Hot Springs National Park— Mailing Address: 101 Reserve Street, Hot Springs , AR 71901, Phone: (501) 620-6715, Website: https://www.nps.gov/hosp/index.htm
Hot Springs National Park has several unique attributes, not the least of which is its place as the first area in the United States to be set aside for its natural features. Then, five years after the National Park Service was formed in 1916, Hot Springs Reservation (as it was then known) changed its name to Hot Springs National Park, making it the 18th National Park in the Service.
Best known for the 47 hot springs (average temperature 143° Fahrenheit) that come out of the Hot Springs Mountain, Hot Springs National Park is the only unit of the national park system that is mandated to give away its primary natural resource to the public in an unending and unaltered state. People come to Hot Springs Natural Park to drink the water (it’s naturally potable), bathe in the water at the two operating bathhouses where the thermal waters are tempered with cool water and closely monitored for a maximum temperature of 104°F, and enjoy the many natural features throughout the park’s 5,500 acres.
Visitors can learn more about the park by touring the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum, enjoy a panoramic view of the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs Mountain, and Diamond Lakes area from the observation decks at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, hike along the park’s 26 miles of trails, or take a scenic drive along the park’s roadways. And when you’re ready to eat, stop at the Superior Bathhouse—the only brewery in a US National Park—to enjoy a delicious meal and a taste of its beers that incorporate thermal spring water in the recipe.
Hot Springs National Park is open year round. Information about operating hours for locations within the park can be found here.
Tips from Our Campers
Steve and Karen Thole, who share their camping experiences on their blog, visited Hot Springs National Park in 2008. After taking in the view at the Mountain Tower, the couple relaxed in the thermal waters in the Quapaw Bath House. Then ten years later, they returned for another visit to stay at Gulpha Gorge Campground in their T@B 400 to and enjoy Hot Springs After Dark.
Since the campground does not accept reservations and checkout time is 12 PM, they advise arriving early afternoon for the best chance to get one of the full hookups sites and if possible, to stay at least a few days because there is much to do in the area. They are looking forward to returning to the park learn more about the history of the area, to soak in the springs again, as well as to take advantage of the hiking and dining opportunities. For more about their park experiences, read their posts here. (Be sure to check out their Our Travels page and their National Parks and Monuments page.)
There is no entrance fee for the park, and Special Use Permits are available. Camping is available at the Gulpha Gorge Campground where there is also one accessible campsite and accessible rest rooms. All sites are $30 per night, or $15 per night with a Senior Pass or Access Pass card. These sites are available on a first come, first serve basis, no reservations accepted. (Senior and Access passes are available for purchase at the park store in the Lamar Bathhouse daily, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m).
The sites vary in size and can be used for tent camping (primitive) and RV (full hookups), with 30 and 50 amp electrical connections, water, and sewer connections available. Stays are limited to 14 consecutive days at a time, and those wishing to stay longer must move to a different campground outside of the national park.
Note: The Arkansas State Plant Board has implemented an emergency quarantine to slow the spread of Emerald Ash Borer. Quarantined items include firewood of all hardwood species, and the following ash items: nursery stock; green lumber with bark attached; other living material; dead, cut, or fallen wood, including logs, pulpwood, stumps, roots, branches, mulch, and composted/uncomposted chips (1 inch or greater). Firewood is the only quarantined item that relates to all hardwood; all other quarantined items are relative to ash, only. More details here.
Laws and Policies
Pets on a leash are welcome on the trails and in the campground, but must wait outside the visitor center and other park buildings. Service animals are allowed. Regulations regarding firearms and other policies are available here. Also visit the park’s FAQ page for more information.
The city has a large parking garage on Exchange Street and metered car spaces with first-come, first serve RV and bus parking one block south of the Hot Springs National Park visitor center. Cars may park along the west side of Central Avenue across the street from the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center, but parking is limited and monitored for only 2 hours of use. The city of Hot Springs has a bus system, Intracity Transit, that has routes through the major streets in town.
The Visitor Center in the Fordyce Bathhouse is fully accessible, with parking across the street in public lots or streetside. The park store, Bathhouse Row Emporium, in the Lamar Bathhouse is accessible, where a free America the Beautiful Access Pass for individuals with a disability is also available. The park can also provide an American Sign Language interpreter for regularly scheduled tours with seven days’ notice. Download more information here.
For more about the National Park System, check out our post, Plan a Visit to A National Park.