We stopped for a few nights in Hot Springs, Arkansas as we made our way south to Big Bend National Park. Hot Springs is a unique park when compared to some of the more well-known parks. It is located in the middle of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Fortunately, unlike the more well-known parks, there is no entrance booth or entrance fee. However, there is plenty to do while visiting Hot Springs National Park with kids. Here we will share some of the things we did while visiting so that you and your family can enjoy Hot Springs N.P.
Hot Springs National Park Location
This great National Park is located in downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas. It is an easy drive of about an hour southwest of Little Rock.
To get to the National Park from Little Rock, take I-30 towards Dallas. From there take exit 111, or Highway 70, toward Hot Springs (there is a big sign). Highway 70 takes you right into town.
Once in Hot Springs, you will not be able to miss the National Park, and Bath House Row.
About Hot Springs National Park
- The city Hot Springs was known in the early 20th century as the home to Major League Baseball spring training, illegal gambling, speakeasies during the Prohibition era, and gangsters such as Al Capone, and 42nd President Bill Clinton.
- On March 4, 1921, Hot Springs National Park was made the 18th Park under the National Park System.
- The Park gets its name from the naturally heated spring waters in the area. In this area, the water flows out of the ground at an average temperature of 143 °F and produces almost one million gallons of water each day.
- The park includes portions of downtown Hot Springs, making it one of the most accessible national parks. It also includes numerous hiking trails and camping areas.
- Hot Springs is best known for Bathhouse Row. This area contains the grandest collection of bathhouses of its kind in North America
Things To Do At Hot Springs N.P.
Walk Along Bath House Row
Bathhouse Row is a great place to walk and enjoy the beautiful architecture of the bathhouse buildings.
Bathhouse Row consists of eight bathhouse buildings. These buildings were constructed between the years 1892 and 1923. In addition, the area along with the Grand Promenade is a National Historic Landmark District.
The National Park protects eight Bath Houses. These eight Bath Houses are aligned in a row along the road. The row includes Buckstaff, Fordyce, Hale, Lamar, Maurice, Ozark, Quapaw, and Superior. At one point they were all independent, competing, commercial enterprises.
The Fordyce Bath House house the National Parks visitor center. Fordyce was the most elaborate and most expensive Bath House. Here you can go on a free tour of the entire Bath House, and learn all about its history.
The best way to enjoy Hot Springs N.P. is to stop at the Fordyce House and look into the Junior Ranger Program.
Stop For Lunch At The National Park Services Only Onsite Brewery
The Superior Bathhouse Brewery is a must-stop for lunch, and a drink while visiting Hot Springs. This great lunch spot is the only brewery located in a National Park. In addition, it is the only brewery in the world that uses thermal spring water to make its beer.
There is more to Hot Springs N.P. other than Bath House Row. Hot Springs offers 26 miles of hiking paths that offer great mountain views, and great scenery. You are momentarily taken away from the big city, and transported into nature.
There are two areas of hiking trails within the park, the Hot Springs and North Mountain Trails and the West Mountain Trails. Both of these are made up of short and connected trails.
The Sunset Trail is a longer trail that travels through more remote areas of the park.
The Hot Springs and North Mountain trails are the most popular. You can get to these trails from behind the Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs Mountain Drive, and the Gulpha Gorge Campground.
The West Mountain trails are less traveled. Therefore, they are able to provide greater opportunities for wildlife sightings. You can get to these trails via Whittington Park and the Canyon Trailhead.
The Sunset Trail is the longest trail in Hot Springs National Park. This trial covers approximately 10 miles one way. Here you will cross all types of terrain as the trail makes its way through the most remote areas of the park.
Enjoy the Views From the Mountain Tower
The Hot Springs Mountain Tower offers amazing views of the surrounding area and mountains. The tower’s upper observation deck is open-air and visitors can overlook 140 square miles of the surrounding countryside, including the entire park and a portion of the Ouachita Mountains. In addition, the lower observation deck, enclosed and air-conditioned, contains exhibits highlighting the park and local history. A gift shop is located at the base of the tower. Visitors are taken to the observation deck by an elevator.
You can drive up to the Tower, or hike up to it. We took the 1.5-mile hike from Bath House Row up to the Tower.
Experience the Hot Springs Water
There are a number of ways to enjoy the water from these natural hot springs.
- Quench your thirst. The Park encourages its visitors to drink natural spring water. Thousands of visitors highly endorse the good quality of the hot springs water and fill bottles to take home. We made sure to fill a few glass jugs of water to enjoy as we continued our travel. Of course, you may need to allow it to cool off a bit before drinking the water. There are 7 hot springs fountains, and 2 cold spring fountains, found within the Park.
- Stick Your Hands In and Touch the Thermal Springs. Within the National Park, there are two different locations where you can stick your hands into the thermal water. Allthough the water is hot it is cool enough the submerge a hand for a few seconds.
Hot Springs National Park KOA Holiday Review
There are a few RV parks and campgrounds in the Hot Springs area. Our choice to stay at the Hot Springs KOA was based on the fact that they offer a shuttle to the downtown area. In fact, the free shuttle drops you off in front of the Hot Springs N.P. sign. We do not tow a vehicle, so the shuttle was a huge selling point for us
There is a nice pool here to cool off in after a long day of walking around Hot Springs. In addition, they have a small store that offers most of the necessities, and a game room for kids.
Our site was clean and level. We had no problems with our site or its proximity to our neighbors. However, we will warn you we stayed in the D-Row which is close to the busy main road. This did not bother us. However, if road noise disrupts your camping you may want a site further away from the entrance.
If you are visiting the Hot Springs area and looking for a campground to stay at, we highly recommend this KOA.
We Hope That You Enjoy Hot Springs N.P.
Hot Springs National Park is one of the more unique parks. This is simply because it sits right in the middle of the City of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
It is a great top because it offers great hiking paths and awesome mountain views all within walking distance of the rest of downtown.
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Have you visited Hot Springs National Park? How was your experience? Any tips for how to enjoy Hot Springs N.P.?