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The Ultimate Guide to Hot Springs National Park — Best Things To Do, See & Enjoy!

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Hot Springs National Park is located in southwest Arkansas, roughly 60 miles from Little Rock. This national park is filled with historical buildings, fantastic hiking trails, scenic vistas, and thermal springs.

While it may be one of the smallest national parks, it brings in a surprising number of guests each year — to the tune of more than 2 million.

Visiting Hot Springs National Park is a unique experience, so here are the best things to do, see, and enjoy.

How To Get to Hot Springs National Park

Where Is Hot Springs National Park?

Hot Springs, Arkansas, in central Arkansas, is home to Hot Springs National Park. This park is just an hour from Little Rock. Hot Springs National Park comprises 5,550 acres, mainly in the mountains, and is filled with incredible hiking trails, remarkable views, and most notably, natural hot springs.

Nearest Airports to Hot Springs National Park

There are 2 airports located in close proximity to Hot Springs National Park: a smaller municipal airport and a larger national airport.

Hot Springs Memorial Field (HOT)

Hot Springs Memorial Field is a small certified commercial airport in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

This airport services flights from Southern Airways and offers flights to and from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Memphis, Tennessee. Hot Springs Memorial Field is just 2.5 miles from the park’s entrance.

Clinton National Airport (LIT)

Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport is located in Little Rock, Arkansas, and it’s the closest major airport to Hot Springs National Park.

Clinton National Airport services many popular airlines such as Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, and United. This airport offers nonstop flights to nearly 20 different major U.S. cities.

Flying to Clinton National Airport is the most popular option for those traveling to Hot Springs National Park, as the entrance is only 50 minutes away.

Driving to Hot Springs National Park

Driving to Hot Springs National Park
Image Credit: NPS

There are several routes when planning a road trip to Hot Springs National Park. This park is around an hour’s drive from Little Rock, 3 hours from Memphis, and 4 and a half hours from Dallas. 

The main routes to get to Hot Springs National Park include I-30 if you are coming from the Little Rock area, State Route 7 if arriving from the south, or US-70 and US-270 if you are traveling from the west.

Taking a Train to Hot Springs National Park

A trip on the rails is an excellent way to experience a national park trip. An exciting railway opportunity is available for guests to take advantage of through Amtrak’s Texas Eagle route.

The Texas Eagle route takes guests to the Little Rock station. From there, it’s just an hour from Hot Springs National Park. With Amtrak, you can sit back and enjoy the drive while taking in gorgeous views along the way.

Getting Around Hot Springs National Park

There are several different ways to get around Hot Springs National Park. One of the most popular ways to make your way through the park is by driving.


Many roads wind through the park traveling up and down mountains, so it’s essential to follow the traffic laws and speed limits noted throughout the park. The National Park Service offers an interactive map on its website to help you plan your itinerary during your visit.


Another way to get around this park is by biking. All of the paved roads in the park are open to cyclists. In some areas, biking is not permitted, so be sure to pay attention to the signs posted around the park.

Hot Springs Trolley

An exciting option for exploring the park is participating in a guided tour on the Hot Springs Trolley. The trolley is the only tour in Hot Springs that takes you up the mountains for spectacular views of Hot Springs National Park and the Quachita Valley.

The Hot Springs Trolley tour educates visitors on the history of Hot Springs and showcases the historic homes from the 1800s and 1900s. The guided trolley tour is an hour and a half long and is an excellent way to learn about and discover the beauty of Hot Springs National Park.

Intracity Transit

Finally, the Intracity Transit bus is another option for touring and getting around Hot Springs National Park. The Intracity Transit runs daily except Sundays, with morning, afternoon, and evening routes.

This mode of transportation is exceptionally affordable and helps take some of the driving stress off of park visitors. Fares cost just $1.25 for adults (19 to 61 years old), with considerable discounts for seniors or people with disabilities.

What To See and Do in Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park has a large range of activities and sights for visitors to discover. From outdoor adventure to luxury spa services, there is something for everyone to enjoy at Hot Springs National Park.

Bathhouse Row

Bathhouse Row
Image Credit: Mitch Smith via NPS

Bathhouse Row is made up of 8 bathhouse buildings that were originally built between 1892 and 1923. As of 1987, Bathhouse Row was designated a National Historic Landmark District.

Visitors to Hot Springs National Park are able to tour these historic bathhouses and learn about the history and architecture of the area. Some of these bathhouses, such as Hale Bathhouse and Superior Bathhouse, are still accessible today and offer services for visitors to enjoy.

Hot Springs

Buckstaff Bathhouse
Image Credit: Buckstaff Bathhouse

One of the most popular activities for those visiting Hot Springs National Park is to soak in the thermal springs. Bathhouse Row has 2 facilities where visitors can fully submerge and relax in the thermal waters. These bathhouses have the thermal spring water piped directly into their establishments for visitors to enjoy the rejuvenating properties of the hot springs.

The Buckstaff Bathhouse and the Quapaw Bathhouse are 2 options for soaking in the springs. These establishments offer modern-day spa services and amenities for guests to enjoy.


Hot Springs National Park is a paradise for birds and avid bird watchers. A wide variety of birds make their home in the park, including songbirds, vultures, falcons, eagles, raptors, and wild turkeys.

The best place to see birds is at The Grand Promenade. This area has many deciduous and Evergreen trees and shrubs, making it a perfect place for birds to be spotted. Another area of the park that is great for bird watching is one of the trails on the West Mountain. If you are hoping to see these incredible birds that make their home in the park, it’s best to set out in the early morning.

The Christmas Bird Count is an annual event where the Hot Springs National Park, local chapters of the National Audubon Society, and the city of Hot Springs, gather to collect data on the bird population of this area. Last year’s data reported that over 9,000 birds were counted, and over 113 separate species were found in the park.


Hot Springs National Park Fishing
Image Credit: Mitch Smith via NPS

Fishing is a popular sport in Hot Springs National Park. This area is popular with anglers because of its trophy, large-mouth bass, and stripers. Other fish that can be seen in the area include bream, cool water walleye, crappie, and catfish. Simply put, fishing in Hot Springs National Park is a dream come true for anglers.

Guided Tours

An excellent way to learn about the history of Hot Springs National Park and the surrounding area is to participate in one of the many guided tours offered in the park.

Visitors can choose from self-guided tours, ranger-led tours, and even cell phone tours. Popular tours include the self-guided Fordyce Bathhouse tour, a ranger-led guided walk through the Grand Promenade, or the Gulpha Gorge Campground tour, which can be taken via a cell phone.

Hot Tip: Guided tours can be a lot of fun and provide visitors with a wealth of knowledge about the cultural and natural history of Hot Springs National Park.


Hot Springs National Park is a fantastic place for those who love to hike. This park has over 26 miles of hiking trails winding throughout its boundaries. The 2 most popular areas for hiking include the Hot Springs and North Mountain Trails and the West Mountain Trails. These hiking trails are relatively short and interconnected.

Another popular area for hiking is the Sunset Trail, which is longer and travels to many remote areas of the park. Hiking through the park provides visitors with spectacular views, unbelievable scenery, and a perfect escape from the city.

Scenic Drives and Overlooks

Overlook at Goat Rock
Overlook at Goat Rock. Image Credit: Mitch Smith via NPS

Driving through Hot Springs National Park and stopping off at one of the many overlooks is a great way to discover the park’s beauty. There are scenic drives and overlooks at the North Mountain, West Mountain, and Sugarloaf Mountain.

One of the most popular overlooks in all of Hot Springs National Park is the Hot Springs Mountain Tower Overlook. This tower takes guests in an elevator that stops at 216 feet high. There are observation decks at the top of this tower where visitors can admire the sweeping views of the Ouachita Mountains, the Diamond Lakes area, and Hot Springs Mountain.


Other than picking up a few souvenirs or maps at a gift store in a National Park, most visitors don’t think that shopping could be one of the top activities in a National Park. That’s not the case at Hot Springs National Park.

Because this park is located in the heart of downtown Hot Springs, there are shopping opportunities galore for visitors to enjoy while vacationing there, with more than a dozen shops, boutiques, and gift shops.

Best Times To Visit Hot Springs National Park

Escaping the daily grind with a visit to Hot Springs National Park is an unforgettable experience. However, depending on the activity, there may be better times of the year to visit than others.

Whether you’re hoping to explore this National Park during the enchanting winter months or if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the wildlife in the park, there’s a perfect time for planning your ideal trip.

Best Time To Visit Hot Springs National Park in Winter

Winter is a bit chilly in Hot Springs National Park, but it’s still a great time to visit. An excellent month for a winter visit is in December. The temperatures will dip, ranging from 33 to 52 degrees.

The park is less crowded during the winter, and there’s also excellent pricing on lodging rates. Visitors can still explore Hot Springs National Park in the winter, and it’s an ideal time to visit the main attraction at this time of year — the hot springs.

Best Time To Visit Hot Springs National Park To Avoid the Crowds

A solo trip in a beautiful National Park may sound like a dream to many people. If you want to explore Hot Springs National Park without a crowd, plan a trip in November. A trip to Hot Springs National Park in November can also save you lots of money with lower-priced accommodations.

Best Time To Visit Hot Springs National Park for Fall Foliage

Fall is an excellent time to visit Hot Springs National Park. October brings very comfortable temperatures ranging from the 50s to the mid-70s.

Not only is the weather optimal in October, but the park is also beginning to transform from green to vibrant shades of orange, red, and gold. October has fewer visitors, so visiting at this time means it’s less crowded, plus gorgeous fall foliage and perfect weather for exploring the outdoors at Hot Springs National Park.

Cheapest Time To Visit Hot Springs National Park

Saving money while traveling is always a bonus. For those looking to visit Hot Springs National Park frugally, the cheapest time to visit is mid to late September.

The crowds have receded by mid to late September, with school starting back up, and many flights can be found at cheaper rates and better lodging prices. Visiting this incredible national park and saving money is a win-win situation.

Annual Events in Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park is an excellent location for hosting various events. The city of Hot Springs, along with Hot Springs National Park, hosts a plethora of events each year that bring in many visitors who want to check out what Hot Springs has to offer. Let’s explore some of the most popular events in the Hot Springs National Park area.

Hot Springs Arts and Crafts Fair

The Hot Springs Arts and Crafts Fair takes place each year during the first weekend of October at the Garland County Fairgrounds.

The Hot Springs Arts and Crafts Fair has over 200 vendors who are ready to showcase and share their passion for crafting with locals and visitors. There’s more than just crafts at the Hot Springs Arts and Crafts Festival — this event also has lots of delicious foods and even a petting zoo.

Hot Tip: This event has been taking place for 50+ years in Hot Springs and is an event that is a favorite by locals and visitors alike.

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has been taking place at the Hot Springs National Park in October for more than 32 years. This event is hosted by the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute and brings in storytellers that share their cinematography skills and nonfiction stories with others. It’s a great place for filmmakers and audiences to gather and appreciate the wonderful world of documentaries.

Hot Springs Renaissance Fair

The Hot Springs Renaissance Fair takes place each year in early November at the Garland County Fairgrounds and has been bringing in visitors for years.

Those planning to visit during the Hot Springs Renaissance Fair are encouraged to dress in their Renaissance best and enjoy artisan demonstrations, sword fighting, medieval magic, and soaring birds of prey.

Where To Stay in Hot Springs National Park

There are plenty of options for accommodations in and around Hot Springs National Park. From incredible campgrounds to luxury resorts, you can find exactly what you’re looking for either inside the park or nearby. Check out some of the options for places to set up a home base during your Hot Springs National Park experience.

Inside the Park

There are 2 different options for visitors who want to stay inside Hot Spring National Park’s boundaries. One option is to camp in the great outdoors, while the other is to enjoy superior luxuries at a historic bathhouse. Let’s take a look at each of these options to see which one will work for your national park vacation.

Gulpha Gorge Campground

Gulpha Gorge Creek
Image Credit: Mitch Smith via NPS

Gulpha Gorge Campground is the only developed campground in Hot Springs National Park. Camping in Hot Springs is the perfect way to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the park.

There are a variety of campsites for tents and recreational vehicles. Each campsite features a grill, water, and a picnic table. The campground has electric hookups as well as water and sewer.

You’ll need to reserve a campsite well in advance for $34 per night. If you are looking for a beautiful place to set up camp and retreat from the daily grind, Gulpha Gorge is precisely what you’re looking for when visiting Hot Springs National Park.

Hotel Hale

For guests who prefer a more traditional lodging experience, Hot Springs National Park has a historic hotel within the park boundaries. Hotel Hale is a beautiful lodging option for those visiting this National Park.

Hotel Hale was built in 1892 as a bathhouse called Hale Bathhouse. In recent years, this landmark has been remodeled into a boutique luxury hotel. The location of Hotel Hale is perfect for those who want to explore Hot Springs National Park or the downtown Hot Springs area.

This hotel features 9 suites, each with luxurious amenities such as soaking tubs, mineral spring water pumped into every room, superior linens, and spectacular customer service. Hotel Hale has 2 on-site restaurants, one with a gorgeous dining area with a skylight. The restaurant serves a spectacular brunch each weekend, featuring signature morning drinks like a refreshing Bloody Mary and a variety of mimosas.

Bottom Line: Hotel Hale is an excellent way to experience Hot Springs National Park and enjoy some luxurious moments during your national park vacation.

Towns Near Hot Springs National Park

Several towns are located less than 10 miles from Hot Springs National Park, and several larger cities are a little further down the road. Each of these cities has something unique to offer visitors headed to Hot Springs National Park.

Hot Springs

Hot Springs is the city where Hot Springs National Park is located. Hot Springs has a wide variety of places to stay, restaurants, activities, and events. Most guests who decide to stay outside the park boundaries will stay in Hot Springs.

There are various visitor lodging types, including private rentals, cabins, chalets, and traditional luxury hotels. Food enthusiasts are also in for a treat when staying in Hot Springs. This town has dozens of restaurants ranging from popular fast-food chain restaurants to local restaurants featuring unique dishes and drinks.

There’s no shortage of activity when staying in Hot Springs. This city is bursting with opportunities to enjoy art and culture, outdoor adventure, and even some pampering. There’s something for everyone in Hot Springs, from water museums to fun family parks and from boutique shopping to spa days.

Little Rock

Many people choose to set up a base camp in Little Rock. Little Rock is less than an hour away from Hot Springs National Park. This city has an abundance of accommodations, restaurants, and activities for tourists.

Many chain hotels, budget motels, and private rentals are available in Little Rock, and charming, historic bed and breakfasts make for a memorable stay in this area. There’s plenty to choose from if guests seek world-class luxury and superior amenities in this town.

The culinary scene in Little Rock is an exciting experience. There are dozens of classic home-cooking diners and fine dining establishments everywhere you look in Little Rock — the hardest decision will be deciding where you will eat during your visit.

Little Rock also has plenty of options for recreation. The William J. Clinton Library and Museum, Big Dam Bridge, and the Museum of Discovery are some of the most popular attractions in the city. There are also plenty of activities available for outdoor adventures, such as cycling, hiking, and kayaking.

Where To Eat In and Near Hot Springs National Park

Whether you’re in the mood for a juicy burger or a gourmet meal, you can find just what you’re craving in the Hot Springs National Park area. There are several options for dining in Hot Springs National Park and many options near the park.

The Avenue

The Avenue
Image Credit: The Avenue

The Avenue is located inside The Waters Hotel, less than half a mile from Hot Springs National Park. This 5-star restaurant offers a casual dining experience with an upscale menu.

The restaurant uses locally-sourced ingredients and offers an array of appetizers, entrees, signature cocktails, craft beer, and fine wines. The Avenue is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and an exceptional brunch is offered on Sundays. It is the ideal setting for catching up with friends or family while delighting in a delicious meal with a fantastic drink.


Eden is the on-site restaurant in Hotel Hale. The lovely atmosphere with stylish décor, a living wall, and a skylight makes each meal an unforgettable experience. This beautiful restaurant is an excellent option for those who want to dine in downtown Hot Springs.

Eden is open Thursday through Sunday for happy hour, dinner, and weekend brunch. Customers rave about the filet mignon, the surf and turf, and the brunch served on Saturdays and Sundays. This restaurant earned the Diners Choice Award in 2022 with its outstanding menu of gourmet dishes and signature drinks.

Take a break from your adventures and enjoy a moment at this gem of a restaurant in Hot Springs National Park.

Quapaw Bathhouse Café

The Quapaw Bathhouse is open for visitors to enjoy the thermal springs and spa services. This establishment also has an on-site café that makes a great place to take a break and fill up on a delicious meal.

Quapaw Café offers a lengthy menu of sandwiches, salads, hot café drinks, smoothies, and signature drinks. This restaurant proudly serves dishes and drinks made with organic ingredients and has several options for vegetarian diets. Popular choices include the pimento cheese sandwich, the chef salad, and one of the mimosa ice cream floats.

Bottom Line: Be sure to visit Quapaw Café for a light meal and spa-like atmosphere when touring Hot Springs National Park.

Steinhaus Keller

For a 5-star dining experience only a minute from Hot Springs National Park, venture down Central Avenue to Steinhaus Keller. This authentic German restaurant offers an unforgettable culinary experience. Steinhaus Keller has an extensive menu featuring classic German dishes such as schnitzel, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and fried potatoes. 

Superior Bathhouse Brewery

Superior Bathhouse Brewery is the only brewery located in a national park in America and makes for an excellent place to stop while visiting Hot Springs National Park.

On offer are 18 craft beers made in-house with the thermal hot spring water as its main ingredient, a seasonal menu of burgers, salads, and classic entrees, and a beer park for enjoying a drink on the patio. Customer favorites include the beer flight, the burgers, and the chicken tenders.

Hot Springs National Park Facts

Hot Spring Mountain on Tufa Terrace Trail
Image Credit: Mitch Smith via NPS

1. A New Park Is Born

Hot Springs National Park was established as the nation’s 18th national park on March 4, 1921. The National Park Service had been established just 5 years before Hot Springs became a national park.

2. An Urban National Park

Since this national park has an entire town surrounding it, Hot Springs National Park is considered to be one of the most urban parks in the U.S.

3. Small but Magnificent

Hot Springs National Park is the second smallest national park in the U.S. While it is an extremely small park, it still brings in over 2 million visitors yearly, with a great deal of sights and attractions for visitors to learn about, explore, and appreciate.

4. Thermal Springs Galore

There are 47 thermal springs in Hot Springs National Park. This park has had a couple of nicknames in the past, including The American Spa and The Valley of Vapors because of its great number of geothermal springs.

5. Previously Known as Hot Springs Reservation

In 1832, President Andrew Jackson signed the first law to preserve an area for recreational purposes. This area is what is now known as Hot Springs National Park. Before this park became a national park, it was known as Hot Springs Reservation.

This area was set aside to protect the thermal hot springs of the park. This was one of the earliest versions of the national park idea and predated Yellowstone National Park’s establishment.

6. Archeology in the Park

Archeology in Hot Springs National Park shows us that there have been people in the area for over 10,000 years. This national park has more than 92 archeological sites, including prehistoric quarries and mines, remnants of hotels and bathhouses from the early 1800s, cemeteries, prehistoric campsites, and historic dumps. These relics tell the story of the rich cultural history of Hot Springs National Park.

7. Mineral-rich Waters

The thermal springs are rich in minerals that are known for their healing properties and have been studied by scientists for years. Research has shown that there are high levels of free carbon dioxide, sulfate, calcium, silica, and bicarbonate, and these minerals are said to help with relaxation and healing.

8. Gangster Club

Ohio Club is a historic bar in Hot Springs National Park where Al Capone gathered with his gang. This club is said to be the largest bar in the entire state of Arkansas. Ohio Club opened in 1905, and when Prohibition began in 1920, this club was a speakeasy called the Ohio Cigar Store. Many famous people graced the Ohio Club, including Busy Segel, Mae West, Al Jolson, and Bugs Moran. This club is still open today and offers a menu of pub-style food.

9. Original People of Hot Springs

The Quapaw and Caddo tribes are believed to have been the original people of Hot Springs National Park. Today, these 2 tribes are still affiliated with the park, and a rich history can be learned about these tribes when visiting Hot Springs National Park today.

10. Settling the Hot Springs Area

Europeans began settling in the Hot Springs area in the early 1800s. Most of these early settlers came for the healing of thermal waters. Later, other settlers came to the town to work in the bathhouse industry or in nearby businesses in the bathing industry.

11. Destroyed by Fire

In 1878, a fire swept through the Hot Springs National Park area (at that time, Hot Springs Reservation). This fire destroyed most of the area and left the buildings in ruin. While this was a devastating event, many locals felt it was a blessing in the long run, as it cleared the way for new and improved construction.

12. Well-known Guests

Many famous people have visited Hot Springs National Park, including Jesse James, Babe Ruth, Herbert Hoover, and John F. Kennedy. This national park attracted many people, including celebrities, who wanted to experience the healing geothermal waters.

13. An Abundance of Animals

Many animals make their home in the park, with more than 50 mammal species, 100 kinds of birds, 50 types of fish, and 70 species of reptiles and amphibians living in the park. There are many areas to view the variety of animals in the park, and they can be easily spotted on the open trails during early morning or dusk.

Final Thoughts

From soaking in thermal springs to hiking to spectacular overlooks, there is something everyone can enjoy when visiting this national park. Plan a getaway to Hot Springs National Park and discover the hot springs’ natural beauty, history, and healing powers.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter Hot Springs National Park?

There is no fee for entering Hot Springs National Park. The only charges will be for camping and special activities.

What is the recommended number of days to spend at Hot Springs National Park?

For an incredible Hot Springs National Park experience, planning a trip for 5 to 7 days is recommended. This will allow for full days spent at many large areas like Lake Hamilton and Garven Gardens and plenty of time for hiking and enjoying the bathhouses.

Can I take my dog with me to Hot Springs National Park?

Hot Springs National Park is a pet-friendly park. Some stipulations for those bringing a pet to the park include keeping them on a leash, ensuring they are attended to at all times, and cleaning up after pet waste. There are also some areas and buildings where they are not permitted.

What is the weather like at Hot Springs National Park?

The weather varies throughout the year at Hot Springs National Park. The average low temperature is 32 degrees with ice and snow, and the highest temperatures reach up to the 90s with high humidity in the summer.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.


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