Roadtrip with RVshare Little Rock to Mark Twain National Forest

The journey from Little Rock to Mark Twain National Forest is an opportunity to see many of the natural and technological wonders of the United States. While some of the journey takes place in the Ozarks of Arkansas, other sections travel through the heart of Missouri and the national forests it holds, culminating in the best of all Missouri woodlands at the Mark Twain National Forest — a 1,491,840-acre wonderland filled with trails, lakes, and streams. On the way, you travel through some marvelous cities with storied pasts. State parks offer incredible comforts with outstanding facilities and amenities. Four national parks are within driving distance, each offering a different view of nature. To experience as much a possible, follow this road trip itinerary from Little Rock to Mark Twain National Forest.

Little Rock to Mark Twain National Forest Road Trip Itinerary

  • Trip length: 6 hours and 5 minutes
  • Mileage: 324 miles
  • Fun fact: In 1885, a Little Rock newspaper offered a free plow for each $12 prepaid subscription.

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Nearby National Parks

Hot Springs National Park

To start your road trip from Little Rock to Mark Twain National Forest, detour 57 miles west to visit Hot Springs National Park. Covering only 5,400 acres, the park is one of the smallest in the system. It features several bathhouses supplied by springs with naturally heated mineral waters. Initially, the pools beneath the springs were used by Native Americans as a bathing place for the ill. Later, the site saw development as a hot bath cure for "whatever ails you." Today, it is a national park that pampers travelers with hot baths, excites them with extensive hiking trails through a dense forest, and lets them relax with a pole in hand to fish the rivers flowing through the park.

Mammoth Cave National Park

To reach Mammoth Cave National Park from Little Rock, travel 429 miles northeast through Tennessee and into Kentucky. The 52,835-acre park is covered with dense hardwood forest through which hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails wander. Babbling streams full of fish accompany many of these paths. The treat of this park is Mammoth Cave, a 400-mile system of caverns that every spelunker wishes they had discovered. While some of the initial caverns, like the Rotunda and Gothic Avenue, are marred by signatures left by 19th-century visitors, the remaining rooms are pristine with layers of flowstone formations accompanied by stalactites and stalagmites.

Gateway Arch National Park

After you reach Mark Twain National Forest, drive 106 miles northwest to visit Saint Louis and Gateway Arch National Park. The arch symbolizes the connection between the east and west coasts of the United States. Indeed, the Lewis and Clark Expedition launched its drive across the continent in 1805-1806. Sightseers can reach the top of the arch via a trolley that stops at an observation post providing incredible views of Saint Louis and the land beyond. The park includes 91 acres of Mississippi waterfront where the buildings are now museums dedicated to important past events in Saint Louis.

Indiana Sand Dunes National Park

Indiana Sand Dunes National Park is 419 miles northeast of Mark Twain National Forest. The 15,000-acre park sits on the southern shores of Lake Michigan. Dunes collected here over time as the currents scoured sand from the lake's bottom, which storms tossed onto the shore. Considered a sacred site by Native Americans and the settlers that followed them, the dunes cover 20 square miles of area with hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails running throughout. Migratory birds use this park on their journeys north or south. You can access the lake at several boat ramps from this park or wander the beaches to fish from its banks.

Nearby State Parks

Lake Catherine State Park  

Lake Catherine State Park sits on the shores of Lake Catherine, one of five natural lakes in the Ouachita Mountains. The park has excellent fishing, including ADA-accessible areas. A swimming beach provides a safe place to take a dip. You can rent pedal boats, motorized boats, kayaks, and canoes to get out on the water. Hiking trails run throughout the 1,940-acre park and along the shores of the lake.

Cane Creek State Park

Cane Creek State Park sits 77 miles southeast of Little Rock on your route from Hot Springs National Park to Mammoth Cave National Park. The park provides 2,053 acres of fun and relaxation. Tucked next to 1,675-acre Cane Creek Lake, the park provides excellent fishing. Kayaks and canoes are available to rent.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is located 75 miles west of Mark Twain National Forest. The 3,700-acre park is unique among the parks you visit on this road trip from Little Rock to Mark Twain National Forest. Inside its borders, you find sinkholes, sheer bluffs, caves, a natural bridge that crosses a roaring stream, and the ruins of a castle. Hiking trails lead you from one interesting point to the next. You can periodically stop to fish the streams from under a canopy of oaks.

Along the Way

Esse Purse Museum and Store

The Esse Purse Museum and Store in Little Rock is one of three such museums in the world and the only one in the United States. The museum demonstrates the changing fashions in handbags women carried through the ages. It profiles the different purses used by women from one decade to the next as an indicator of changing times, attitudes, and technological advances. 

NRA National Sporting Arms Museum

The NRA National Sporting Arms Museum presents a history of hunting techniques used in America from the pre-colonial Native Americans to the present day. Visitors get to see nearly a thousand historically significant firearms. Examples of weapons used during critical events such as the Lewis and Clark Expedition are exhibited with interactive computer simulations of their mechanisms.

Museum of Vacuums

Located in Rolla, Missouri, the Museum of Vacuums includes examples of vacuums from the earliest to the modern high-tech models. The displays demonstrate the subtle advances that the industry saw from one decade to the next since the device's invention. Included in the museum are examples of carpeting with explanations of the advancements seen in the product through time. 

Main Cities You Will Pass Through

Springfield, Missouri

Springfield, MO, is 214 miles into your Little Rock to Mark Twain National Forest RV road trip. Beginning as a fur trading center, the town gradually grew to become an industrial powerhouse. Today, it is the third-largest city in Missouri, with an excellent balance of industry, educational facilities, and green areas. Several universities are located within the town, creating a well-educated workforce. Corporate headquarters for many Fortune 500 companies are located in the city. Outside the town are several accessible lakes, rivers, and parks. Take advantage of dump stations and stay the night at one of the campgrounds in the area.

Saint Louis, Missouri

You are in Saint Louis when you visit the Gateway Arch. Famous as a city with a pioneering attitude, the town was one of the first to construct levees along the Mississippi River to guard against flooding. It was the starting point of exploration in the west, first by mountain men, then by official emissaries like the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and followed by an immense wave of immigrants. Today, the city sports more museums than any other city along the Mississippi River. Stop by the Missouri History Museum to get a full briefing of Saint Louis's important place in the nation's history. You can find several dump stations and campgrounds in Saint Louis.

Springfield, Illinois

You pass through Springfield, IL, on your way to Indiana Sand Dunes National Park. The city is the capital of Illinois, supporting government workers and tourists with an incredible array of restaurants. The cuisines available in Springfield are a mix of nearly every culture in the world. Try the Luminary Kitchen and Provisions for a traditional American meal with amazing deserts or the Vele for an Italian version of what a steak meal should include. While you are in the city, take the time to clean your tanks at one of the local dump stations. To stay a night or two, register at one of the many campgrounds in the area.

Find Adventure from Little Rock to Mark Twain National Forest

Find your One-Way Rental

When you follow this road trip itinerary from Little Rock to Mark Twain National Forest, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Little Rock or Mark Twain National Forest.