Hot Springs National Park

Located: Arkansas  -  Established: March 4,1921

The ParkHot Springs National Park is unlike most other units managed by the National Park Service insomuch as the main features of this park are the several Bathhouses located in downtown Hot Springs, AR. Early visitors to “The American Spa” included the likes of Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Babe Ruth, Bat Masterson, Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis.  All of these fellows had one thing in common – they all enjoyed a good, hot soak!

As the name indicates, the area’s hot springs are the primary reason this park exists. The geothermal conditions that lie a mile below the surface heat up the mountain spring waters that seeped into the earth from falling rain. The town grew up around the area where these hot mineral waters surfaced. 

When the water resurfaces, it’s average temperature is 143°F.  Plenty hot for a therapeutic bath! In 1832, Congress and president Andrew Jackson created the “Hot Springs Reservation” – the original forerunner of our National Parks System. Technically, this would make Hot Springs the oldest park in the system predating Yellowstone as the country’s first National Park by 40 years!  

 Bathhouse Row. Picture by Andrew Thomas

Bathhouse Row. Picture by Andrew Thomas

A casual stroll along Central Avenue’s Bathhouse Row will present a series of six nicely restored bathhouses. Quapaw and Buckstaff are “active bathhouses” offering relaxing soaks like those who visited the area years ago. 

Early bathhouses were basically shacks placed over the hot springs. These buildings were wrought with problems. In 1878, a fire swept through the area and wiped out many of the early bathhouse structures. 

The current bathhouses were constructed between 1912 and 1923 and many have been updated since.

 Quapaw Bathhouse

Quapaw Bathhouse

Getting there.  Hot Springs NP is located approximately 60 miles southwest of the Little Rock, AR airport via I-30, US-70and AR-7. 

When to visit. The park and campground are open year round. The Bathhouses do close for annual maintenance. 

What to do. One of the featured activities at this park is to soak in the waters of the area’s natural hot springs in one of the active Bathhouses along Bath House Row. Whether you choose to soak in a communal pool or in the privacy of a tub, the mineral rich waters are sure to revive your spirits!

 Trekking about Hot Springs Mountain during our  32nd  park visit. 

Trekking about Hot Springs Mountain during our 32nd park visit. 

Hiking Hot Springs. If soaking isn’t your thing at America’s smallest major National Park, the surrounding Zig Zag Mountains offer up 26-miles of hiking trails through thickly forested stands of hickory, oak, pine, dogwood and redbud.  

Where to stayHot Springs National Park is located in the middle of an urban city. There is no park managed lodging within the park boundaries; however, there are plenty of lodging facilities to choose from.

The Gulpha Gorge Campground, located off Hwy 7s, offers 44 campsites. Sites are first come, first served and cannot be reserved prior to arrival. Each Campsite has a picnic table, grill and water nearby. 

Nearby Attractions: About a half hour drive south of Hot Springs you will find Garvan Woodland Gardens- a 210- acre horticultural botanical garden worth visiting.

TriviaWater emerging from the hot springs in Hot Springs National Park fell as rain when the pyramids of Egypt were built—4400 years ago!  

Banner: Ozark House - currently an art museum on Bathhouse Row.

Experience these Check List:

  • Stop by the park's visitor Visitor Center 
  • Stroll down Central Avenue and experience Bathhouse Row
  • Soak in one of the active bathhouses  
  • Take a hike on Hot Springs Mountain 
  • Gaze at the landscape from atop Hot Springs Mountain Tower
  • Fill your water bottle at a thermal water jug fountain