The Ozarks offer a different kind of charm in the winter

A winter sunset over the Ozark Mountains

All photos: Rush Urschel

Winter is here, and with it come some incredible opportunities for camping and all kinds of outdoor experiences. Whether it decides to stay mild, or drift into a more frigid form, the year’s final month presents outdoor travelers with some unexpected winter gifts.

The lack of leaves rustling and insects buzzing creates a whole new level of silence that outdoor enthusiast are typically drawn to – especially during such a hustle-n-bustle time of year. Trails and campsites are generally less crowded. The prospect of a bug free outing should put a smile on experienced campers face. And perhaps best of all, your chances and opportunity to see more wildlife improve significantly, as it is easier to spot and track animals while the trees are bare.

Time by the campfires has a special scent and glow during the winter. As cold becomes more prominent, a certain respect and adoration for the warmth grows. Sweaters, scarves, beanies, and gloves become equal parts fun and essential to tote along. Warm food serves a purpose beyond nutrients as its heat seems to fuel your own internal furnace. Not much needs to be said about a hot tea, coffee, cocoa, or cider (with or without a splash of rum) on a colder winter morning to illustrate its value – as it stands as one of life’s most universally loved simple pleasures.

Buffalo Outdoor Center

Photo: Rush Urschel

There are a lot of ways to embrace the cold. It all starts with your basecamp, and when and where you will centerpiece your outdoor experience.

There are a lot of roads to go down, whether it’s a day trip, an evening or two in one of the Ozark’s incredible cabins, overnight car camping, or multi-day backpacking.

Decide which route you want to take, pick the time and day, and get moving. The Ozarks are waiting for all in Arkansas and offer plenty to explore.

Day Trips

Simply driving out and into the Ozarks is a positive experience in itself. The road and open skies unwind you more and more the deeper you drive. Set your sail towards Buffalo Outdoor Center, a proper gateway to the Ozarks. There, you can find first hand information, directions, and maps to many of the Ozark Mountain and Buffalo River treasures.

For day trips, any outing to Lost Valley, the Goat Trail, or Whitaker Point is one of value. And there is plenty to explore beyond that as the Ozark National Forest offers years worth of day trips to any adventurer out there.


If you are looking to tip-toe into a totally immersed, outdoor winter experience, I suggest a cabin to bridge the gap. Cabins of tiny, massive, medium, small, large, cozy, epic, and surreal status are sprinkled throughout the Ozarks. It’s a beautifully simple romantic getaway for any couple as many offer hot-tubs, and the opportunity to drink wine under the stars.

Photo: Rush Urschel

For larger groups of friends and family, a bunk-bed laden, multi-storied cabin is an affordable and imaginative getaway that stirs the inner child in us all.

The Buffalo Outdoor Center and Cedar Crest Lodge are good places to start your search.


The next step is to camp and sleep outside in one way or another. You can do this through car-camping. Just pick a spot you can drive up to with all your gear and goods, and set up for the night.

Destinations like Steel Creek, Kyle’s Landing, and Mt. Hersey of a variety of top tier camp spots. Load up on firewood, campfire foods (especially S’mores), and proper gear and gift yourself the good time.

Multi-day backpacking

If you are looking to produce a multi-day journey, research into the Buffalo River Trail to plot your course. One of the most special characteristics of the awesomeness that is outdoor experience is that you have to earn it. You have to dedicate time to research, drive, land, unload, pack up, and go. But this exchange is not a one way street. Each ounce of time and effort you donate to the outdoors is returned ten-fold. We are all made better because of our time in nature.

One of Fayetteville’s (and all of Arkansas’ as a whole) most promising characteristics is how powerfully we have been impressed upon by nature, and the positive, friendly effect it has left on our culture.

A playground that promises to enhance your winter season awaits for all of these adventures. Don’t think, just go. See the world anew with a fresh, crisp, and most awakened perspective.

Devin O’Dea (@devinthe_____) is an outdoor adventurer, yogi, and the co-owner of Fayetteville-based outdoor culture company, Fayettechill.

This article is sponsored by First Security Bank. For more great stories of Arkansas food, travel, sports, music and more, visit