June 12, 2024
Hot Springs National Park (Photo: Deposit Photos)

Hot Springs National Park (Photo: Deposit Photos)

Hot Springs National Park is a must-see for anyone visiting Arkansas. This guide will help you explore the park's many attractions, from geological wonders to hot springs.

Hot Springs National Park – Arkansas Natural Gem

Hot Springs National Park is a natural gem in Arkansas. It’s home to some of the most famous hot springs in America, as well as beautiful scenery and wildlife.

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Hot Springs National Park  (Photo: Deposit Photo)
Hot Springs National Park (Deposit Photo)

What is Hot Springs National Park?

Hot Springs National Park is a national park located in central Arkansas, United States. The park covers an area of 22.5 sq km and contains hot springs that flow from the western side of the mountain. The main attraction of Hot Springs National Park is the thermal springs, which are fed by a creek covered with arches.

What Is the History of Hot Springs National Park?

The history of Hot Springs National Park began with the hot springs that were discovered by Native Americans. The springs were used for centuries by the Native Americans for their healing properties.

In 1832, Congress set aside four sections of land around the hot springs to be preserved for future generations. However, due to a lack of funding, no legislation was ever passed to establish the park.

In 1878, a fire destroyed most of the downtown area, but left the Arlington and Grand Central Hotels, Hale, Rector, and Big Iron Bathhouses standing. These bathhouses were constructed in the park to meet government standards, and the area rapidly changed from a rough frontier town to an elegant spa city.

The area was later expanded and made into a national park in 1921.

Today, the National Park Service maintains the park and its many features, including the hot springs, trails, and historical buildings.

Quick Facts

  1. Hot Springs National Park is a popular tourist destination and features a variety of attractions, including bathhouses and cooling towers.
  2. The National Park Service estimates that 1,467,153 people visited Hot Springs National Park in 2019. The park is extremely accessible and free, with service animals allowed.
  3. The park has hiking trails, scenic drives, hot water cascade, picnic areas, and campsites at Gulpha Gorge Recreation Area & Campground.
  4. The temperature of the hot springs in Hot Springs National Park ranges from 104-122°F (The temperature cools before reaching the baths and fountains.
  5. The Hot Springs National Park provides year-round access.
  6. The park is accessible for both pedestrians and wheelchair users.
  7. Hot Springs National Park is located in central Arkansas, just outside of Little Rock.
Hot Springs National Park6
Hot Springs National Park (Photo by: D. Saparow)

What Are the Benefits of Hot Springs?

The benefits of hot springs are many and varied. The high concentration of minerals in the water is thought to be responsible for the healing properties of hot springs. Hot springs have been used for centuries for their medicinal properties, and today they remain popular among wellness travelers. Soaking in hot springs is not only enjoyable but can also be beneficial for reducing pain and improving health.

Some of the benefits include relieving muscle tension and stress, improving circulation, increasing energy levels, reducing inflammation, boosting immunity, and promoting weight loss.

Additionally, natural mineral springs are a great way to relax after a long day or to celebrate special occasions.

What Are the Different Types of Hot Springs in Hot Springs National Park?

There are three types of hot spring baths available at Hot Springs National Park:

  1. Natural hot springs
  2. Man-made hot springs
  3. Cold-water spas

Natural hot springs are found in the park’s 47 geothermal pools that spout up from inside the Earth. The water in the springs is heated by the Earth’s magma. The water in the springs is then piped into the bathhouse for tourists to enjoy.

  • The natural bathhouses offer baths with pumped in spring water that is a sizzling 143°F on average when it flows from the ground into the pools, but it cools before reaching the baths and fountains.
  • Man-made bathhouses offer traditional soak tubs with temperatures starting at 106°F.
  • Cold-water spas provide a variety of bathing options starting at 68°F and going all the way down to 38°F.

Camping in Hot Springs National Park

campground map

40 campsites at Gulpha Gorge Campground vary in size and can accommodate both tents and recreational vehicles (RV’s).

Site Amenities

All sites have full hookups: 30 and 50 amp electric, water and sewer connections. Sites are not pull-through. Each campsite has a picnic table, pedestal grill, and water. There are modern restrooms but no showers. Maximum occupancy is limited to eight people/two vehicles (one RV and one tent OR two tents) per site. Check in time is at 2:00 pm, and check out time is 12:00 pm.

Fees & Reservations

PLEASE NOTE: Starting February 1, 2022, all 40 campsites at Gulpha Gorge Campground will require prior reservation on www.Recreation.gov, and will cost $34 per night.

Limitations

Camping in Gulpha Gorge Campground is limited to a total of 14 consecutive days and a cumulative total of 30 days in any calendar year. Each 14-day consecutive stay must be followed by a minimum of a 7-day break.

BASIC INFORMATION

Image of campground site

Camping at Gulpha Gorge Campground costs $34 per night for all sites. All sites have full hookups: 30 and 50 amp electric, water and sewer connections. Sites are not pull-through. Each campsite has a picnic table, pedestal grill, and water.

Camping in Gulpha Gorge Campground is limited to a total of 14 consecutive days and a cumulative total of 30 days in any calendar year. Each 14 day consecutive stay must be followed by a minimum of a 7 day break.

Source: NPS.GOV

ALSO SEE CAMPENDIUM > Other campgrounds in the area

Hot Springs National Park2
Hot Springs National Park (Photo by: D. Saparow)

What Are the Things to Do in Hot Springs National Park?

1. Visiting the thermal baths

BH Row Map

Soak in the Springs

  1. The Buckstaff Bathhouse – Originally opened in 1912, the Buckstaff is the only facility on the Row that has never fully closed since it first started offering baths. For information about services, rates, and reservations, please visit their website or call them directly at (501) 623-2308.
  2. The Quapaw Bathhouse – The Quapaw Bathhouse offers modern day spa services with amenities like thermal pools, private baths, and a steam cave. For information about services, rates, and reservations, please visit their website or call them directly at (501) 609-9822.

Source: nps.gov

2. Checking out the geological features

Hot Springs National Park: Arkansas Natural Gem provides visitors with an opportunity to learn about the springs’ source and how they are heated, as well as see some of the park’s other noteworthy attractions.

  1. This optional tours allows visitors to learn about the springs’ source and how they are heated. You’ll also get a chance to see some of the park’s other noteworthy attractions.
  2. The Tour of Bathhouse Row takes place daily at 1pm and lasts for approx. one hour. It is $10 per person, and reservations are strongly recommended.

More info on tours here.

3. Birdwatching

If you’re a birdwatcher, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in Hot Springs National Park. You can watch warblers and other songbirds in the wetlands near the springs, listen for eagle calls from the summit of Bald Mountain, or scan for hawks and other raptors in the soaring bald eagles. You can also search for prairie chickens, deer, bobcats, and other mammals in the park’s grasslands and woodlands. And if you’re looking for something a little more active, try swimming in one of the park’s hot springs or hiking one of its many trails.

4. Exploring the Garvin Woodland Gardens

Garvan Woodland Gardens is a must-see attraction in Hot Springs National Park. The Garden features more than 128 species of ornamental and native shrubs and wild flowers, 160 different types of azaleas, a 4-acre Asian garden with a 12-foot waterfall, three unique bridges, the Perry Wildflower Overlook, and the sandstone and redwood Garvan Pavilion. The Evans Children’s Adventure Gardens offers 1.5 acres of interactive fun with a waterfall and cave, an iron bridge that resembles woven tree branches and rocks weighing more than 3,200 tons.

5. Visiting Hot Springs National Park Museum

The park is home to the Fordyce Bathhouse, which opened on March 1, 1915 and was the first bathhouse on the Row to go out of business. The Fordyce was extensively restored by 1989 and is now a historically furnished museum.

The museum is open every day from 9:00-5:00pm, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. The Visitor Center and Museum are open daily from 9am to 5pm. Park rangers are available to assist with questions and offer information.

Quick Facts:

  • The origins of the Hot Springs National Park are unknown, but they may have been used by the Caddo Native Americans.
  • Bathhouses in the park pipe in water collected from the springs, making it easy for tourists to take a soak.
  • The Hot Springs National Park is famous for its healing properties and has been used by people since before European settlers arrived.
  • The springs have a high flow rate, and the water is sizzling hot at 143°F.
  • Visitors are allowed to drink spring water from special fountains around the park, and they’re also permitted to take baths in the pools.

6. Going on a picnic

Hot Springs National Park is the perfect destination for a memorable picnic because it has plenty of amenities and services on site. There are several picnic areas with tables and grills, as well as many hiking trails and historic sites to visit.

Hot Springs National Park3
Hot Springs National Park (Photo by: D. Saparow)

Trails of Hot Springs National Park

The trails of the park are short and interconnected, making it easy to explore the different areas of the park.

  • The Sunset Trail is the longest trail in the park and offers hikers a chance to see some of the more remote areas of the park.
  • The Circuit Trail is a 15-17 mile loop that can be completed in one day and provides hikers with a variety of different scenery to enjoy.

Walking paths have long been a part of Hot Springs National Park and the preceding Hot Springs Reservation. Today those walking paths form the base of the park’s trail system. There are two concentrated areas of hiking trails within the park, the Hot Springs and North Mountain Trails and the West Mountain Trails. Both of these areas are composed of relatively short, interconnected trails. The Sunset Trail is a longer trail that travels through more remote areas of the park.

Maps

Paper trail maps can be found at the Fordyce Bathhouse and Visitor Center. Digital maps with real-time GPS location are available by downloading the service-wide NPS App

Hot Springs and North Mountain Trails

The Hot Springs and North Mountain trails are popular since they are easy to reach and provide scenic views. You can get to these trails via Stephen’s Balustrade (grand staircase) behind the Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs Mountain Drive, and the Gulpha Gorge Campground. See the Hot Springs and North Mountain trail map for more information. *Note: Oertel Trail is still labeled as Dead Chief Trail on the park’s brochure.

West Mountain Trails

The West Mountain trails are less traveled, providing greater opportunities for wildlife sightings. You can get to these trails via Whittington Park and the Canyon Trailhead. See the West Mountain trail map for more information.

Sunset Trail

The Sunset Trail is the longest trail in Hot Springs National Park, covering approximately 10 miles one way or complete the 15-17 mile loop. It completes a circuit near the inner edge of the park boundary. Crossing all types of terrain, the trail makes its way through the most remote areas of the park. Due to the length of this trail, it is frequently broken up into three separate sections: West Mountain (2.8 miles), Sugarloaf Mountain (2.6 miles), and Stonebridge Road (3.8 miles). The Sunset Trail can be combined with Hot Springs Mountain trails, North Mountain trails, and West Mountain trails to complete a strenuous 15-17-mile loop hike. See the Sunset Trail map for more information. 

Source: nps.gov

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Hot Springs National Park is the perfect destination. This natural gem is home to over 47 thermal springs, making it one of Arkansas most popular tourist destination.

But don’t just take my word for it – check out some of these testimonials from past visitors:

  1. “The best part was that we could go anywhere in the park without having to worry about crowds or expensive tickets.”
  2. “The scenery was breathtaking and the hot springs were heaven.”
  3. “This is a place I’ll always remember – one of my favorite places to visit.”

If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway, Hot Springs National Park is the perfect place. Don’t wait – book your trip today!

Happy Trails,

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Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park is an American national park in central Garland County, Arkansas, adjacent to the city of Hot Springs, the county seat. Hot

Hot spring
the crust. Hot spring water often contains large amounts of dissolved minerals. The chemistry of hot springs ranges from acid sulfate springs with a pH

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