Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park – Camping, Hiking, and Scenic Attractions

Located near the southern end of Arkansas Scenic Highway 7, Hot Springs National Park is located in the center of the city of Hot Springs while also set in the mountains surrounding the town.

Situated in a valley in the Zig-Zag mountain range, Hot Springs is surrounded by hills. The National Park begins in the center of the city and encompasses the mountains to the east and west. So only minutes from downtown Hot Springs you can be in the woods several hundred feet above all the hustle and bustle of the city.

Hot Springs became a center for physical therapy not only because of its abundant hot springs, but also because an extensive network of hiking trails were built in the hills surrounding the city to provide an exercise program to supplement the hot springs spa treatments. The trails vary from easy walking trails to more rugged to allow people to progress gradually to more strenuous exercise.

The Promenade Walk runs above Bath House Row and overlooks downtown.

Hiking and Backpacking Trails

The primary trail network is on Hot Springs Mountain with downtown Hot Springs and Bathhouse Row anchoring the western foot of the mountain. The Gulpha Gorge park and campground anchors the eastern foot of the mountain.

The trail to the top of Hot Springs Mountain from Gulpha Gorge
Map of hiking trails hot springs national park
Hiking Trails between the Gulpha Gorge Campground and Bathhouse Row

In all there are 23 hiking trails but since many intersect with one another there are many more route options than the 23. The Hot Springs Mountain trails in turn link to other trails on adjacent mountains and hillsides: North Mountain, West Mountain, Music Mountain, and Sugarloaf Mountain.

The only campground in the park is at Gulpha Gorge so overnight backpackers would simply plan a route that would return them to Gulpha Gorge by the end of the day. Day hikers have the choice of several trail heads sprinkled throughout the park. Here’s a list of the hiking and walking trails from the Park Website.

Bath House Row

The “Hot Springs” and the spa bath houses offer both a historical  and medicinal attractions. The National Park Visitor Center is located in BathHouse Row – see our article here within one of the historic bathhouses – The Fordyce. The Fordyce Bath House has been restored to be a museum of how it was in the hay day of the Bath Houses. Free self-guided tours are available as well as narrated tours and a film on the history of the bath houses. There are a few bath houses remaining in operation and others have been restored but re-purposed for other uses.

Bathhouse Row Hot Springs National Park
Bath House Row Downtown Hot Springs

Gulpha Gorge Campground at Hot Springs National Park

When visiting Hot Springs, we generally stay at the Gulpha Gorge campground in Hot Springs National Park (see our review here). Located on the east side of Hot Springs Mountain, it is convenient to downtown Hot Springs, yet in a wooded setting, isolated from the urban area. It is an attractive campground among tall pine trees along Gulpha Creek.

Scenic Mountain Drives & Overlooks

Non-hikers can drive to the top of Hot Springs and West Mountain summits. There are several scenic lookouts along the drives as well as some picnic areas. At the top of Hot Springs Mountain is the 10 story Hot Springs Tower with an observation deck at the top. (The Tower is a commercial operation that charges a fee to visit the observation deck.)

Other Scenic Drives. Another scenic drive is south of Hot Springs to the top of Jack Mountain. West of Hot Springs is the Quachita Mountains and Lake Quachita. A nice day trip is a scenic 80 mile loop around Lake Quachita out to Mt. Ida and back to Hot Springs.

West Mountain, Hot Springs, AR
At the top of West Mountain looking towards Music Mountain, Hot Springs, AR
West Mountain, Hot Springs Tower
View from the top of West Mountain looking towards the Hot Springs Tower

Dining and Entertainment

Hot Springs National Park is quite large – 5500 acres – and almost completely surrounded by the city of Hot Springs. The centerpiece of the park – Bathhouse Row – stretches along the south side of Central Avenue. Across the street from Bathhouse Row, on the north side, is the center of the dining and entertainment district of downtown Hot Springs.

Restaurant Review: Steinhaus Keller

Down the street a little west of Bathhouse Row is one of our favorite Hot Springs restaurants and pubs. Formerly known as the Brau Haus which closed sometime in 2013, it has been re-opened at the same location as Steinhaus Keller. It is located in the lower level of a three or four story atrium in an area called Spencer’s Corner. Being below street level, it is not easily seen from the sidewalk. Above Steinhaus Keller and more prominently signed and easily noticed is Brick House Grill, known locally as offering the best burgers in town. Next time we are in town we’ll have to try them out.

Steinhaus Keller German Restaurant Hot Springs
You can dine outside in the atrium, inside at the bar overlooking the atrium, or in their intimate dining room

But on our most recent visit in late March 2014, we had our palates set for some good German food. I had their Sauerbraten and Jo had the Wienerschnitzel – both excellent meals, including our side dishes. The wait service was attentive, friendly, and professional. They offered a very good selection of beers from Germany, Austria, and eastern Europe. Jo had a black lager and I had an Oktoberfest. We noticed that the guy behind the bar was the same as when we ate there a few years ago and then it seemed he had an ownership interest in it. Don’t know the history on why the Brau Haus closed, but based on this recent visit we give the current iteration under a new name a strong recommendation.

More Hot Springs Restaurant Reviews

More Links to Hot Springs Attractions:


2 thoughts on “Hot Springs National Park

  • August 24, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    If you are talking about camping rates at the National Park campground it is $24 a nite for a site with electric, water and sewer. Tent sites I believe are about $12. There is no admission per se to the park itself as it is somewhat integrated into the town of Hot Springs. We have a couple of pages of info and more pictures on Hot Springs and the National park at our QuiltingPathways website website.

  • August 24, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I would like to know the rate for Sat thru Mon. Please get back to me asap.


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