Hot Springs National Park
101 Reserve Street
Hot Springs, AR 71902
At Hot Springs National Park -- nestled within the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas -- bathhouses collect the steaming-hot spring waters that spill forth from Hot Springs Mountain. Visitors can both bathe in the waters and view the unusual rock and algae that gather around the mouths of the hot springs. The mountain itself offers hiking, camping, horseback riding, and bird-watching for visitors who are more inclined to see the sights than soak in the waters.
Entrance fees: Admission is free
Visitor center: The visitor center is open daily except January 1, Thanksgiving Day, and December 25
Other services: One campground and six bathing facilities
Accommodations: Gulpha Gorge Campground is open year-round and operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
Visiting Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs is the smallest of our national parks, and in many ways, it is the most unusual. Instead of covering hundreds of thousands of acres of spectacular scenery and wildlife habitat, Hot Springs is nearly surrounded by a city. And instead of protecting natural resources from commercial interests, Hot Springs National Park continues the commercial use of its major natural resource, a practice that began in the 1800s.
Mineral-rich water comes bubbling forth from the park's 47 natural hot springs at the rate of nearly a million gallons a day. The National Park Service collects, cools, and supplies hot water to commercial bathhouses both inside and outside the park.
The waters of Hot Springs have long been used for medicinal purposes, first by Native Americans, then later by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. He is said to have taken a hot bath here in 1541. The unique properties of the waters were investigated in 1804 under authority of President Thomas Jefferson. In 1832, President Andrew Jackson set aside the springs as a special federal reservation.
The long history of presidential interest and involvement allows park officials to refer to Hot Springs as the "oldest area in the national park system." After all, the government took control of the area 40 years before Yellowstone National Park was created.
Perhaps a soak in the bathhouses sounds inviting, but don't forget that Hot Springs National Park has more to offer than just lounging in the steamy water. Keep reading to learn more about what you can do at this national park.