Arkansas’ only national park is a popular destination (literally

Hot Springs National Park may be the smallest national park in the United States, but it’s great for relaxation. It is a spa town, after all. There’s always a warm welcome to this Arkansas destination, literally.

The springs were a gathering place for Native Americans even before the arrival of settlers. At the time, locals used the area primarily for healing as they believed the vapors had medicinal properties. The hot springs officially became part of the United States in the early 1800s and improved to become known as a bathhouse and all.

Bathhouse Row has been upgraded to attract more tourists, and thanks to its Gilded Age architecture, the area has become an iconic Garland County attraction. Hot Springs National Park is rich in history – and steams – so anyone visiting will have an uplifting experience. Arkansas is nicknamed “the natural state” and the hot springs are just proof of that.

Plan to visit the hot springs, Arkansas’ only national park

A day at the spa is always relaxing but before that, here are some reminders before going on a thermal escape.

  • The park is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • There is free entry and guided tours
  • The Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is free.

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things to do in hot springs national park

Although named Hot Springs National Park, it’s not just about the bathhouses of this destination. There are various things to do like taking a relaxing bath or tireless hiking.

Public baths

Thermal waters await guests, and two public baths offer nothing but superb spa services. Quapaw Baths & Spa has four mineral-rich public spa pools. Hot Springs water has been enjoyed for thousands of years by people seeking a natural skin rejuvenating detox.

  • The public baths are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Monday (except Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas).
  • Admission to the public thermal pools is $25. There are also private baths where you can try hydrotherapy and aromatherapy.
  • They also offer spa packages that include massages, towel wraps, aromatherapy baths, foot scrubs, and many more. Pricing starts at $130 (solo).
  • Quapaw also has a lounge and cafe.


Meanwhile, Buckstaff, established in 1912, prides itself on being the region’s only traditional hot spring bath. It should not be missed since it is one of the oldest facilities in the park.

  • It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. by appointment only.
  • Their “Whirlpool Mineral Bath” package includes a 20-minute bath. It costs $38.
  • The “Swedish massage package”, which costs $40, includes the traditional massage in addition to the bathtub.
  • The “traditional bath package”, meanwhile, includes a hot tub, a loofah glove and a 20-minute massage. It costs $82.
  • The deluxe package adds a paraffin treatment. It costs $94.
  • Buckstaff also offers manicures, pedicures and facials.


Besides the public baths, the park also has cold and hot spring fountains, and visitors are encouraged to try drinking the water and take some home with their water jugs.

There are also two outdoor hot springs where visitors can touch the water. Although the temperature of the water coming out of the ground is 147° Fahrenheit, it is cool enough when it reaches the Display Spring and Hot Water Cascade pools.

Hiking

Before heading to the pool, visitors are recommended to explore the trails of the park, whether they have completed it or not. Here are three trail sections that showcase the wonders of Hot Springs.


  • The Hot Springs and North Mountain trails are the most popular because they are easy to access and offer scenic views. Trail distance ranges from 0.2 to 1.7 miles.
  • The West Mountain trails, on the other hand, are great for those who want some quiet time as they are less crowded. Trail distance ranges from 0.7 to 1.5 miles.
  • For those who want to spend most of their day outdoors, they can try the 10-mile Sunset Trail (one way). It is a tiring but rewarding experience.

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Cycling

Cyclists can rest easy when visiting the park as it has many paved roads that lead to points of interest. Cyclists can try navigating the Pullman Trail, where they can discover historic sites outside of the lush woods. They are reminded that they can mistake artifacts for trash. Cyclists are also encouraged to visit the Mountain Tower.

Camping and more

For those who want to try everything Hot Springs has to offer, they can choose to stay the night. Gulfha Gorge Campground is ready to serve.

  • Camping costs $34.
  • Tents and recreational vehicles are welcome.
  • Departure is at noon.
  • Facilities include electrical, sewage and water connections, restrooms and an amphitheater.

For picnic enthusiasts, there are four sites perfectly located under the trees. Here, tourists can enjoy the cool breeze while bonding with loved ones. Before settling in, however, picnickers and campers can try casting a line and tagging fish in the park’s waterways.

Wildlife enthusiasts can also wander to spot frogs, salamanders, beetles, moths, squirrels, shrews, or maybe a deer. Those with green thumbs, meanwhile, can keep busy checking mosses, shrubs, trees, grasses, and liverworts.

Visits

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 allow guests to see why it is considered the finest in the row.
  • The Water Talks, on the other hand, are led by rangers, perfect for those who love trivia. It is offered almost daily at 10 a.m. at the hot waterfall.
  • However, if there is no ranger, a self-guided cell phone tour covers visitors. It is ideal for those who want to spend some time for themselves away from the crowds.

Hot Springs National Park is a small destination but packed with activities for any type of traveler. From bathing to sweating, this Arkansas destination is synonymous with bliss.

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