Located only an hour from Fort Smith on the Oklahoma border, the little town of Clarksville, Arkansas makes a great stop to break up your road trip as you head east to Little Rock or Memphis. Close to mountain hikes, waterfall adventures, and city-life, Clarksville, Arkansas is a perfect location for your next Ozark Mountain adventure trip.

Although Clarksville isn’t in the mountains itself, it’s right at the base of the Ozarks. It’s been called the “southern gateway to the Ozarks” and, only a few miles north of the Arkansas River, it’s a great place to explore Arkansas waterways and mountain beauty.

After exploring Clarksville, make sure you head north to explore the four best hidden waterfall adventures in Clarksville, AR. All the details and a waterfall itinerary on this post.

Playing in the Waterfall at Haw Creek Falls in Arkansas
Playing in the Waterfall at Haw Creek Falls in Arkansas

Where is Clarksville, Arkansas?

If you’re exploring the beauty of Northwest Arkansas, detour south to see small town Arkansas living. Clarksville, Arkansas is located only miles off Interstate 40 as it runs across Arkansas and is close to lots of fabulous adventures. Clarksville is only about an hour and half south from Bentonville and Fayetteville, and the beauty of the Ozark Mountains continues south as you drive the winding highway through the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest.

Located in Johnson County Arkansas, a trip to Clarksville may also bring you some adventures in the nearby towns of Knoxville, Hagarville, Oark, and Lamar. This is a county of tiny little communities throughout the mountains where people know each other.

Who Should Visit Clarksville?

There’s something for everyone in Clarksville. As the “southern gateway to the Ozarks”, it’s the place to stay before heading out on a day or week-long adventure. It’s located right in the middle between Fort Smith, Fayetteville, and Little Rock. Make Clarksville your home base for your family vacation in Arkansas, and you can explore lots of places with day trips around the area.

With only 25,000 residents, Clarksville, Arkansas has small town feel, but it’s close enough to the highway to quickly be able to find what you need at the big chain stores if needed. It might also be the perfect little small town for you to call home. 

Clarksville - Johnson County Courthouse in Arkansas
Clarksville Johnson County Courthouse in Arkansas

Things to do in Clarksville, Arkansas

In Clarksville, things to do are in town and in the surrounding countryside. Make sure you check out the Clarksville event calendar to be in Clarksville for one of their live music concerts or farmer’s markets. Every July, celebrate the local peach orchard harvests at Peach Festival, the longest running food festival in Arkansas. There’s even an August triathlon along the Spadra Creek that flows through downtown Clarksville.

Johnson County Court Square; Clarksville, AR

The focus of main street Clarksville, the county seat of Johnson County, is the Johnson County Court Square. Take a break from the car to explore the gazebo, veterans’ memorial, and the historic placards that discuss the history of the town – including one horrific story! The surrounding buildings declare their own history with dates and names engraved on their faces.

Checking out the Giant Mural in Downtown Clarksville, AR
Checking out the Giant Mural in Downtown Clarksville AR

Clarksville Mural Walk; Clarksville, AR

As wall art becomes more common in towns around the US, don’t miss this opportunity to see what Clarksville has to offer. Head a couple of blocks away from the courthouse to see the Clarksville town mural that highlights some favorites of the area. Route over to see the one near the post office. Lastly, turn the corner to find three more murals right at the Piney Bay Coffee Company – look on the wall and the alley.

Sears-Reeves Inclusive Playground in Clarksville, Arkansas

The Sears/Reeves Inclusive Playground; Clarksville, AR

The Sears/Reeves Inclusive Playground at Cline Park is the playground kids dream of and an excellent reason to take this detour off the interstate highway. Your kids are going to love all that it offers while you rest in the shade or walk one of the many trails. When Clarksville installed this play area, surrounding towns loved it so much that they were encouraged to install their own inclusive playground.

As an inclusive playground, this large play structure has areas for all disabilities and all ages including swings with harnesses, climbing structures with ramps, and even a no-food policy for kids with serious food allergies. If you can pull the kids away from this area, check out the 18-hole disc golf course,  gazebos, baseball fields, and pavilions. 

This huge, new playground is at the back of the Cline Park, so drive around to the back or walk the short trail to the equipment. Your GPS might take you to a small play structure next to a baseball field. You can get out here and walk around to the back. You can see it from where you are.

With scattered picnic tables under shady trees, this is a great place to have a picnic or even come to get some work done while the kids play. But prepare yourself to stay for a while! This really is one of the best playgrounds I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen a lot!

Historic Munger-Wilson Chapel at University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, AR
Historic Munger Wilson Chapel at University of the Ozarks in Clarksville AR

University of the Ozarks; Clarksville, AR

In the north part of town close to the main street, lies University of the Ozarks, a small private university dating back to 1891. With fewer than a thousand students, this tree-lined school is worth a walk around – or a scooter-around. Check out Munger Chapel which has been designated a National Historic Place. Wander past the beautiful buildings, and contact the University of the Ozarks ahead of time if you have a kid old enough to want a personalized tour. 

US Forest Service; Clarksville, AR

Located at 2591 AR-21, Clarksville, AR, this Forest Service is a great place for a quick stop on your way into the mountains. Make sure you have good paper maps to help plan your day. With a few educational exhibits about the animals in the area, make the kids get out of the car to go do some learning. Staffed with rangers, this is a great place to ask your questions about the area and about your day ahead.

Even if it’s early in the day or later after closing, there is a sign at the entrance with a few maps to help your adventure as well as updated information. If you’re headed on an adventure, use the bathroom here!

Homemade cinnamon rolls at Delicioso Bakery in Clarksville, Arkansas
Homemade cinnamon rolls at Delicioso Cupcakery in Clarksville Arkansas

What Restaurants are in Clarksville, Arkansas?

When you’re road tripping down the highway, it’s easy to take a lunch break at a big chain fast food restaurant, but don’t do it! Take a five minute detour to explore the cutest coffee shops and restaurants in Clarksville. Support the little people a have truly memorable experience at some of these small town, family-run places.

Delicioso Cupcakery and Coffee Shop; Clarksville, AR

Step into Delicioso Cupcakery, a local coffee shop offering up some breakfast goodies from the nicest ladies! Homemade muffins, croissant sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, and breakfast burritos are waiting for you. Join the locals and grab your morning coffee to go if you don’t have time to stay and enjoy the festive decor. Try to resist a cupcake – or grab one if you can’t!

Eating Ice Cream at La Michocana in Clarksville, Arkansas
Eating Ice Cream at La Michocana in Clarksville Arkansas

La Michoacana Mexican Grill; Clarksville, AR

Eat local at La Michoacana right on the main street through Clarksville, and try one of their tacos, burritos, or enchiladas. Most importantly, make sure you stay for dessert or stop in for a cold snack! With ice creams made in-house, take the time to have a scoop or two before leaving. 

If you’ve never enjoyed an aguas frescas, pick a fruit flavor and have a refreshing drink after this busy day! My Texan-born-self loved finding this hard-to-find refreshment in small town Arkansas. And bonus! With a little patio, take the drinks and snacks outside when the weather is nice.

Piney Bay Coffee patio in Clarksville
Piney Bay Coffee patio in Clarksville

Piney Bay Coffee Company; Clarksville, AR

Set in a renovated downtown brick building, Piney Bay Coffee is all about the atmosphere. Dine outside or inside. Both eating areas are decorated with fabulous art and murals. Coffee lovers rave about their coffee, but there are smoothies for the rest of us. You can even add boba to your drink. Grab a cookie, cupcake, muffin, or scone for me! Small town life means family-run business. Check Facebook for possible hour changes.

Eating Burgers and Salad the Wrecked Canoe Patio Restaurant in Clarksville, AR
Eating Burgers and Salad the Wrecked Canoe Patio Restaurant in Clarksville AR

Wrecked Canoe Bistro + Patio; Clarksville, AR

Don’t just eat; have an experience at Wrecked Canoe. No matter the weather, this all-outdoor venue will stay cozy as you eat on the covered patio. The fun canoe and trip decor add to the experience. When you pull up, don’t be discouraged by the gas station next door. Once you’re inside, you won’t even remember.

Grab a burger, huge salad, or homemade chicken strips. It’s all going to be yummy. Make this live-music venue your supper plan on the weekend, and check the website or Instagram page to see what musical group is lined up for the night. No time to dine in? Step up to the carry out window and take it to go!

Getting sandwiches at Hagarville Grocery and Deli for Lunch
Getting sandwiches at Hagarville Grocery and Deli for Lunch

Hagarville Grocery; Lamar, AR

In the tiny town of Hagarville, Arkansas, Hagarville Grocery is the stop for anything you need for your day’s adventure. Family-owned, this deli will prepare your breakfast or lunch right in front of you.

Grab a breakfast on your way into the mountains with options including breakfast burritos and breakfast sandwiches. The store is famous for its “sammiches”, and these creations aren’t your normal ham and cheese. Coming on a giant hoagie bun, these creative sandwiches are enough for sharing.

Although this historic building is tiny, if you need it, they probably have something that will work. Grab a cold drink and any last-minute supplies. Don’t forget to check the gas tank! This will be the last gas station you’ll see as you head into the Ozarks.

Oark General Store for pies in Oark, Arkansas
Oark General Store for pies in Oark Arkansas

Oark General Store; Oark, AR

Listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places, Oark General Store is the oldest continually operating store in Arkansas and has been in business since 1890. (And yes, it’s “Oark” not “Ozark”. Confusing, right?!) Oark General Store is so full of character – you won’t regret your thirty minute drive into the mountains from Clarksville.

Oark General Store is the place to grab some yummy food, snacks, supplies, and souvenirs. This unique stop is a must-see for delicious hamburgers and homemade pies. If the inside if full, there’s a large covered picnic table area outside, so you can grab your food to go.

Try to avoid showing up right at lunchtime, but make sure you get there before supper as they close at 4 PM. They’re also closed on Tuesday, so plan accordingly. If the parking lot is full, head across the street for overflow parking. Oark General Store makes a great add-on if you’re been exploring Twin Falls.

Hiking to Pam's Grotto in the Arkansas Ozarks
Hiking to Pams Grotto in the Arkansas Ozarks

Best Waterfall Hikes from Clarksville, AR

Let’s head north from Clarksville, Arkansas into the base of the Ozark Mountains where trails and waterfalls are abundant. If you’re looking to have a true hiking adventure without the paved roads and big signs pointing the way, exploring the trails of Clarksville, Arkansas is for you. Grab a paper map at the visitor center, pack up the food and gas, and get ready to go waterfall hunting.

The trails I’m listing below are easily found if you know what you’re looking for, but don’t plan to rely on your phone’s GPS to take you there. You won’t have cell signal to search for your next destination, and some of the trailheads for these Arkansas waterfall trails aren’t clearly marked and a short walk from the parking area.

For full details about each of these hikes, check out my other post. For a full days’ waterfall itinerary, make sure you check out the waterfall day trip from Clarksville!

Climbing the Waterfalls at High Bank Twin Falls near Ozark, Arkansas
Climbing the Waterfalls at High Bank Twin Falls near Ozark Arkansas

I’d love to hear about your Clarksville adventures! Let me know what amazing places I’ve missed.