The Smallest National Park in the US.
Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas is the smallest national park in the country, protecting 40 hot springs used by vacationers to heal and relax. Since the 1800s, people have traveled here to enjoy “America’s Spa.” The 5,500 acres of the national park protect the north end of the city of Hot Springs, the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain and several other nearby mountains, composing a wilderness area with 20 miles of trails and a campground. The park preserves the hot springs and bathhouses that have been visited for over 200 years, including Bathhouse Row, which is a National Historic Landmark District. Despite its small size, more than 1 million people visit the park a year.
Open / Close / Reopening Status of Hot Springs National Park due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Last Updated: May 2, 2020
Hot Springs National Park calls itself the oldest area in the national park system because it was set aside by President Andrew Jackson in 1832 as a special recreation area. It was converted to a national park in 1921.
The park land on the mountains serve as the recharge zone where rain and snow soak into the ground to return as some of the 700,000 gallons of water flowing from the springs every day at a temperature of 143 degrees Farenheit. The runoff sinks about a mile into the ground where it is heated by the Earth. The hot water then rises through a fault at the base of Hot Springs Mountain. The western slope is the only place in the park or the city where the hot water emerges.
Fordyce Bathhouse: The decadent historic bathhouse which operate for nearly 50 years in the early 20th century is now a visitor center for the park, allowing guests to enjoy the building and its authentic exhibits.
Buckstaff Baths: This national park concessioner is the only remaining bath house operation within the National Park. It has been operating continuously since 1912 and allows visitors to relax and unwind in the waters enjoyed by visitors to the area for decades. Buckstaff Baths offers a 90 minute process beginning with individual bath tubs to a maximum termperature of 100 degrees and concluding with a full body Swedish style massage.
Superior Brewery: The only brewery inside a national park uses the Hot Springs water to make small-batch craft beers at the old Superior Bathhouse. The brewery also serves food and sells growlers of its beer to take home.
Fountains: The city has hot water jug fountains around the city where you can drink the Hot Springs water (mostly along Bathhouse Row or Reserve Street). It arrives tasteless, odorless, crystal clear and free of bacteria, so no purification is necessary. There are also cold spring water jug fountains at Happy Hollow and Whittington springs.
Hot Water: There are three areas within the park where you can touch the hot water, including the hot springs cascading pool at Arlington Lawn.
There are 27 miles of hiking trails in the park. The most popular trail is probably the first section of the Sunset Trail, which traverses West Mountain and overlooks the south side of Hot Springs and Lake Hamilton.
Recent Bird Sightings
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Average Temperature (Monthly)
Gulpha Gorge Campground is the only campground in Hot Springs National Park.
Some Hotels and Other Lodging Options:
Roundtrip Flights to Little Rock
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Frequently Asked Questions
How many hot springs are in Hot Springs National Park?
There are 47 natural hot springs in the park which maintain an average water temperature of 143 degrees Fahrenheit. The national park service maps of the area mark hot and cold springs in the park.
Can you swim in Hot Springs National Park?
Swimming is not available in the hot springs. There are a few creeks that run through the park if you are looking for a place to cool down. Rumor has it that you can take a dip in Gulpha Gorge Creek at the Gulpha Gorge Campground in the national park. A local Hot Springs hotel is probably the best way to ensure that you can go swimming during your Hot Springs vacation. There is also swimming at Lake Catherine State Park and Lake Ouachita State Park in the area.
What can you do at Hot Springs?
Bathing in the hot springs, hiking through the forest and touring historic architecture are just a few of the things which can be done in the 5500 acre park, which was established by Congress in 1921 and originally established by Congress as Hot Springs Reservation to protect the hot springs in 1832.
Where should I stay when visiting Hot Springs National Park?
There are hotels and camping locations both inside and outside the park. Hot Springs has a population of about 37,000 people which has about 1.5 million visitors annually. The surrounding area contains over a hundred hotels with over 4000 hotel/motel rooms in the immediate area.
How do you get to Hot Springs National Park?
Hot Springs is located southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas, making it a pretty convenient park to stop at if you are traveling along I-30 or I-40. It is about an hour away (58 miles) from Little Rock, and a little over 20 miles (35 minutes) west of I-30. Hot Springs is about 200 miles from Memphis, 300 miles from Oklahoma City and Dallas, Texas, and 400 miles from Kansas City and St. Louis.