Hot Springs National Park
Guide

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Introduction

Nestled right next to the quaint town of Hot Springs just southwest of Little Rock, is one of Arkansas’ best kept secrets for the perfect getaway: Hot Springs National Park. Rooted in rich history, the therapeutic natural baths of Hot Springs National Park was a place of legend for local Native American tribes and rumored to hold magical medicinal properties for pioneers. With the freedom to travel your way in an RV, you can experience the power of these ancient healing waters for yourself.

Setting up with your rig at these mystical springs means you can pamper yourself with a spa day and explore the natural beauty of the midwest in the same trip. You might want to start your journey at Fordyce Bathhouse, an early 20th century bath hall complete with a marble lobby and stained glass transoms, which now serves as the park’s Visitor Center. If you want to immerse yourself in the full bathhouse experience you can stop at the Buckstaff Bathhouse, which has been comforting visitors in luxurious tranquility since 1912. You can also soak in serene pools or pamper yourself with a modern-day spa experience at the Quapaw Baths and Spa.

Once you’ve indulged in your spa day you can park your camper and get out into the great Arkansas countryside by hiking Hot Springs National Park’s 26 miles of scenic nature trails. The Hot Springs Mountain Trail will take you through lush tranquil forests of Sycamore, Red Maples, and Southern Red Oak. You can take your pet through a serene hike on Sunset Trail, which is the longest in the park. For a quiet stroll, can venture out on the paved Grand Promenade, which offers picturesque views of historic downtown Hot Springs and the Arlington Lawn. Hot Springs National Park is a prime destination for RVers all year round, thanks to its sunny summers and mild winters.

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RV Rentals in Hot Springs National Park

Transportation in Hot Springs National Park

Driving

Hot Springs National Park is conveniently located next to the downtown of Hot Springs so it is easy to get to from local major highways by RV or car. You can take a beautiful scenic drive through the park as there are several one-way paved roads to various trails, although it is recommended to take a car. Use extra caution driving a large RV on some of the roads in the park, especially Hot Springs Mountain Drive and North Mountain Drive, which take you to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. These roads are are windy, steep, and narrow. Vehicles over 30 feet are not permitted on on Hot Springs Mountain.

Parking

Since Hot Springs National Park is located in an urban area there is no park-owned parking. You can park in off-street parking downtown or in several privately-owned parking lots nearby. Your best bet for RV parking is in the parking garage just one block west of Bathhouse Row, which features with first-come, first serve RV and bus parking. There is also parking available at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower for cars.

Public Transport

If you are looking to get to the park via public transportation from your RV, you have several options. One is Amtrak’s Texas Eagle route where you can take a shuttle to Hot Springs from Little Rock or Malvern. You can also travel to the area by Greyhound Bus. Once you’re in town you can get around with the local bus service, Intracity Transit. Cycling is popular in the downtown area as well. Once you’re in the park you can easily explore the area by good old-fashion walking or hiking.

Campgrounds and parking in Hot Springs National Park

Campsites in Hot Springs National Park

Reservations camping

Reservations Camping

All sites at Gulpha Gorge Campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

First-come first-served

Gulpha Gorge Campground

Gulpha Gorge Campground is the only campground at Hot Springs National Park, which features sites for RVs and tents. All sites offer hookups for water, sewer, and electricity. You can enjoy a nice picnic at your site’s picnic tables or cook up a barbecue on the grill. This pet-friendly campground features accessible water, clean restrooms, and a dump station. You can relax in serenity for up to 14 days at this beautiful campground amidst a shady forest and peaceful waterways.

Alternate camping

Private Campgrounds

There are numerous private campgrounds and RV parks in the Hot Springs area from five minutes to thirty minutes away. Many feature modern amenities including wireless internet, pools, and full hookups. Private campgrounds offer the convenience of privacy and high-class amenities while being a stone’s throw away from the natural beauty of Hot Springs National Park.

Seasonal activities in Hot Springs National Park

Spring

Hike the Grand Promenade and Bathhouse Row

If you’re looking for a relaxing activity on a spring afternoon, you’ll want to park the RV and head down the Grand Promenade, which is a half-mile paved route where you can catch scenic views of downtown Hot Springs. On this trek you’ll pass by, Bathhouse Row, which is a set of eight beautiful bathhouse buildings with historic architecture from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Take a Bath at Buckstaff Bathhouse

You are in for a treat away when you step away from your RV for a visit to Buckstaff Bathhouse. Give yourself a good old-fashioned spa day right at the park by bathing in the whirlpool mineral bath or getting a relaxing massage. The thermal mineral water used at the bathhouse comes directly from the ancient springs that flow from Hot Springs Mountain.

Hike Sunset Trail

Sunset Trail is a popular destination for avid hikers since it’s the longest and one of the most beautiful routes in the park. Once you park the RV and head out on this 10-mile trek you’ll traverse through blooming Spring wildflowers, gorgeous views of Lake Hamilton, a charming waterfall, and hardwood forest. You’ll want to bring your camera for some breathtaking views of the city and surrounding hillsides. You should to use caution on some of the steeper parts of the path.

Picnic at Gulpha Gorge

If you want to experience a relaxing afternoon during your RV trip to Hot Springs, take a stroll on the Gulpha Gorge Trail and enjoy a quiet picnic near the campground. This short and shady trail is a perfect spot to taking in views of lush forest and beautiful wildflowers. You can unwind with a bite to eat in the tranquility of nature at picnic tables nearby.

Photography at the Stonebridge Area

The Stonebridge Area is one of the most beautiful spots in the entire park, showcasing a historic stone bridge over Lillian Lake. Featuring portions of the old Fordyce-Ricks estate, this is a perfect spot for photography of idyllic grassland, lush forest, and peaceful waterways. This majestic setting is located on the Sunset Trail.

Summer

Visit the Lamar Bathhouse

You can beat the summer heat with a visit to the historic Lamar Bathhouse, which was originally a bathhouse and gymnasium in the late 1800s. Now you can learn all about the park’s unique heritage since the building houses the park’s library, archives, and museum collection. If you want to pick up some souvenirs you won’t want to miss a stop at the park’s gift shop, the Bathhouse Row Emporium, which is also located in the Lamar Bathhouse.

Scenic Drive

The summer is a beautiful time of year to take a scenic drive through the national park’s gorgeous mountain roads. You can drive up the mountain towards Hot Springs Mountain Tower, which will offer idyllic views of forests and the historic downtown. Vehicles over 30 feet are not permitted on Hot Springs Mountain though, so it’s recommended to park your RV in town and take a car.

Venture to the Top of Hot Springs Mountain Tower

If you looking for the best spot in town for panoramic views, you’ll need to get to the top of the 216-foot observation deck at Hot Springs Mountain Tower. Located in the center of the park, you'll need to get your camera ready for jaw-dropping views of Hot Springs Mountain, the Ouachita Mountains, and Diamond Lakes region.

Take a Ranger-Led Outdoor Tour

During the summer season you can get out of the RV and take a ranger-guided outdoor tour of the park. You’ll begin at Fordyce Bathhouse and stroll down the historic Grand Promenade and Bathhouse Row. You can learn from the experts all about the amazing story of the park’s magical hot springs water and interesting history of the early bathhouses.

Enjoy Arlington Lawn

Whether you want to throw a frisbee or play catch, Arlington Lawn is a great place to enjoy recreational activities. Just across from the iconic Arlington Hotel, this grassy oasis is a peaceful respite located in the heart of the town. Once you venture out of your RV, it’s the perfect spot to play casual games, enjoy a picnic, or simple take in the lively views of the downtown.

Fall

Tour the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum

An RV getaway to Hot Springs National Park wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum. You can step back in time to the early 1900s when the building operated as a functional bathhouse and experience the beauty of this early spa. After an orientation video you can roam through the marble bath halls, massage rooms, music room, gymnasium, and bowling alley. Guided tours are also regularly available.

Hike the Hot Springs Mountain Trail

If you want to get out of the rig and into the natural beauty of Hot Springs, hiking along the 1.7-mile Hot Springs Mountain Trail is an excellent choice. The fall is a perfect time of year to venture out on this trek since you’ll hike along the shade-lined path of colorful forest. You’re welcome to bring along your leashed pets to enjoy this serene nature trail.

Birding & Wildlife Viewing

Autumn is a great time of year to catch a glimpse of the native birds and animals that call Hot Springs National Park home. If you get out the binoculars you can see a myriad of local species including the Northern Mockingbird, Nashville Warbler, and Great Blue Heron. You can also see all kinds of mammals big and small, from large black bears to little chipmunks.

Take a Relaxing Walk in Whittington Park

If you want to walk along history’s tracks in a tranquil setting, Whittington Park is a prime location. This gorgeous tree-line greenway dates back to the late 1800s when it was once home to a large recreation center for Hot Springs tourists. Now this scenic oasis offers a respite for RV roadtrippers to get some peace and quiet amidst the urban sprawl.

Discover the Hot Springs

There are over 40 thermal springs dotted all over Hot Springs National Park. They emerge between gaps in the mountains when underground hot water mixes with cold ground water to create a wondrous site. If you want go on an adventure during your RV trip, explore this idyllic national park and see how many mystical natural springs you can find.

Winter

Spa Day at Quapaw Baths and Spa

A winter RV getaway to Hot Springs National Park is the perfect chance to pamper yourself at the Quapaw Baths and Spa. Built in 1920s on top of a natural thermal spring, this full-service spa allows you to get a taste of the traditional bathhouse experience with all the modern amenities. You can soak in the area’s magical thermal waters with a private mineral or aromatherapy bath or sit in the serenity of the steam cave.

Take a Bus Tour

If you want to see all of Hot Springs National Park once you park your RV, you can hire a private company to take a bus tour through the beautiful park and the historic downtown. You’ll learn all about the heritage of the wondrous hot springs from an expert guide and get some great views of the lush forest and beautiful waterways through this idyllic setting.

Explore Tufa Terrace Trail

If you’re looking for an easy, short trail on a nice winter day then you’ll want to head out of the RV and get out on the Tufa Terrace Trail. The trail is easy to access right off of the Grand Promenade. This picturesque route offers stunning views of natural springs that flow from mossy mountainsides.

Hike Peak Trail

If you want to take a quick hike on a warmer winter day, Peak Trail is a excellent route. Take this short trek up the mountain and discover the spring water collection boxes that are dotted along the trail. If you venture out of your camper to take this rewarding hike you’ll end up at the top of the mountain where you can have a relaxing picnic or enjoy striking views of the city below.

Stop by Carriage Road

Although Carriage Road is a very short trail it’s a great pit stop for history buffs. You can check out interpretive displays that detail the history behind this interesting spot. This gravel path is where carriage parties trekked at one time from the nearby Army-Navy Hospital to the top of Hot Springs Mountain. You’ll be staring down the roads of history starting at the unique Army-Navy cast iron gate.

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