Hot Springs National Park

Location: Arkansas

Park Tally: 15/59

Orientation: Hot Springs is not your typical national park. Located within a vibrant township, Hot Springs is famous for its therapeutic waters, historic bathhouses, restaurants, bars and hotels. The park also offers nature lovers a place of sanctuary, with various walking trails, lookouts and campsites. Considering ourselves more outdoorsy people rather than city slickers, we weren’t sure what to expect of Hot Springs and in the end were pleasantly surprised.

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Most iconic view:  The park’s most well-known feature is Bathhouse Row – a street lined with historic bathhouses and a picturesque Visitor Center. Try out a traditional bathing experience at Buckstaff Bathhouse to soak and steam away any stiff muscles. Make sure to go in with an open mind… times has definitely changed in regards to our modern-day “spa” experiences.

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Accessible activity: Hot Springs has numerous scenic drives and lookouts, with the most popular being Hot Springs Mountain Drive. This short drive leads visitors to a 216-foot lookout tower at the peak of Hot Springs Mountain. From there you can see views of the town and park’s lush greenery. The tower is open 7 days a week and costs $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for children.

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For the adventurous:  Hot Springs offers an abundance of hiking opportunities for those wishing to get outside and explore. The Mountain Top Trail is a 1.5-mile moderate-strenuous hike worth getting a sweat up for, or you could challenge yourself on the Sunset Trail (10-miles) which traverses the park’s most remote areas.

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Best photo opportunities:  The Hot Spring Mountain Lookout Tower provides spectacular 360 degree views of the lush local mountains and historic buildings – best captured at sunset or during golden afternoon light.

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 Quick facts

  • President Andrew Jackson set aside Hot Springs as a protected area in 1832, 40 years before Yellowstone became the first national park. The land of Hot Springs was deemed a national park in 1921.
  • Hot Springs is the smallest U.S. National Park at only 5,550 acres.
  • The thermal waters of Hot Springs heat naturally to 143°F and is odorless and chemical-free.
  • Each day around 700,000 gallons of water flows from the hot springs into a reservoir system. This water is then used by the commercial bathhouses and also flows through fountains where locals can fill up their own jugs for free.
  • Baseball teams such as the Red Sox were known to visit Hot Springs for training and recovery back in the 1880s to 1940s.
  • Hot Springs was surprisingly a hotbed for organized crime from the late-1800s through the mid-1900s. Gambling, prostitution and bootlegging were common and the area was a popular hangout spot for Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano, and other infamous mobsters.
  • Hot Springs National Park had 1,544,300 visitors in 2016 – 218,581 more than in 2013.

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