There aren’t many places where a national park overlaps with a city, but Hot Springs National Park is a unique blend of nature and city. With natural springs located in the heart of downtown, Hot Springs, Arkansas has been nicknamed “The American Spa”. But there’s more to this area than just the hot water. Hot Springs National Park consists of 5,500 acres to explore, including hiking trails, historic buildings, an observation tower, museum, and even a brewery.
About Hot Springs National Park
Located in Central Arkansas, Hot Springs National Park is the smallest national park in the United States. It surrounds the north part of the city of Hot Springs. The 143-degree water has been bringing people to this area for hundreds of years. People found healing powers from drinking the water and bathing in it, and lots continue to visit seeking relaxation.
First designated as a reservation in 1832, it became a national park in 1921 as the only National Park Service property mandated to give the general public its primary natural resource – the geothermal water – for free. While visiting Hot Springs National Park, you can fill a jug or bottle up at the water fountains fed by the natural springs. Additionally, entrance to the park is free of charge.
Things to do in Hot Springs National Park
Take a hike
To explore Hot Springs National Park, hit the hiking trails. There are 26 miles of meandering, well-marked trails ranging from easy to strenuous throughout the park. The Sunset Trail is the longest trail at 10 miles long. To see the different trails and paths, pick up a map of Hot Springs National Park in the visitor center located at Fordyce Bathhouse.
Go to Hot Springs Mountain Tower
Sitting atop Hot Springs Mountain, this observation tower is easy to get to with hiking trails and a road leading to it. Reach 1,256 feet above sea level at the top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower and enjoy views overlooking 140 miles of Arkansas countryside and mountains. Offering two viewing areas, the lower level includes historical and educational exhibits, giving background on the national park and city itself. For $8, you can go up the tower either by using the elevator or stairs.
Wander Bathhouse Row & the Grand Promenade
Including eight bathhouse buildings that were constructed between 1892 and 1923, the Bathhouse Row National Historic Landmark District shows off the beauty of the bathhouses side-by-side. You can easily pick out the architectural similarities and differences between the buildings. Bathhouse Row is home to Superior, Hale, Maurice, Fordyce, Quapaw, Ozark, Lamar, and Buckstaff Baths. Stroll the charming street and admire the historic buildings and gardens. Want to indulge in a spa day? Quapaw Baths & Spa and Buckstaff Baths offer a variety of packages for you to bathe in the thermal water.
Located on the hill above the historic bathhouses, the Grand Promenade is a half-mile brick pathway with views of downtown, Bathhouse Row, and the hot springs cascade. Also, the path is flanked by numerous benches to stop and appreciate the relaxing setting of Hot Springs. So take your time and enjoy the scenic walk.
Tour the historic Fordyce Bathhouse
Home of the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center, the Fordyce Bathhouse is now a museum with four floors of exhibits. It showcases the beauty of this bathhouse, explains the bathing process, and tells the story behind Fordyce. Explore this historic bathhouse and see why it was considered the best in Hot Springs. Admission is free. Additionally, there are free and informative tours daily.
Indulge in a flight of beer at Superior Bathhouse Brewery
For 30 years, Superior Bathhouse laid vacant. Then, in 2013, Superior Bathhouse Brewery opened in its space as the first brewery in a United States national park. Also, it’s the only brewery in the world using thermal spring water in their beer. In addition to good beer and food, Superior Bathhouse Brewery boasts a lovely view of downtown Hot Springs from its oversized windows. After hiking and exploring Hot Springs National Park, unwind with #HotSpringsOnTap and settle into a window seat to people-watch.
Have you visited Hot Springs National Park? If so, what was your experience like? If not, would you like to visit the smallest national park in the United States?
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