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

‍Hot Springs National Park is home to some of the most beautiful natural hot springs in the country. Hot Springs has been a popular vacation destination for more than 200 years thanks to its natural hot springs, which are sourced from underground reservoirs called aquifers. Hot Springs National Park features 13 different hot springs, as well as a historic district with Victorian-era homes that overlook the city and an 18th-century inn that once served as lodging for traveling explorers.

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

History

Hot Springs National Park, which is located in the Ouachita Mountains and is next to the town of the same name, has long been a popular destination for vacationers who wish to “take the waters” in order to experience the purported therapeutic effects of the area’s mineral springs. Before the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto arrived in the area in 1521, the native people who lived nearby had been using the geothermal springs for bathing for millennia.

Hot Springs was the first national “reserve” in the US, and in 1921, by an act of congress, it was converted into a national park. It had been established in 1832. It is the park in the United States National Parks System that has been managed the longest (NPS).

In the 1870s, when illegal gambling and prostitution first got a foothold in the area, the town gained a reputation for being a seedy place. At the beginning of the 20th century, teams from both the Major League Baseball and the Negro League held their spring training camps in this location.
Natural springs can be found at Hot Springs National Park. Cascades Arkansas

Hot Springs, Arkansas continues to be a well-liked vacation spot. In 2018, more than 1.5 million people went to the national park. In addition, there is Oaklawn Park, which is both a casino and a racetrack for thoroughbred horses.

Lake Hamilton State Park and Lake Catherine State Park may be found to the south, and Lake Ouachita State Park can be found around 10 miles to the northwest. These impoundments on the Quachita River are home to a wide variety of water sports and recreational activities, in addition to a number of resorts and restaurants.

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 Staying Overnight and Camping

One of the most well-known hotels in the area is the Arlington Hotel, which can be found nearby (affiliate link) (host to luminaries such as Al Capone, Babe Ruth, and several U.S. presidents including native son Bill Clinton). Plus a large number of additional hotels and places to stay. 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.

Hiking

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.

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
Website: nps.gov/hosp/index.htm

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