Arkansas doesn't frequently rank high on people's lists for states to visit - but that doesn't mean it is without attractions. Apart from being the home state of former President Bill Clinton, it is known for being the home of America's oldest protected area and oldest national park - the stunning Hot Springs National Park.

If one is passing through Arkansas be sure to put it on the list of places to stop by. If one is going out West, then there are scores of stunning thermal springs to discover. See here for some hidden and undeveloped hot springs in rural Oregon.

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A Little About Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park is adjacent to the city of Hot Springs. The national park has long been protected, it was first established as the Hot Springs Reservation way back in 1832. It was protected sometime before the concept of a national park existed. Today the park is the oldest national park maintained by the National Park Service.

  • First: It Was The First Land That The Federal Government Preserved For Recreation
  • Protected: In 1832
  • Established: As A National Park In 1921 (Until 2018 It Was America's Smallest National Park)

After the hot springs were protected by the federal government in 1832, the town developed into a spa town. Since then it has drawn people from far and wide in search of its supposed medicinal properties and healing powers. For even older and more historical hot springs, check out Bath in England.

The Hot Springs National Park has a rich cultural past and boasts nine historic bathhouses. These stunning ancient thermal springs have long been the perfect getaway with their mountain views, forested hikes, and abundant creeks. It is the most accessible national park in America with the national park including parts of downtown Hot Springs.

Visiting The Park And The Fordyce Bathhouse Museum and Visitor Center

It is one of the few national parks in the United States that is free to enter. Even the historic Fordyce museum is free. Being managed by the National Park Service there are also guided tours by the park rangers - these too are free.

  • Pets: Pets Are Welcome Throughout The Park
  • Entry Fees: $0.00 - Free

One of the must-see attractions in the national park is the Fordyce Bathhouse Museum and Visitor Center. The building is a sight to see within itself with the lobby's marble and stain glass transoms as well as its stained glass ceiling in the Men's Bath Hall. The Fordyce Bathhouse operated from 1915 to 1962 when it closed due to a lack of business. It reopened in 1989 as a visitor center.

Related: Umpqua Hot Springs Is The Immersive Healing Experience You Didn't Know You Needed

Soaking In the Hot Springs

It is important to know that there are no opportunities to soak in the thermal springs outdoors. And according to the National Park Service soaking in the springs is only permitted in two of the bathhouses namely Buckstaff and Quapaw.

  • Operational Bathhouses: Buckstaff and Quapaw

There are eight bathhouses that were built on bathhouse row, but only two remain open today. Buckstaff has been in continuous operation since they first opened over a hundred years ago in 1912. They say they are the only ones still offering a full traditional bathing experience.

For more information, fees, reservations check out Buckstaff's and Quapaw's websites.

Accommodation Within The Park

Camping

Even in this little national park, camping is an option. There are campsites at the Gulpha Gorge Campground that accommodate both tents and recreational vehicles (aka RV's). The sites have full hookups and each campsite has a grill, water, and a picnic table. There are restrooms but there are no showers.

  • Check-Out Time: 12.00 pm
  • Camping Fees: $30 Per Night (Note Only By Credit or Debit Cards - Cash Is Not Accepted)

Related: 25 Reasons We All Need To Visit The Stunning Saturnia Hot Springs In Italy

Hotel Accommodation

If one is looking for accommodation inside the park, then there is also Hotel Hale (originally the Hale Bathhouse). Hotel Hale describes itself "As one of the hottest and most highly-rated hidden gems in Hot Springs" It has only nine individual suites (each one has a large soaking tub with its own hot spring mineral water pumped into every room.

Today it is the oldest structure on the historic and protected Bathhouse Row (built in 1892). It is ideally placed to explore both the Hot Springs National Park and the historic Downtown Hot Springs. It also has its own restaurant. For those interested in staying, see their website here.

  • Accommodation Options Within The Park: Hotel Hale & Gulpha Gorge Campground

Unlike most national parks, as the national park is partly in an urban setting and there are no park fees or entrance gates, it is not necessary to stay in the park. Check out other accommodation options in the city of Hot Springs.

Next: These Healing Hot Springs Offer The Most Stunning Views In The World