Hot Springs National Park is a geological wonder and a natural oasis. It is home to dozens of geothermal springs that have attracted health seekers for centuries – beginning with the Native Americans who called this area "The Valley of the Vapors." As bathhouses began popping up in the 1800s, a bustling town emerged, and, ever since, the city and park have been intertwined in a steamy embrace. There's no entrance fee or gate so you can stroll from city property to park property and back again. The bulk of this 5,550-acre park lies in the surrounding mountains, home to scenic drives, breathtaking vistas, and 26 miles of hiking trails, but its heart is Bathhouse Row. Running through the center of Downtown, this stretch of eight historic bathhouses showcases the luxury of the Golden Age of Bathing, when the belief was that hot baths cured just about anything. While the majority are now creatively repurposed, two still operate as bathhouses. A hot soak in our thermal waters is, undoubtedly, the best way to soak up the history and magic of Hot Springs National Park.
In continuous operation since opening in 1912, the Buckstaff Bathhouse offers traditional baths with a personal attendant who leads you through a series of treatments. Beginning with a private soak, you'll move through the traditional treatments: a hot towel wrap, a sitz bath, a steam cabinet, and an invigorating needle shower. Massages are also available. Quapaw Baths & Spa offers a modern spa experience with four large communal pools ranging in temperature from 95-104 degrees. Other services include private and couples baths and a variety of spa treatments. At Hotel Hale, located in the oldest bathhouse on the Row, you can enjoy thermal baths in the privacy of your room. The thermal water is piped directly to soaking tubs in each guest room at this boutique hotel and restaurant.
Feeding the bathhouses are the park's namesake springs. Located along the base of Hot Springs Mountain, the springs produce about 700,000 gallons each day of high-quality water. Water heating as it travels–over thousands of years–through the fractures and faults in the mountain (to a depth of 6,000-8,000 feet). It forces its way back to the surface, where it emerges at an average temperature of 143 degrees. The springs were such a coveted natural wonder that in 1832, before creating the National Park System, the U.S. government signed legislation to protect them. It was initially known as Hot Springs Reservation and was the first land under federal protection, predating Yellowstone by 40 years. It achieved national park status in 1921. The Hot Water Cascade in Arlington Lawn is the most prominent visible spring in the park. However, the National Park keeps the majority of the springs sealed to prevent contamination. After collection through a network of underground pipes, the water is stored, cooled slightly, and distributed to the different jug fountains, the bathhouses, and the Arlington Hotel.
The water's high heat kills off any harmful bacteria, so it's entirely safe to "quaff the elixir," as they used to say. Pick up a jug from the National Park gift shop located in the Lamar Bathhouse, and get your fill at one of the park's free jug fountains. To learn more about the history and geology of the park, take the free, self-guided tour at the park's visitor center and museum, located in the grand Fordyce Bathhouse.
Hot Springs National Park is home to 26 miles of hiking trails that meander through the mountains surrounding the park's urban center. Trails are well marked, and maps are available online and at the Fordyce Bathhouse. While the majority are relatively short, many are interconnected so that you can create longer hikes and loops. Sunset Trail is the longest in the park—approximately 10 miles. The Grand Promenade is a broad brick pathway running behind Bathhouse Row and provides access to Hot Springs and North Mountain trails. Access West Mountain's trails from Whittington Avenue and Prospect Avenue and find parking, additional trailheads, and spectacular overlooks along the West Mountain and Hot Springs Mountain Scenic Drives. For 360-degree views of the park, visit the Mountain Tower, a 216-foot tall tower located on Hot Springs Mountain.
Restaurants within the National Park are located inside the bathhouses on Bathhouse Row, making for a unique dining experience. In Hotel Hale's atrium, Eden is a light-filled restaurant known locally for its weekend brunches, mimosa flights, and curated dinner entrées. The inviting atmosphere includes exposed brick, a marble bar, and a living wall draped in greenery. At Superior Bathhouse Brewery, enjoy delicious farm-to-table fare paired with a craft beer brewed with the thermal waters. The Superior is the only brewery headquartered in a U.S. National Park and the only brewery in the world to use thermal spring water as its main ingredient. For smoothies, mimosas, or a quick bite, pop into the Quapaw Cafe, located inside the Quapaw Bathhouse.
While there are overnight accommodations all over Hot Springs, only two options are within the park boundaries—offering two very different experiences. Hotel Hale is a luxury boutique hotel located in an extensively renovated bathhouse. Each room features a large soaking tub fed by thermal spring water. Alternatively, you can pop a tent or park an RV at one of 40 sites at Gulpha Gorge Campground. (Reservations required) Gulpha Creek passes through the campground and is a popular spot to splash and play. There are also trailheads for Sunset Trail and Gulpha Gorge Trail.
Boundaries: Hot Springs National Park property runs along the east side of Central Avenue from Reserve Street to Fountain Street, and includes Bathhouse Row, Arlington Lawn, and The Grand Promenade. Whittington Park on Whittington Avenue is also park property as well as the mountains surrounding Downtown and Uptown, to include two scenic mountain drives.
Weather-appropriate, breathable clothing and sturdy shoes for hiking the trails.
The park is open year round and can be enjoyed through every season.
Stay in or around the park and everything you need is in walking distance. Hop in a car to explore the two scenic drives.