hot springs national park

Hot Springs National Park Profile: Arkansas is Home to "The American Spa"

"The American Spa" offers unique outdoor experiences in central Arkansas. In 1832—40 years before the start of Yellowstone National Park — Congress established Hot Springs Reservation to protect the hot springs flowing from Hot Springs Mountain. Officially Hot Springs National Park as of 1921, the area is still known for its more than 40 thermal springs scattered throughout scenic central Arkansas.

This unique National Park which covers 5,500 acres is intertwined with the city and is free of the typical gate where visitors must pay a fee to enter. It provides visitors with a truly unique experience with all it has to offer.

Thermal Features and Bathhouses at Hot Springs National Park

hot springs national park

The park's namesake springs located along the base of Hot Springs Mountain have a combined flow of over half a million gallons of quality water every single day. After traveling through faults in the mountain and to deep depths, the water circulates back to the surface at an average of 143 degrees. The result is killed-off bacteria and pure water long believed to possess healing qualities.

The water from these hot springs feeds the bathhouses nearby, and the National Park Service keeps most of the springs sealed off to prevent any contamination. But visitors can view the popular Hot Water Cascade in Arlington Lawn for a great example of the thermal features or enjoy a thermal feature tour in the summer.

There's only one other spot inside the park where you can directly touch the thermal water. Although it comes out of the ground at high temperatures, it's cool enough to touch once it reaches the pools. The Display Spring is shaded by trees and surrounded by moss, making it a great spot to kick back and listen to the calming sounds of running water. It's located behind the Maurice Bathhouse.

The water from the springs makes its way through a network of underground pipes before it's collected, stored, and cooled for distribution to fountains, bathhouses, and the Arlington Hotel. Visitors can purchase a jug of the water at the gift shop located in the Lamar Bathhouse.

Bathhouse Row runs through the center of downtown Hot Springs, home to eight historic bathhouses, two of which are still operational. In operation since 1912, Buckstaff Bathhouse provides several different treatment options, while Quapaw Baths & Spa provides a communal pool experience.

So while you can't soak in the great outdoors, you can still scope out these special thermal features and benefit from the springs' effects in town.

You can drink thermal spring water from a few fountains throughout Hot Springs:

  • Reserve Street, in front of the Libbey Memorial Physical Medicine Center
  • Reserve Street, in front of the National Park Service Administration Building
  • On Bathhouse Row, between the Hale and Maurice Bathhouses
  • Reserve Street, at the Noble Fountain at the south entrance of the Grand Promenade
  • The Dripping Spring between the Hale and Maurice Bathhouses
  • The Shell Fountain on the Stevens Balustrade
  • Central Avenue, outside park boundary at the Hill Wheatley Plaza

Top Trails in Hot Springs National Park

hot springs national park

Hot Springs National Park offers about 30 miles of well-marked trails to explore the mountains and surrounding areas. Most of these trails are short, but they're also interconnected so you can continue your hikes for longer outings. Trail maps are available at the Fordyce Bathhouse.

The longest in the park, Sunset Trail covers approximately 10 miles. It includes a variety of terrain and reaches the most remote portions of the park, making it a favorite.

Easily accessible, Hot Springs and Northern Mountain Trails are perfect for all skill levels and provide great views along the way.
Providing the best odds of spotting different wildlife, the West Mountain Trails receive the least amount of foot traffic.
Pullman Trail is approved for bicycle and e-bike use.

Mountain Tower, a 216-foot elevator tower located on Hot Springs Mountain, provides 360-degree views of the park, the Ouachita Mountains, and the Diamond Lakes area from its observation decks.

Campgrounds and Hotels in Hot Springs National Park

hot springs national park

Downtown Hot Springs provides plenty of lodging options—plus restaurants and other attractions—but there are only two options to stay within park boundaries.

A luxury boutique hotel located inside a renovated bathhouse, Hotel Hale features large thermal spring-fed soaking tubs in each room as well as two different restaurants to enjoy. It's the oldest structure standing on Bathhouse Row. Book these rooms ahead—Hotel Hale only has nine individual suites available.

But if you want the true camping experience in Hot Spring National Park, the Gulpha Gorge Recreation Area and Campground provides a great alternative. The area is designed to accommodate both tents and RVs, with full hookups available. The campground offers restrooms but no showers. Visitors must reserve their spots in advance for $34 per night.

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