A Trip for Two

Appears in the February 2022 issue.

Real talk: Arkansas might not be the first destination that comes to mind for a Valentine’s Day getaway. But for nature-loving couples, romantic adventures abound in its state parks. Load up the car for a 10-hour road trip or fly nonstop to Little Rock and rent a car to drive from there. 

If you’re feeling lucky and don’t mind getting muddy, head to Crater of Diamonds State Park (209 State Park Rd., Murfreesboro) for a DIY diamond mining session in a volcanic crater field, about two hours from Little Rock. “It is the perfect place for couples to search for bling they can keep,” says Monika Rued, public information officer for Arkansas State Parks (arkansasstateparks.com). She’s not kidding—the park is one of the only public diamond mines where visitors can keep any gemstones they find. A 2-carat gem was found in 2021, and a 4.5-carat yellow diamond was found in 2020. You can rent the requisite mining gear—from screens to shovels to kneeling pads—and learn about mining techniques at the Diamond Discovery Center. 

“In winter, temperatures aren’t so hot and we get more rain,” Rued says. “One of the best times to find a diamond is after a hard rain because the dirt doesn’t stick to the diamonds, so several of our large diamond finds were found right on top of the dirt—they saw it sparkling and they just picked it up.” The staff will help identify and register any gemstones you find before you take them home. 

February is also prime time to spy wintering eagles, so consider signing up for an eagle-watching tour, hosted on weekends at Hobbs State Park (2021 AR-12, Rogers). You’ll board a pontoon boat with a volunteer interpreter to cruise Beaver Lake. “It’s chilly on the boat, but the payoff is awesome to see our nation’s symbol in the wild,” Rued says. 

A two-hour drive from Little Rock, Mount Magazine State Park (557 Lodge Drive, Paris, mountmagazinestatepark.com) offers plenty of opportunities to soak up nature together at the highest peak in Arkansas. “There is hiking along the bluffs that’s fairly easy, and on the trail that goes to the highest peak, there is a little mailbox where you can sign in that you were there,” Rued says. Rent a room at the Lodge at Mount Magazine or reserve one of 13 mountain cabins with stone fireplaces and wraparound decks with hot tubs. “You can sit in there and stargaze; there is plenty of night sky with not much light pollution,” Rued says.

Photo courtesy Tourism Arkansas