The Hot Springs National Park might be the smallest United States national park, but it’s big on relaxation. It’s a spa town, after all. There’s always a warm welcome in this Arkansas destination, literally.
The springs have been a gathering place for Native Americans even before the arrival of the settlers. Back then, the locals used the area mainly for healing as they believed the vapors have medicinal properties. The hot springs officially became part of the US in the early 1800s and have improved to become known as a bathhouse and everything.
The Bathhouse Row has been modernized to attract more tourists, and thanks to its Gilded Age architecture, the area became an iconic Garland County attraction. The Hot Springs National Park is rich in history – and vapors – so anyone visiting will have an enriching experience. Arkansas is nicknamed ‘The Natural State,’ and the hot springs are just among the proof.
Plan The Visit to hot springs, the only national park in arkansas
A spa day is always relaxing but before that, here are some reminders before going on a hot springs escape.
- The park is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- There is free entrance and guided tours
- The Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance to the museum is free.
things to do in hot springs national park
Though named Hot Springs National Park, it’s not all about the bathhouses in this destination. There are various things to do like taking a relaxing bath or tirelessly hiking.
The thermal waters await guests and two bathhouses give nothing but superb spa services. Quapaw Baths & Spa has four public thermal pools that are rich in minerals. Hot Springs’ water has been enjoyed for thousands of years by people looking for a skin-rejuvenating natural detox
- The bathhouse is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Wednesday to Monday (except Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day).
- Entry to the public thermal pools costs $25. There are also private baths where guests can try hydrotherapy and aromatherapy.
- They also have spa packages which include massages, towel wraps, aromatherapy baths, foot scrubs, and many others. The price starts at $130 (solo).
- Quapaw also has a salon and cafe.
Meanwhile, Buckstaff, established in 1912, is proud that they are the only traditional thermal water bathhouse in the area. It should not be missed since it’s one of the park’s oldest facilities.
- It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on an appointment-only basis
- Their ‘Whirlpool Mineral Bath’ package includes a 20-minute tub bath. It costs $38.
- The ‘Swedish Massage Package,’ which costs $40, includes the traditional massage aside from the tub bath.
- The ‘Traditional Bathing Package,’ meanwhile, includes a whirlpool bath, loofah mitt, and a 20-minute massage. It costs $82.
- The deluxe package adds a paraffin treatment. It costs $94.
- Buckstaff also offers manicure, pedicure, and facial services.
Aside from the bathhouses, the park also has cold and thermal spring fountains, and visitors are encouraged to try drinking the water and taking some home with their water jugs.
There are also two outdoor thermal springs where visitors can touch the water. Though the water temperature that comes out of the ground is 147° Fahrenheit, it’s cool enough when it reaches the pools of Display Spring and Hot Water Cascade.
Before hitting the pool, it’s recommended that visitors explore the park’s trails, whether they finish it or not. Here are three trail sections that feature Hot Springs’ wonders.
- The Hot Springs and North Mountain trails are the most popular because they are easy to reach and offer scenic views. Trail distance varies from 0.2 to 1.7 miles.
- West Mountain trails, meanwhile, are perfect for those who want some quiet time since they are less traveled. Trail distance varies from 0.7 to 1.5 miles.
- For those who want to spend most of their day outdoors, they can try the 10-mile (one-way) Sunset Trail. It’s a tiring but rewarding experience.
Bikers can rest easy when visiting the park because it has many paved roads that lead to interesting points. Bikers can try navigating the Pullman Trail, where they can check out historic home sites aside from the lush woods. They are reminded as they may confuse the artifacts for trash. Bikers are also encouraged to visit the Mountain Tower.
Camping And More
For those who want to try all things Hot Springs offer, they can opt to stay overnight. The Gulpha Gorge Campground is ready to serve.
- Camping costs $34.
- Tents and recreational vehicles are welcome.
- Checkout is at noon.
- Amenities include electric, sewer, and water connections, restrooms, and an amphitheater.
For picnic lovers, there are four sites perfectly located under the trees. Here, tourists can enjoy the cool breeze as they bond with loved ones. Before settling down, however, picnickers and campers can try throwing a line and score some fish at the park’s waterways.
Wildlife enthusiasts can also wander around spotting frogs, salamanders, beetles, moths, squirrels, shrews, or maybe a deer. Those with green thumbs, meanwhile, can busy themselves checking out mosses, shrubs, trees, grasses, and liverworts.
The park offers free guided tours, sharing with guests what makes the area unique and an important local attraction.
- A self-guided tour of Fordyce Bathhouse will let guests see why it is considered the most beautiful in the row.
- The Water Talks, meanwhile, are led by rangers, perfect for those who enjoy trivia. It's offered most days at 10 a.m. at the Hot Water Cascade.
- However, if there's no ranger, a self-guided cellphone tour got visitors covered. It's ideal for those who want some 'me time' away from the crowd.
The Hot Springs National Park is one small destination but packed with enough activities for any type of traveler. From bathing to breaking a sweat, this Arkansas destination is all about bliss.