Exploring the Great Outdoors with Kids

Rogers and the surrounding area offer all the elements you can imagine when visiting Arkansas, “The Natural State”. From towering pine trees, to beautiful lakes, to cavernous underground rivers, it’s all here in Northwest Arkansas. Our short weekend visit left us wanting to come back for more!

Railyard Bike Park

You’ll definitely want to bring the bikes along and make plans to visit the Railyard Bike Park, located on the eastern edge of the Downtown Rogers area. Admission is free and the course is impressive. There are sectioned off areas for a wide range of skill levels, including an area for inexperienced riders and kids.

During our visit we saw other families, teenagers, and experienced adult riders all having a blast. There’s even a “bike wash” to hose down your ride when you are finished. The park also connects in to several miles of trail so you can do some peaceful riding if dare-deviling isn’t your thing.

Bikes or not, there is a natural playground across the parking lot from the Bike Park that the kids could have played at all day. Large logs make challenging balance beams, and there are also slides, a tunnel, and upturned stumps to jump between. The kids spent over an hour exploring and “playing survival” here before I had to drag them away.

East of town on Highway 12 you’ll find War Eagle Cavern, Hobbs State Park, and War Eagle Mill nestled in the Ozarks hills. We visited after a week of heavy rain, giving us beautiful views of Beaver Lake, wildflowers, and greenery along the drive.

War Eagle Cavern

Our first stop was War Eagle Cavern. It is a privately owned cave and is open from Mid March through the end of November every year. Our family has been on several cave tours in the past year or so, and our experience at War Eagle was one of the best. We arrived just as a tour was starting, so we headed on down the hill to the cave.

At the cave entrance we got a special surprise - four baby foxes were playing on the bluffs above the cave! We were all enthralled to see kits in the wild. The foxes are a hard act to follow, but the entrance to the cave is quite dramatic as well. It is a large opening in the side of the bluff with large slab boulders off to one side, a beautiful clear river runs from the mouth of the cave, with a bright green bed of moss alongside it.

The entire tour through the cave is very open and expansive, no tight spots or feelings of claustrophobia. War Eagle is a young cavern, so there aren’t many formations, but there are great waterfalls and a very active bat population.

In addition to our tour guide being very knowledgeable, he was also very engaging. He asked the children in the tour group to come to the front so that he could talk directly to them and have their “help” on the tour. Our kids ate it up!

After exiting the cave, we were free to explore the various trails around the property, which runs all the way down to Beaver Lake. However, the kids were in a hurry to get back to the gift shop, because they had spied the gem panning area! We purchased what looked like a bag of dirt from the gift shop for $11. Following the staff’s suggestion, each child sifted a hand full at a time, which gave them the chance to pan for gems four times each.

We spent nearly 30 minutes at this activity, and the kids were so excited with their find - about two cups worth of crystals and minerals in all. Once we were finished panning, the kids wanted to take their loot in to show to the guides in the giftshop. The gentleman behind the counter was equally enthusiastic and helped the kids identify several of their stones. Our stop at War Eagle Cavern was definitely a highlight of the trip! 

Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area

From the Cavern, we headed back west toward Rogers. We stopped at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area Visitor Center. The parking lot itself is a wildflower enthusiast’s dream - it’s packed full of blooming native species in Spring. Inside, we found a museum with interactive exhibits and a fun gift shop.

The back wall of the Visitor’s Center is floor to ceiling glass looking out onto a small pond, forest, and several animal feeders. The kids loved using the provided binoculars to spot, birds, a rabbit, a very chubby chipmunk, fish in the pond, and even a snake sunning himself on a rock.

Hobbs also has several hiking and biking trails to choose from, five primitive camp sites, and special events at the Visitor Center from time to time.

War Eagle Mill

Just a few miles further west you’ll find the turn off for War Eagle Mill. The Mill is a great place to shop, see a working flour mill in action, and catch breakfast or lunch in the Bean Palace Cafe, located on the third floor of the Mill. When we visited, we were too late for lunch, but the kids enjoyed seeing the mill machinery run. The shop offers home goods and toys, as well as various “mill” products - flours, bread and soup mixes, and jams and jellies. Many of the flours and mixes are gluten free.

The area surrounding the Mill is beautiful as well. We wandered out on to the adjacent one lane bridge that spans War Eagle Creek, where we got an eye level view of the water wheel and also met some local fisherman.

Pea Ridge National Military Park

The final stop of our trip was at Pea Ridge National Military Park. The Battle at Pea Ridge was a decisive part of Civil War history, securing Missouri for the Union, and the park is the most intact battlefield in the country.

Our kids have participated in the Junior Ranger program at several National Parks, so our first stop was the main desk at the Visitor Center to pay admission and pick up Junior Ranger activity books. We watched a video that depicts the events leading up to and during the battle and then explored the indoor exhibits. Then, it was back to the car to drive the 7 mile loop that circles the park. There are 9 stops that you can explore, including the historic Elkhorn Tavern, which served as a hospital during the battle and was also a stop along the trail of tears. It was here that our son exclaimed, “I can’t believe I am standing in the footsteps of so much history!”

There are also several hiking and horseback riding trails available through the park. We took the short stroll to the East Overlook, which offers a fantastic view of the battlefield from the bluffs above. It’s paved all the way and definitely worth loading out of the car to see.

Back at the Visitor Center, the kids turned in their completed Junior Ranger books to earn a badge and we bought some snacks for the road in the giftshop.

We can’t wait to come back to explore more of the Great Outdoors in and around Rogers!