Hot Springs National Park – Why Hot Springs, Arkansas is a Must-Visit

Welcome, dear explorers, to the oasis of healing and natural beauty: Hot Springs National Park! Nestled in the heart of North America, this park boasts a treasure trove of steamy thermal springs, miles of hiking trails, and a unique blend of history that’ll leave you gushing with excitement. So grab your water bottles and buckle up as we embark on an unforgettable adventure into this bustling town and its crown jewel, the park that’s quite literally in the middle of it all.

Hot Springs National Park, the “Spa City,” is an urban park with a twist, offering not only scenic drives through the Ouachita Mountains but also a chance to dive into the Gilded Age by exploring the historic Bathhouse Row. These storied buildings once welcomed folks from all walks of life to soak in the healing waters of the thermal springs. Today, they continue to be a testament to the park’s incredible geology and rich history.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll journey through the park’s enchanting landscape, uncovering the secrets of its past and present, and immersing ourselves in the soothing embrace of its mineral waters. From hiking the majestic Sugarloaf Mountain to sipping on a cold brew at the Superior Bathhouse Brewery, there’s an abundance of natural curiosities and delightful experiences waiting to be discovered.

So, dear friends, let’s embark on a voyage to the heart of the ultimate relaxation destination – Hot Springs National Park. We’ll provide you with all the necessary information, tips, and local gems that’ll make your trip an unforgettable plunge into the warm and healing waters of this magical park.


Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park (U.S. National Park Service)

Our story begins in the 19th century when the nation’s founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, recognized the value of Hot Springs’ healing waters. These precious springs have been attracting visitors for centuries, and their popularity led to the establishment of Hot Springs National Park in 1921. Today, the park stands as a testament to America’s appreciation for nature’s gifts and a dedication to preserving these natural wonders.

The park’s unique geography is a delightful treat for the senses. Tucked away in the verdant Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs National Park serves as a green haven for adventurers and relaxation-seekers alike. With its 5,550-acre park boundaries, it is a sanctuary of forested hikes, abundant creeks, and stunning mountain views that’ll leave you breathless. Just imagine the sun setting behind the mountains as you unwind after a day of exploring – pure bliss!

Now, let’s stroll down Central Avenue and venture into the heart of Hot Springs National Park: Bathhouse Row. This National Historic Landmark District is home to a collection of bathhouses, each with its unique character, whispering tales of a bygone era. From the grandeur of the Fordyce Bathhouse to the modern-day indulgence of the Quapaw Bathhouse, these historic buildings beckon you to immerse yourself in their warm embrace and experience the true essence of Hot Springs.

The park’s incredible geology is a marvel to behold, with thermal springs bubbling up from the depths of the Earth, providing a source of nourishment and rejuvenation for those who seek their healing powers. As you dip your toes into these steaming pools, you’ll be transported to a world of tranquility, and your worries will dissolve like sugar cubes in hot tea.

Transitioning from the warmth of the springs, let’s venture into the park’s wild side. As you explore its meandering trails, you’ll encounter a vibrant tapestry of flora and fauna. Be on the lookout for wild turkey and other critters that call this park home. Each step you take will immerse you deeper into the park’s natural beauty, making you feel like you’ve discovered your very own secret garden.

So, fellow travelers, join us as we continue to uncover the gems of Hot Springs National Park. In the next chapters, we’ll delve into the must-see attractions, the best trails, and all the essential tips to make your visit a rejuvenating and awe-inspiring experience.

Unveiling the Wonders of Hot Springs National Park

A city within a park: Arkansas' Hot Springs National Park
A city within a park: Arkansas’ Hot Springs National Park

As we embark on this leg of our journey, let’s unveil the delightful activities and attractions that Hot Springs National Park has in store for you. From soothing soaks in the thermal springs to invigorating hikes through the forest, there’s a little something for everyone here.

Step into the enchanting world of Hot Springs Mountain, West Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, and North Mountain. Each of these majestic peaks offers a unique set of trails and captivating vistas, just waiting to be explored. As you trek through the miles of hiking trails, you’ll discover that each bend in the path holds a new surprise – a babbling brook, a panoramic view, or perhaps a hidden glade that feels like it was created just for you.

Now, let’s dive into the park’s most alluring feature – the healing waters of its thermal springs. These hot spring waters have long been sought after for their restorative properties, and today, you can still experience their soothing embrace in the park’s historic bathhouses. Whether you choose to indulge in a steamy soak at the Buckstaff Bathhouse or a luxurious spa treatment at the Quapaw Bathhouse, you’ll leave feeling refreshed and revitalized.

As you journey through the park, don’t forget to take in the breathtaking mountain views and scenic drives that weave their way through the Ouachita Mountains. With each turn, you’ll be greeted by a new landscape that’ll make you feel like you’re driving through a painting brought to life.

Transitioning from the soothing waters to the park’s more rugged side, be sure to immerse yourself in the incredible geology and natural curiosities that pepper the landscape. From the striking formations of sedimentary rocks to the hidden springs that feed the park’s abundant creeks, there’s a wealth of natural beauty to uncover.

So, dear explorers, let’s continue our journey through Hot Springs National Park, where we’ll delve into tips for planning your visit, the park’s must-see attractions, and the best accommodations to ensure that your stay is as enchanting as the park itself.

Crafting Your Perfect Adventure

Explore Hot Springs National Park. Photo: CelesteFit
Explore Hot Springs National Park. Photo: CelesteFit

As we prepare for our voyage into the heart of Hot Springs National Park, it’s essential to plan and ensure that our adventure runs as smooth as the park’s soothing waters. With a little preparation, you can create the perfect itinerary that’ll leave you feeling rejuvenated and inspired.

First, let’s talk about park boundaries and getting to this urban oasis. Nestled in the bustling town of Hot Springs, the park is easily accessible by car, with several entrances and parking options available. Don’t be surprised to find yourself parking in a garage just a stone’s throw from the park’s main attractions – it’s all part of the charm!

For the intrepid explorers who wish to immerse themselves in the park’s natural beauty overnight, the Gulpha Gorge Campground is a serene haven that offers easy access to hiking trails and other park amenities. Be sure to reserve your campsite in advance, as this popular spot can fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons.

When packing for your adventure, don’t forget to bring along water bottles to stay hydrated as you explore the park’s many trails and attractions. Although the park is famous for its thermal waters, you’ll still need to drink plenty of water to maintain your energy levels during your visit. Also, be prepared for changing weather conditions – the park’s mountainous terrain can lead to variations in temperature, so dress in layers and keep an eye on the forecast.

With your preparations complete, you’re ready to embark on a journey through the wonders of Hot Springs National Park. As you explore the park’s healing waters, historic bathhouses, and stunning landscapes, you’ll create memories that’ll last a lifetime. In the next section, we’ll share the park’s must-see sights and recommendations for the best hikes, scenic drives, and accommodations to make your visit truly unforgettable.

Unearthing the Hidden Gems

With our bags packed and spirits high, let’s embark on a journey to discover the best of Hot Springs National Park. From the historic bathhouses that line Bathhouse Row to the awe-inspiring hikes that take you through the heart of the park, we’ve got you covered with the must-see sights and experiences.

Begin your adventure at the Fordyce Bathhouse, a grand monument to the park’s storied past. As you step through its doors, you’ll be transported to a bygone era, where visitors sought solace in the healing waters of the thermal springs. Explore the ornate halls and marvel at the intricate details that adorn every corner of this historic treasure.

Next, venture to the Superior Bathhouse Brewery, a one-of-a-kind establishment that breathes new life into one of the park’s iconic bathhouses. Here, you can sip on a refreshing craft brew while soaking in the ambiance of this beautifully restored building.

For those itching to lace up their hiking boots, the Sunset Trail is a must. This trail offers a stunning journey through the park’s diverse landscapes, providing breathtaking views and glimpses of the park’s abundant wildlife. Whether you choose to explore the entire trail or just a segment, you’re in for an unforgettable experience.

As you cruise through the park, don’t miss the opportunity to take in the stunning scenery along the winding roads that traverse the Ouachita Mountains. The picturesque views are sure to make your drive an enchanting part of your adventure.

Finally, immerse yourself in the luxurious accommodations that dot the park’s landscape. From the historic charm of Hotel Hale to the modern elegance of the Hot Springs Hotel & Spa, there’s a perfect retreat waiting for you after a day of exploration.

With our journey through the hidden gems of Hot Springs National Park coming to a close, let’s move on to the practical information you’ll need to make your visit as seamless and enjoyable as possible. In the next section, we’ll cover everything from park services to the National Park Passport, ensuring you have all the tools you need for an extraordinary adventure.

Practical Information

As we prepare to set sail on our journey through Hot Springs National Park, let’s ensure our compass is set by covering the practical information that’ll help you navigate your adventure with ease.

First and foremost, acquaint yourself with the National Park Service, the dedicated stewards of our nation’s natural treasures. Their knowledgeable park rangers can provide valuable insights and guidance as you explore the park’s wonders. If you have any questions or concerns during your visit, don’t hesitate to seek their assistance – they’re there to help!

For the collectors and enthusiasts among us, be sure to obtain your National Park Passport, a memorable keepsake that you can stamp at each park you visit. This tangible memento will serve as a reminder of the incredible experiences you’ve had within the park’s boundaries.

Now, let’s talk about the cost of your visit. While soaking in the park’s natural beauty comes at no charge, some attractions and accommodations within the park may require payment. For example, visiting the Fordyce Bathhouse is free, but indulging in a spa treatment at the Quapaw Bathhouse will come at an additional cost. Be sure to budget accordingly and consider investing in the America the Beautiful National Park Pass, which can grant you access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites for a flat fee.

As our adventure through Hot Springs National Park draws to a close, let’s take a moment to reflect on the incredible experiences we’ve shared. From the soothing waters of the park’s thermal springs to the breathtaking vistas that stretch across the horizon, we’ve explored a world of wonder that will remain with us long after we’ve left the park’s embrace.

In our final chapter, we’ll recap the best things to do and see in Hot Springs National Park and encourage you to experience its healing properties and natural beauty for yourself. The adventure awaits, dear traveler!

Sumptuous Accommodations

As night falls upon the enchanting landscape of Hot Springs National Park, the allure of its diverse accommodation options comes into focus. From historic hotels steeped in tradition to modern retreats offering contemporary luxuries, there’s a perfect haven for every traveler seeking rest and respite.

A Sanctuary for Every Sojourner

Nestled within the heart of the park, Hotel Hale beckons with its charm and elegance. This historic gem has been meticulously restored to offer guests a luxurious retreat that blends the park’s rich history with modern amenities. Within its storied walls, you’ll find an intimate setting that allows you to fully embrace the park’s magic.

For those seeking an all-encompassing spa experience, the Hot Springs Hotel & Spa is a veritable oasis. With its opulent accommodations and direct access to the park’s healing waters, this hotel provides a sanctuary where you can immerse yourself in the soothing embrace of the park’s thermal springs.

The 1922 Majestic Hotel, with its grand facade and timeless appeal, offers visitors a taste of the park’s storied past. As you step through its doors, you’ll be transported to an era of glamour and refinement that harkens back to the park’s golden age.

For a more contemporary stay, the Austin Hotel and Convention Center provides a seamless blend of modern conveniences and outstanding service. Its prime location within the bustling town of Hot Springs ensures you’re never far from the park’s attractions and amenities.

As you explore the accommodation options within and around Hot Springs National Park, you’ll find a haven that speaks to your unique needs and desires. Each hotel and lodging option offers a gateway to the park’s wonders, providing a sanctuary where you can rest and rejuvenate before embarking on the next chapter of your adventure.

So, lay your head to rest amidst the sumptuous accommodations of Hot Springs National Park, and dream of the incredible experiences that await you. From the healing waters of the park’s thermal springs to the breathtaking vistas that stretch across the horizon, your journey has only just begun.

Why Hot Springs National Park is a Must-Visit

Hot Springs National Park is a destination that appeals to everyone. Families can learn about the culture of the early settlers and Native Americans who lived in the area, as well as the history of the city. Nature lovers can appreciate the park’s diverse landscapes, ranging from dense forests to open meadows and flowing streams. And everyone can enjoy the historic bathhouses in the park that offer an immersive experience inside a natural spring. But Hot Springs National Park isn’t just a must-visit for tourists who visit the area.

It’s also a vital part of the local economy. The park attracts more than 750,000 visitors each year, generating about $45 million in economic activity. Hot Springs National Park is also an important educational resource for the local community. The park’s interpretive programs and interactive exhibits offer opportunities for local students to explore the park’s history and engage with the natural environment.

Meriwether Lewis and Hot Springs

Meriwether Lewis, the explorer who led the expedition that would eventually lead to the founding of the National Park System, took a trip to Hot Springs after his journey across the country with William Clark. In his journal, Lewis notes that the “waters are highly impregnated with Sulphur.” He also noted that “the water is exceedingly pleasant and beneficial in its effects.”

Benton Avenue Historic District

Historic Downtown - Hot Springs AR
Historic Downtown – Hot Springs AR

The Benton Avenue Historic District is a National Historic Landmark District that’s home to more than 100 historic buildings, including 16 bathhouses, 10 of which were built between 1891 and 1915. Two buildings in the district have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974: The Fordyce bathhouse and the Gaff House.

The Fordyce bathhouse is the only one in the district that’s still open for bathing. Visitors can still take advantage of the bathhouse experience today, enjoying the same experience that thousands of visitors before them enjoyed at the turn of the century. The Gaff House, on the other hand, is a historic inn that dates back to the late 1700s. Visitors can tour the inn, which has been preserved as it would have been in the late 19th century, when it was a popular lodging for traveling explorers like Lewis and Clark.

Malvern-Hot Springs Historic District

The Malvern-Hot Springs Historic District is another National Historic Landmark District within Hot Springs National Park. The district features Victorian-era mansions and other buildings, as well as the Malvern Hills Walking Trail and the Hot Springs Tennis Club.

The majority of buildings in the Malvern-Hot Springs Historic District were built between 1890 and 1920, when the city was booming. At one point, Hot Springs was the second-largest city in Arkansas. Many of the buildings in the district are open to the public, offering visitors the chance to explore the architecture of this natural hot springs city.

Bathhouses and Fountains

RV Camping in Hot Springs National Park - Cruise America
RV Camping in Hot Springs National Park – Cruise America

The bathhouses in Hot Springs National Park that were built between 1884 and 1927 are still open today, offering visitors an authentic experience inside one of the park’s natural springs. The bathhouses offer a variety of baths, ranging from natural springs to hydro-spas, which are cultural places of significance.

Each of the bathhouses offers a different experience, featuring different architectural designs. Some of the baths are free, while others charge a fee. The Central Avenue Bathhouse is the only bathhouse in the park that is still in operation, but visitors can tour the other bathhouses and experience the architecture, as well as the natural springs.

Quapaw Bathhouse - Hot Springs National Park (U.S. National Park)
Quapaw Bathhouse – Hot Springs National Park (U.S. National Park)

Before Gateway Arch National Park was established in 2018, Hot Springs was the smallest park operated by the National Park Service (NPS). The park was originally comprised of historic Bathhouse Row and its 47 springs located on the lower slopes of Hot Springs Mountain; however, it has since expanded to include Whittington Lake Park as well as other mountains in the surrounding area. The park spans over 5,000 acres and is accessible at any time of the year.

The average temperature in Hot Springs is 61.5 degrees Fahrenheit (16.4 degrees Celsius), and the climate there is humid subtropical. The area is dominated by oak, hickory, and pine trees, and the park contains several old-growth forests that are at least 200 years old.

The total well flow from the springs is greater than half a million gallons per day. The National Park Service is responsible for managing the production of the spring’s hot waters, which have an average temperature of 143 degrees Fahrenheit or 63 degrees Celsius. These waters are sold at a concession price to nearby hotels, water fountains, and the park’s two operating bathhouses (out of the original eight). They may be found on Bathhouse Row, which can be found in the heart of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

  • Bathhouse of the Buckstaffs
  • Bathhouse of the Quapaw

Centralized cooling towers ensure that the temperatures of the water are kept at an acceptable level. The waters coming from the springs are naturally drinkable; they have a trace of alkalinity, and many people find that they taste very well.

Facilities for Camping

Campers who prefer tents or recreational vehicles can stay at the Gulpha Gorge public campground, which is situated two kilometres from the heart of town.

Gulpha Gorge features forty different campsites ranging in size. Each one is furnished with a picnic table, a pedestal grill, an electric hookup, and a connection to the water and sewer systems. There are contemporary restrooms accessible, however there are no showers. There is a cap on occupancy of eight persons, in addition to two vehicles (1 RV and 1 tent OR 2 tents). Every site has a nightly rate of $30, and checkout is at noon on the day of departure.


The trail network in the park spans more than 26 miles and is separated into three sections: the trails leading to Hot Springs and North Mountain, the trails leading to West Mountain, and the Sunset Trail. The first two are shorter trails that connect to one another, and the third is a longer hike that spans further away parts of the park and is around ten miles long.

On any of the park’s paved roads, guests are free to ride their bicycles around the grounds. On the other hand, the Grand Promenade and the sidewalk in front of Bathhouse Row are off-limits to anyone riding bicycles. There are no restrictions placed on the use of e-bikes in comparison to traditional bicycles.

Despite the fact that cell phone coverage is available across the majority of the park, there is no public WiFi available.

Where to Go and When

Although the summers can be rather warm and humid, Hot Springs, Arkansas, typically has pleasant weather throughout the whole year. Spring and autumn are the wettest seasons in this part of the world.

The park is open daily from 5 am until 10 pm (local time). On the roads leading up Hot Springs Mountain, North Mountain, and West Mountain Summit, vehicles are permitted to travel between the hours of 8:00 am and 10:00 night. On national holidays, the park is closed to the public.


Hot Springs National Park is a sprawling urban park spanning over 5,500 acres, located in the heart of town. The park is renowned for its natural hot springs, which flow from the Ouachita Mountains and provide visitors with the chance to immerse themselves in the healing powers of spring water. The park is home to several historic bathhouses, including the iconic Fordyce Bathhouse, as well as other notable buildings that showcase the rich history of the area. Bathhouse Row is a must-visit for park visitors, while the Hot Springs Mountain Tower offers panoramic views of the surrounding natural beauty.

Visitors to the park can indulge in a range of activities, from scenic hikes on Hot Springs Mountain, West Mountain, and Ouachita Mountain to steam baths and soothing hot water experiences at the historic bathhouses. The park also offers biking trails, cold fountains, and breathtaking views from the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. Guests can stay at beautiful hotels like the Majestic Hotel or the 500-room Eastman Hotel, both of which offer easy access to park attractions. The Gulpha Gorge Campground is another popular option for those seeking an immersive outdoor experience.

The National Park Service and park rangers work tirelessly to ensure unforgettable experiences for visitors, while the park’s rich history dating back to the 18th and 20th centuries adds depth to every adventure. Take a stroll along Reserve Street to see the wooden troughs carrying spring water, or visit the cold fountains on Fountain Street in the Lake District. With an average cost for activities and experiences, Hot Springs National Park offers a well-rounded experience that appeals to travelers seeking both relaxation and excitement.

It is recommended to reserve parking in advance and plan your park visit to make the most of your time. Whether you’re seeking a calming hot water experience or an adrenaline-pumping hike, Hot Springs National Park has something to offer everyone. So why wait? Discover the wonders of this urban park and immerse yourself in the healing powers of its natural hot springs.

Weather (5 days forecast)

The weather is one aspect that makes Hot Springs a great place to visit. The town experiences all four seasons, but the summers are the most popular among tourists. The average high in Hot Springs during the summer months is around 92 degrees Fahrenheit with low humidity. This makes for perfect conditions to enjoy the many outdoor activities the town has to offer such as hiking, biking, and swimming.

Local Information

Address: 369 Central Ave, Hot Springs, Arkansas 71901
GPS: 34.513718,-93.05346,16
Phone: 501-620-6715
Season: Year-round




Anne loves to explore the world and share her experiences through her blog. She loves to travel to places that are off the beaten path and find unique experiences to share with her readers. She also loves to share tips on how to make the most of a trip, from budgeting to activities. She hopes that her blog will inspire others to explore the world and enjoy the beauty of nature.