Jobs fill your pocket, but adventures fill your soul.Jamie Lyn Beatty
About the Park
Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas is a tribute to the American Spa of the 20th Century. The rich cultural history includes nine grand bathhouses that have brought people here for hundreds of years. It is the oldest protected area in the National Park System and is a very accessible park. It is also located in Bev’s home state of Arkansas.
Check out the view from the top of the park!
Live it up!
Best Things to do in the Park
- See the historic bathhouses on Bathhouse Row and take a bath in the Hot Springs water
- Hike some of the 26 miles of hiking trails throughout the park
- Have a cold beverage at the Superior Bathhouse Brewery
- Tour the Historic Fordyce Bathhouse, to see the fanciest of the bathhouses through 1962
While visiting the Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, we learned that our very talented niece, Adrienne, had made a trip from her home in Austin, Texas, to Hot Springs for a creative recharge. She owns a furniture design studio, Half Halt Studio, and came to the area to get inspiration for her new furniture line. So we got a hug, a cupcake, and a memory to last! Check out her studio by clicking here.
Size of Park
The park is the oldest protected area in the National Park System.
Hot Springs National Park is located near the city of Hot Springs in Arkansas and was initially created in the 1830s for future recreation. It is the only National Park that protects a unique set of geologic structures, lithology, and water sources. The non-volcanic geothermal springs in the park are also famous for their high quality.
This park has a rich cultural history, and you will find the grand architecture of its bathhouses to be as mesmerizing as the park’s natural beauty. Other things that make Hot Springs National Park unique are its mountain views, ancient thermal springs, forest hikes, incredible geology, and creeks. In addition, the park is unique in that it adds an urban setting, including parts of the downtown area of Hot Springs.
Goat Rock Trail
This out-and-back trail has a 116m elevation and is considered slightly challenging. However, as it is an easy trail, you will meet many people running, hiking, and bird-watching along the way.
The beginning of the trail is marked by novaculite stone bars. As you move forward, the path gets uneven and a little rocky, which is why it is not accessible by wheelchair. The lower side of the trail has a breathtaking view of wildflower glades that lead to the Indian Mountains.
Towards the end of the path, you will find a 40 ft stairway that leads to the Goat Rock Overlook, from where you have a panoramic view. From the summit, you can either take the same path down or take the path to the parking lot and explore another trail.
This 13-mile loop trail is better for those who like a challenge. It takes almost 6 hours to complete and combines different terrains.
Since it is challenging, the Sunset Trail is less busy than the others, but you will see campers and birdwatchers along the way. Many campers set their tents by Rick’s Pond, previously known as Lake Lillian, named after the nearby log house owner’s wife.
At an elevation of 205 m and 3.3 miles long, the Hot Springs Mountain Trail is easy to finish and takes you through the forest. Walking amidst wildflowers and seeing wildlife in their natural habitat is an experience you want to experience. Unfortunately, you will have to cross the road a few times in between as the trail is close to the urban population. However, the trail is children and pet-friendly, so that you will come across many families.
West Mountain Trail is one of the busiest trails in the park and is about 2.4 miles long. It is a wide trail, so many people choose this trail to run, hike, or cycle. It has beautiful views and is easily accessible and is also home to the oldest standing structure in the park, the West Mountain Shelter, constructed in 1924. This loop trail combines different trails and takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.
Intersecting with the Short Cut Trail and the Gulpha Gorge Trail, the Oertel trail is 3.5 miles long and has an elevation of 159 m. This makes it moderately challenging for beginners, but it is worth it. It is a wide, well-kept trail that offers beautiful views of color-changing hickory trees.
The trail has nearby campgrounds that are perfect for a family picnic. In addition, the trail is pet friendly.
Camping in the Park
Gulpha Gorge Campground
The Gulpha Gorge campground is the only campground in the Park and has sites available for tents and RVs. It is a busy site which requires booking beforehand. The campground offers electricity, flushable toilets, water connections, picnic tables, and grills.
If you stay at the campground, you can go hiking along one of the trails, horseback riding, or paddling in the nearby stream.
Camping options near the park
If you miss out on reservations or the campsites are full, chances are you will have to find a campground nearby.
J & J RV Park is a few minutes away from the park and is a great place to stay if you plan to explore the city. Along with pull-through sites.
Lake Ouachita Campgrounds are located 30 minutes from the Hot Springs National Park and offer tent, RV, and group sites along with cabins and yurts. It has 81 water and sewer hookup sites and is big rig friendly.
Its amenities include an onsite store, firewood, picnic tables, showers, toilets, and electric hookups.
DeGray Lake campgrounds have amazing views and 113 campsites. Each site has electric and water hookups and access to its conference rooms and swimming pool. The campground prides itself on providing a luxurious yet exhilarating experience, which is why you can access the golf course and water activities such as kayaking and water rafting.
Hot Springs KOA has onsite staff willing to help make your stay pleasant. They also offer a shuttle service if you want to explore the city.
Specific amenities such as the 30 and 50-amp service, wi-fi, cable, mini golf, and the pool are free. However, booking needs to be made at least 5-6 months in advance.
Located 22 minutes from Hot Springs National Park, the Lake Catherine Campground has 70 sites along the lakeshore and 20 cabins. As the number of places is limited, you must book in advance. This campground is part of Lake Catherine State Park.
Balanced Rock Overlook
The Balanced Rocks Overlook is home to wild turkeys and white-tailed deer that you might see. It is located on Sugarloaf Mountain, part of the Sunset Trail.
With a fantastic view of Lake Hamilton, the West Mountain Loop Overlook is one of the most visited viewpoints. The novaculite rock at the point was used to make tools by many native Americans and has an important place in Arkansas history. For example, this stone was used to make arrowheads traded across the country. We love this story and how this industry is called Arkansas’ earliest!
This outlook was designed in 1911 and added to the historical significance of Hot Springs National Park. It gives you a panoramic view of the city guarded by the Ouachita mountains, blending the urban environment into nature.
Click on the button to explore the state and travel guides for the area.
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