waterfall guide. I suggest the waterfall guide. You can find all of the hikes I mention on youtube and thru google.

Talimena Drive is better in the fall. Really there isn't much at all there.

All of the hike I mention are not very difficult. Hemmed in Hollow would be the exception. It isn't that hard, but certainly wouldn't be rated easy.

If you have an extra couple of hours while in Fort Smith. Cross over the border to Spiro(yep I live there). See the Spiro Mounds. This is a state park. It is pretty interesting and way off the beaten path type of thing. Contact Dennis Peterson there for info, to make sure they are open. They have a huge kite flight one Saturday during March(not sure when that is this year).

For Dinner in Fort Smith, I would suggest Emmy's(German) or Talianos(Italian). Both owned by the same family and are right by each other

www.buffaloriver.com offers a small zipline course too. If you do go there, be sure and visit his bird that he has in his store. It will sit on your arm and visit with you.

As far as the 11th. That is a week earlier than most spring breaks here. So, it shouldn't be that crowded thoughout the week. The weekends can seem a bit crowded. My Birthday is on the 16, and I plan on camping somewhere in the area that weekend myself.

Don't miss the elk in the Buffalo River Valley area just outside of Ponca.
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Feb 24th, 2012, 05:10 AM
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I meant to add that while the waterfalls would be going ok, they will be much much better after a rain of 1/2 inch or more. Catch them after 2 inches and they are just spectacular. I would even go as far as to say hike to them while it is raining. It is worth it.
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Feb 24th, 2012, 09:21 AM
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spirobulldog, you are awesome. I'm going to print this for future use. We live between Dallas and Texarkana and come your way often.
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Feb 24th, 2012, 11:07 AM
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Thanks so much!!!!! Where in Arkansas was the flash flood that killed some campers a few years back?
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Feb 24th, 2012, 11:10 AM
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I noticed that I got confused and said Northeast when I actually meant Northwest myself.

I should say that the road to Hawksbill and the road to Triple Falls is a bit rough. I have a jeep so that isn't a problem. You could make it fine in some passenger cars, but I don't think I would want to take my daughters smartcar to either is my point.

If you ever need directions to Gloryhole Falls, I can provide them. There isn't a sign for that one. Really nothing to finding it, but you just need to know where it is.

I do highly recommend the Tim Ernst waterfall book.
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Feb 24th, 2012, 02:14 PM
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Albert Pike Campground. This is south. Kinda in the middle of nowhere. I guess Hot Springs would be the closest city. That was a really freak thing. I don't see how that could have been prevented.
A popular trail there is Hunt's Loop. I hope to do that one soon. It's a backpack trail.
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Feb 28th, 2012, 09:37 AM
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Can anyone recommend restaurants in Ft. Smith, Fayetteville, Bentonville or Eureka Springs? Looking for casual but good, local specialties, not formal.
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Feb 28th, 2012, 10:36 AM
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You might want to check out the A&Q Chicken House. I have never been there, but I know it is a popular restaurant for NW Arkansas. I live in NE Oklahoma and have heard people talk about it for years.
I don't mean to hijack your thread, but I was wondering has Spiro or anybody else done Crater of Diamonds state park in AR? Is it worth a trip if you are in the area?
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Feb 28th, 2012, 11:00 AM
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> anybody else done Crater of Diamonds state park

Been there. You basically pay a fee, walk into a gravel pit with any hand tools you can carry, and look for shiny objects. At the end of the day (no time limit), the Rangers will tell you what you've found. If you happen to find a sixteen carat white diamond, it's yours to keep.

If you like to fantasize about digging up buried treasure, then this is the place. If you don't want to get dirty, there's not much beyond the gift shop.
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Feb 28th, 2012, 12:49 PM
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Crater of Diamonds is worth a drive, especially if you find a diamond. They seem to have been finding some larger ones in the past year or two. You might be able to see a bit of it on The Duggars aka 250 Kids and Counting.

Places to eat in Fort Smith:

Taliano's-Italian
Emmy's- German
These two are owned by the same family and are located on the same property. I really like the fried cheese appetizer at Emmys. Rahm Schnitzel is good there. And then they have a couple of dishes with a fried egg on top that are good.
I probably like Talianos a bit more than Emmys. I especially like their Alfredo w/Clams, Canneloni, and Lasagna.
A good option is their Italian Platter. The side dish Creamed Spinach is good.
I don't like thier Chicken Caccitori though.
Most of the entrees are around $12-$16 at both places.

An inexpensive option is a great asian place called Taipai. They are open for lunch or dinner. They are usually not open on the weekends. It might be wise to call ahead just to make sure they are open. They don't answer their phone between 2 and 5.

I have eaten at the 3 mentioned above hundreds of times in the past 35 years. Have eaten every single thing on their menus.

A good place for a burger is a place called George's.

Pink Flamingo is a decent BBQ joint.

If you want a home cooked type meal try Calico County.

A lot of people will tell you to eat at Doe's for steaks. I wouldn't give you two cents for it. The Red Barn is no good any more either. A lot of people like Rolando's. I just give it a fair.

Please remember when reading Trip Advisor or Yelp that Fort Smith is one of the most backward places in the entire world. People here think that Red Lobser is really great "fresh" fish and that eating at Olive Garden is like eating in Italy. Of Course Furr's Buffet with the All you can eat Steaks is "the place to get a steak" I like those places just fine too, but I do know the difference.



We really liked the restaurant that was in Crystal Bridges.
AQ Chick is just ok. I don't think it's like it use to be. To be fair, it's been a while since we've eaten there though.
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Feb 28th, 2012, 12:58 PM
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That should said Taipei Chinese Restaurant
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Feb 28th, 2012, 01:36 PM
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Thanks so much. I think that the Trip Advisor restaurant reviews are like that for most towns and small cities...the places where you get a large quantity of food for a fairly low price tend to get high marks.
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Mar 8th, 2012, 05:57 PM
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Missypie-
The waterfalls should be going really good on Monday(especially if we get more rain). They will still be going decent on Tues and Weds as well. Heck, theres a pretty good chance I'll be hiking there this weekend and monday. It has rained a lot here today and is supposed to rain more on Sunday. Even if it is raining-go hike a few of the falls, they are spectacular when going good. I drive a Red Jeep with a red top, I'm a short bald headed guy if you happen to run into me. Have a good trip!!
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