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Hot Springs National Park: The Complete Guide for 2023

Leah Fishman

Vermont, USA

Welcome to Hot Springs National Park: home to ancient thermal springs, family-friendly trails, hill-top views, and winding creeks. This tiny US National Park (at 5,550 acres, it’s the smallest!) is famous for its spring-fed bathhouses, mineral drinking fountains, urban charm, and deep-rooted history. Oh, and did we mention that it’s the only national park with an on-site brewery? Don’t wait — Hot Springs promises a little bit of mineral magic to everyone who visits.

Where is Hot Springs National Park?

Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Hot Springs National Park is tucked inside the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas, which is in southwest central Arkansas, approximately 1 hour west of Little Rock.

Getting to Hot Springs

Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

If driving to Hot Springs National Park from Little Rock, hop on I-30 towards Dallas. Take exit 111 (Highway 70) toward Hot Springs. Highway 70 takes you right into town.

If flying into Arkansas from another state, the closest airports to Hot Springs National Park are Hot Springs’ local Memorial Field Airport and Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport which is approximately 60 miles away

Indigenous History of Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The Hot Springs region has played crucial role in the cultural and spiritual practices of several Native American tribes, including the Quapaw and the Caddo. Based on current evidence, research suggests that indigenous people inhabited Hot Springs National Park 14,000 years before settlers ever stepped foot in this area.

Hot Springs National Park Facts

Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.
  • At just 5,550 acres, Hot Springs is America’s smallest national park.
  • Hot Springs National Park is the only national park that is actually required to share its primary natural resource (thermal mineral water) with the general public. And it’s always free!
  • The water in Hot Springs comes out of the ground at approximately 143 degrees Fahrenheit, on average.
  • Not only is Hot Spring National Park spring water great for soaking, it is also completely potable and safe to drink.

Best Time to Visit Hot Springs

Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

While Hot Springs National Park is uniquely accessible year-round, the best time to visit is definitely in the spring. You may experience rain, but temperatures will be moderate and spring is the best time to enjoy flowers and wildlife inside the national park and at nearby Garvan Woodland Gardens.

Hot Springs National Park Hours & Current Conditions

Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Hot Springs National Park and its biggest attractions (Bathhouse Row, Reserve Street, Fountain Street) are open 5am to 10pm, year-round. Roads to Hot Springs Mountain, North Mountain and West Mountain Summit are open to car traffic from 8am to 10pm.

For daily alerts, updates, and closure notifications, check out the current conditions at Hot Springs National Park.

Hot Springs National Park Fees and Passes

Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

There are only 16 US National Parks that have no entrance fees, and Hot Springs is one of them. Hot Springs National Park is an urban park, so you may need to spend some change on the parking meters, but otherwise the park is free to explore. At around $30 per person, a trip to a bathhouse is pretty affordable, but you can always sample the water for free.

Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center

Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Located in the Fordyce Bathhouse at 369 Central Avenue, Hot Spring National Park’s visitor center and museum offers visitors free self-guided tours of the now-defunct bathhouse, opportunities to chat with a park ranger, pick up maps and guides, or sign-up a ranger program.

The Best Trails in Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

While Hot Springs National Park isn’t famous for it’s trails, there are plenty of places to stretch your legs. Hot Springs is a great place for beginners and families, with most trails accessible by road and under 3 miles. Here’s a list of some of our favorite hikes in Hot Springs National Park.

Easy, perfect for families:

  1. Grand Promenade (0.7 mile out-and-back)
  2. West Mountain Trail (2.4 mile loop)
  3. Hot Springs Mountain Trail (3.3 mile loop)
  4. Peak Trail (1.3 mile out-and-back)
  5. Upper Dogwood Trail (1.5 mile loop)

Moderate, fairly strenuous:

  1. Goat Rock Trail (2.4 mile out-and-back)
  2. Goat Rock & Upper Dogwood (2.5 mile loop)
  3. Gulpha Gorge Trail (1.2 mile out-and-back)
  4. Oertel Trail (3.2 mile out-and-back)

Difficult, experience required:

  1. Sunset Trail (13 mile loop)

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Places to Stay Near Hot Springs National Park

Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Hot Springs National Park Camping

Planning a night under the stars? Here are some of the best campgrounds and campsites in and around Hot Springs National Park:

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Hot Springs National Park Hotels

If camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of resorts, hotels, inns, and B&Bs within a quick drive of Hot Springs National Park. Here are some of our favorites:

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Hot Springs National Park Tours

Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Hop back in history with a self-guided tour of the Foydyce Bathhouse. In 1915, the Fordyce Bathhouse was the most luxurious bathhouse in Hot Springs. Today, you can tour the Fordyce at your own pace, for free, and learn about Bathhouse Row’s rich history.

Looking for something with more structure? Hot Spring National Park’s ranger-led tours run from May to October, and they include ranger led walks around the park, junior ranger programs for kids, and even BARK ranger programming for those with dogs in tow.

Best Things to Do in Hot Springs National Park

Fordyce Bathhouse

Fordyce Bathhouse, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Once a bathhouse, today, the Fordyce Bathhouse functions as the park’s visitor center. From the marble-lined lobby to the dressing rooms and mens massage rooms to the music room and bowling alley, each floor preserves the buildings historic beauty.

The Drinking Fountains

Display Springs, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Throughout the park, there are seven thermal spring drinking fountains and two cold spring fountains available to the public. The park provides spring water free of charge at all of its jug fountains. 

The Grand Promenade

The Grand Promenade, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The Grand Promenade is a half-mile National Recreation Trail that runs parallel to bathhouse row, behind the bathhouses. This short, leisurely paved walk offers views of historic downtown Hot Springs, the Arlington Lawn, the hot springs cascade, quartz veins in the sandstone and tufa cliffs.

Buckstaff Bathhouse

Buckstaff Baths, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The Buckstaff Bathhouse is the only bathhouse on bathhouse row that offers a traditional bathing experience. While it’s packed with history and has been in continuous operation since opening its doors in 1912, today, the Buckstaff offers mineral baths, hot packs, sitz baths, steam cabinets, and Swedish Massages for visitors of Hot Springs. No reservations needed!

Quapaw Baths & Spa

Quapaw Baths & Spa, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Located on historic Bathhouse Row, Quapaw Baths & Spa offers guests a unique way to experience the world-famous thermal water found in Hot Springs. Visitors can enjoy soaking in four large pools or rent time in the spa’s private baths. Add-on services include massage, facials, and revitalizing body polishes designed to leave guests relaxed and rejuvenated.

Hot Springs Mountain Tower

Hot Springs Mountain Tower, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Hot Springs Mountain Tower is one of the most popular activities in Hot Springs. Perfect for families and non-hikers, the tower’s elevator takes visitors 216 feet above the forest to observation decks where you’ll enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Ouachita Mountains.

Garvan Woodland Gardens

Garvan Woodland Gardens, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The botanical garden of the University of Arkansas, Garvan Woodland Gardens, is 210 acres of structured gardens and wild woodlands. Popular attractions include a 4-acre Asian garden with a 12-foot waterfall and koi pond, the Perry Wildflower Overlook, the Evans Treehouse, and the world-famous Anthony Chapel.

@leah_fiona secret garden treehouse ☁️ #treehouse #hiddengems #arkansas #travel #fyp #foryou ♬ original sound – Dom Wright

Anthony Chapel

Anthony Chapel, Garvan Woodland Gardens, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Located inside of Garvan Woodland Gardens, Anthony Chapel is a 57′ high chapel designed by Maurice Jennings and David McKee and made of native wood and glass. The chapel seats 160, and the chapel is even available for weddings and other private events.

Superior Bathhouse Brewery

Superior Bathhouse Brewery, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Built in 1916, the Superior operated as a bathhouse in Downtown Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, until its closure in 1983. After sitting empty for over 30 years, Superior Bathhouse Brewery was born. Not only is Superior Bathhouse Brewery the first and only brewery located inside of a U.S national park, but it’s the only brewery in the world to use thermal spring water as a main ingredient.

Gangster Museum of America

Gangster Museum of America, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Some of the most notorious criminals in America co-existed with the small town of Hot Springs back in the day. From the late-1800s through the mid-1900s, Hot Springs was hideout for Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano, and other infamous mobsters. Stop by the Gangster Museum of America to browse through photos, relics and memorabilia.


HEIST, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

HEIST is a swanky lounge located on the second level above VAULT, a historic bank building in Hot Springs. They offer craft cocktails, delicious food, and several photo-friendly private rooms for small parties.

Goat Rock Trail

Goat Rock Trail, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Goat Rock Trail is a popular 2.4-mile out-and-back trail just a few miles from downtown Hot Springs. The best times to visit this trail are March through October. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Ouachita National Forest

Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Straddling Arkansas and Oklahoma, Ouachita National Forest is 1,784,457 acres of rolling green mountains, untouched lakes, and wildlife. Recreation areas like Albert Pike, Shady Lake and Charlton offer campsites, hiking and mountain biking trails, swimming, and more.

Hot Springs National Park Swimming

Magic Springs Water & Theme Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

While super tempting, Hot Springs National Park’s mineral hot springs are not safe for swimming. Luckily, Hot Springs, Arkansas, offers a variety of fun swim options for both hikers and families. Spend a day at Magic Springs Water & Theme Park for high-intensity water slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, and children’s play areas. Prefer a more natural vibe? Find sandy lakes and cool swimming holes at Lake Catherine State Park, Gulpha Gorge Campground and more.

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