Wakarusa festivalgoers relax by the waterfall after a strenuous hike down

All photos: Anna Norris

When it comes to music festivals, one in particular takes the cake for its immersion in nature: Wakarusa. Nestled within the Ozarks of Arkansas, Wakarusa takes place on Mulberry Mountain, a paradise of creeks and trees and sweeping fields.

Named for a Native American word describing the depth of a river, Wakarusa has been around for more than 10 years. With camping setups perfect for hammocks, a strenuous hike that rewards you with a waterfall and a vast river for swimming, Wakarusa is a camper's dream.

The entrance to the Wakarusa festival is marked by a giant, colorful sign

Thousands of festivalgoers travel to Wakarusa from across the country to epically kick off their summers, with four days filled with more than 150 musical acts. Going well into the night, Wakarusa's music lineup pushes it to the top of the summer festival list — but the connection the festival fosters with nature is truly what sets it apart from the rest.

West Woods Camping at Wakarusa has great hammock spots

Wakarusa offers three main camping experiences: Riverside, West Woods and Main Venue. West Woods camping is the campsite that caters to outdoorsy types. Filled with trees for hammocks and shade, it's a true camping experience, festival-style. 

Main camping area at Wakarusa

The Main Venue camping area is not too shabby either, though it is by far the most active of all the campsites, with festivalgoers coming and going at all hours of day and night. 


Riverside Camping at Wakarusa shows a beautiful view of the mountain

Riverside camping boasts sweeping fields and a gorgeous view of the mountain, just a few minutes' walk from the Mulberry River. A shuttle takes campers to the festival grounds.

With hot weather, the river is great spot for a shady hike and a dip in the cold water

Campers at Riverside aren't the only ones who can enjoy the river — the shuttle goes both ways. The cold water offers welcome relief on hot Arkansas afternoons.

Wakarusa festivalgoers swim in the river

A brief swim across the current of the river opens up a world of possibilities for exploration. Festivalgoers jump into the water, hike trails and relax in hammocks on this side of the festival.

Ferris wheel at Wakarusa

A walk back through the festival grounds brings a burst of color on the way to a hike through the Ozark National Forest. A Ferris wheel ride is the perfect opportunity to sit back and relax.

Hiking through the woods at Wakarusa

A mile-long trail takes festivalgoers to a beautiful waterfall (seen in the opening photograph). Though the trail is short, it dips down on a steep grade and offers a challenge even for experienced hikers.

A creek runs through the woods, where Wakarusa festivalgoers have built cairns

Once the trail levels out, beautiful scenery immediately rewards those who have powered through. Cairns comfort passersby, meticulously stacked on the creek's edge. The trails continue on for a few miles past the waterfall, but most people make the uphill trek back to the festival after a quick dip in the cool water.


 A woman walks through the Wakarusa crowd with a crazy costume

Inside the festival, an entirely different world exists. Whimsical and free-spirited, Wakafarians are entertaining in and of themselves — music aside! 

Sunset at Wakarusa

After a day of adventuring in nature, the festival has really only just begun. Whether you're the type to lay down a blanket and enjoy the music or the kind of person who grooves on through the night, there's a patch of grass perfect for everyone at Wakarusa.

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Anna Norris is an associate editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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