As stunning and scenic today as when it was launched 185 years ago, Hot Springs National Park is one of the best-kept treasures of Arkansas.
|Park||Hot Springs National Park|
|Things to do||Museum visit, Sunset view and many more|
|Hotels near Hot Springs National Park||The Hotel Hot Springs, Comfort Inn and suites and many more|
|Entry Fee||Free Entry|
|Camping Locations||Multiple Locations|
If you’re planning a trip to Hot Springs National Park anytime soon and looking for recommendations about the top things to do there, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about this Park. Let’s get started!
Located in the central Garland Country, Arkansas, adjacent to the city of Hot Springs, this Park is the smallest national park in the United States and a popular vacation destination.
The highlight of the park is neither geysers nor glaciers but bubbling waters.
Forty-seven thermal hot springs in the park naturally release water at a temperature averaging 143°F.
Every day over 700,000 gallons of water bubbles from the spring into piping and reservoir system.
Covering 5,550 acres of land, this small historic park attracts more than a million visitors each year.
Besides soaking in the springs, the park offers a pyramid of activities, including trail hiking, scenic drives, fishing, photography, and guided tours to learn about its rich culture and history.
This Park has a long and vibrant history long before its designation as Hot Springs Reservation.
Native Americans were the first to plunge into these Springs of magical waters and named it “Valley of vapors.”
In 1807, the first permanent settlers arrived in the area and quickly realized it could be a health resort. Logs and cabins were built in the area to facilitate visitors to the springs.
In 1832, United States Congress passed an act to preserve the Hot Springs for future recreation, and Hot Springs Reservation was created.
By 1901, all the springs were walled to protect them, and the Victorian bathhouses were replaced with fire-resistant brick bathhouses.
In 1916, National Park Service was established, and Hot Springs Reservation fell under its management.
The head of NPS Service, Stephen T. Mather, made some serious efforts to develop the site, which led to the establishment of Hot Springs National Park in 1921.
Things to do in Hot Springs National Park
The Park boasts indoor and outdoor activities to keep the visitors busy for a day or weekend outing.
Here are the top 5 must-do things in the park:
One of the top attractions in the park, Bathhouse Row, features a collection of historic bathhouses where people flocked in the early 20th century to get therapeutic hot springs baths.
It consists of 8 bathhouse buildings, each unique and beautiful in its way. Only two bathhouses are used for bathing, while others are converted into gift shops and restaurants.
If you want to experience great architecture and history, Bathhouse Row is a must-see.
Hot Springs Mountain Tower
Standing 1256 feet above sea level, Hot Springs Mountain tower offers unrivaled views of the Hot Springs Mountain, Quachita Mountains, and Diamond Lake.
Visitors can take the tower elevator to the top to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views of the Washida Mountains from the deck.
In addition to stunning views of the Park, visitors can grab a souvenir from the Hot Springs Tower’s gift shop to remember the visit for the rest of their lives.
Buckstaff Bathhouse is the city’s longest-running facility operating since 1912.
It is the only bathhouse that offers a traditional bathing experience with separate floors for men and women.
The bathhouse is equipped with steam cabinets, whirlpool tubs, and needle showers, and you can get a special message from Swedish massage therapists.
There are reservations required to facilitate the visitors’ wish to take a spontaneous trip to the healing waters.
Gangster Museum of America
The Gangster Museum of America is an enthralling and unique place to experience in the Park.
It is a great place to relive the historic and entertaining era of the 20s, 30s, and 40s when most of the notorious gangsters and criminals in America co-existed in the tiny town of central Arkansas.
The museum showcases the history of three of the biggest gangsters in America with a dedicated gallery of photos, artifacts, and news clippings that tell how they went down in history.
Sunset Trail is the longest and most challenging trail in the park for experienced hikers. This 10-mile trail allows visitors to explore the most remote areas of this Park.
Park’s highest point, Music Mountain, is located at the Sunset Trail, plus visitors can enjoy great views of the southern portion of the park and some beautiful forest scenery.
Best Time to Visit
This Park is most comfortable to visit during the warmer months, so you can enjoy the healing baths without the fear of getting cold.
August to October and February to April are the best months to visit the park; subsequently, the shoulder seasons are also suitable because visitors can experience the dual pleasure of basking in the sun and saving cash.
Download the official map of this park from the NPS website in advance to make the most out of your visit.
You can also download the NPS App, which offers a complete map of top sights, trails, hiking and visitor centers in the park.
The Park has one camping ground, Gulpha Gorge Campground, accommodating both tents and RVs.
All 40 camping sites are equipped with electricity, water, and sewer connections.
The camping fee is $30 per night and locations are available on a first-come-first-served basis.
The Park enjoys mild weather for most of the year. The average temperature can range from 90°F to 27°F.
During Summer, the weather is hot and humid and can go up to 110°F while winters are freezing, and temperature can go as low as 15°F.
Best Hotels Near Hot Springs National Park
Whether you want to stay inside the park or looking for hotels closer to the hot springs, here are our top 5 recommendations:
Entry Fee & Passes
Unlike other national parks in the United States, entry to this Park is completely free. You only have to pay the fee for camping at the Gulpha Gorge Playground.
Checklist of Things to bring
Make sure to pack these essentials before heading to the Park:
- Day Backpack
- Bathing suit
- Sun Protection
- Water and food
- Hiking shoes
- Water Shoes
- Reliable Light source
- First-aid kit
- Map & Compass
How many natural Springs are there in the Hot Springs National Park?
Yes, 47 natural hot water springs in the park naturally release water at a temperature averaging 143°F.
How much time should I spend in Hot Springs National Park?
It is possible to see the park in a day, but we’d recommend spending at least three days so you’ll have enough time to enjoy hot spring water and take some beautiful hikes.
Are there any snakes in Hot Springs National Park?
Yes, several poisonous snakes can be seen in the park, including the Texas Coral snake, Timber Rattlesnake, Southern Copperhead, and more.