While we didn’t get to do our normal 30-day road trip this year, we did have fun heading to the Crater of Diamonds for a little camping excursion for 4 days. While we were there we decided to head over to Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The main reason we headed that way was to visit Hot Springs National Park and hike some of the trails. I was surprised to learn that most people who visit have no idea there are actual hiking trails located within the park.
We began by walking up and down the “strip” and visiting the only bathhouse that is open for public tours (no longer operational as it has been turned into a museum), this also happens to be the Hot Springs National Park Visitors Center and Museum. This is where you will get your stamp for your National Parks Passport and maps of the area. It is located about halfway down the “strip”.
If you are looking for an operational bathhouse, visit the Quapaw or Buckstaff.
Tour a Bathhouse
The restored Fordyce Bathhouse is now the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center and Museum and is located in the middle of bathhouse row. Here you can tour (for free) 23 restored rooms and see where the natural hot springs enter the building in the basement area.
It is really cool to see how things looked back in the early 1900’s. Men and women were segregated and each had their own area’s.
Honestly, this deserves a post all by itself. I took a million pictures and once I get that up, I will link to it from here. Also, there is no parking on bathhouse row so you will need to use the city parking areas.
Take a Mountain Tour
After you have visited bathhouse row and checked out all the little shops, get in the car and head on over to Hot Springs Mountain Drive (located behind bathhouse row). There are several scenic pull-offs and parking if you wish to hike one of the several trails located within the park.
Once you are done there, head over to West Mountain Drive on the other side of the park for a different vantage point.
No not on drugs, but up in the air by visiting the Hot Springs Mountain Tower which sits atop Hot Springs Mountain. The 216-foot observation tower allows you to see a 360 view of the area. There is a charge, but the view is worth it!
Hike Some Trails
While we didn’t get to hike any trails due to me injuring my foot the night before we left for vacation, my son and I hiked down a short distance to a small overlook (and geocache).
There are over 26 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous in the park with the longest being Sunset Trail (10 miles) which circles most of the 5400-acre park.
Take a Bath
You can take a traditional hot springs bath at Buckstaff Bathhouse which is the only bathhouse left that is a traditional thermal water bathhouse and has been in operation since 1912. They have several options available for all budgets. I wish we had done this when we visited, except I didn’t find out about it until after we left!
Drink the Water
There are jug fountains located throughout the park that allows visitors to fill jugs (or water bottles) with the “elixir” aka water. Completely free of course, so don’t forget to grab a couple of jugs and fill them up (or at least your water bottle).
Out of the 8 spring fountains, only two are cold (Happy Hollow on Fountain Street and Whittington Spring in Whittington Park), so keep that in mind if you visit on a hot day and think you will go fill your jug up with cold water! The temperature of the springs coming out at the hot jug fountains averages 143 degrees.
While the water does come out of a fountain for easy filling, the water is coming straight from the spring and the National Park Service certifies that the water is safe to drink as they monitor all the springs closely.
Visit (or stay at) the Arlington Hotel
Opened in 1875 this historic hotel is the largest hotel in Arkansas. The hotel that stands today is the third Arlington. The original hotel was a three-story wooden structure that had 120 guest rooms. In 1983 the original building was destroyed to make way for the new and improved 300-room Spanish Renaissance structure that was considered the most elegant and complete hotel in America. In 1923 the second Arlington was destroyed by a fire.
The Arlington that you see now was opened New Year’s Eve 1924 and has its own bathhouse, which is still in use today!