Hot Springs National Park, located in central Arkansas and established in 1832, is one of the first nationally protected regions in America and a beautiful place to be besides. In addition to visiting the hot springs in Arkansas, visitors can take part in a number of other activities during a tour of the national park, including biking, hiking, picnicking, and relaxing in the hot water. Depending on the length of your stay, Hot Springs National Park offers a wide array of things to do and see amid its charming natural surroundings.
In an effort to protect the thermal waters, or hot springs in Arkansas, an act of Congress was passed to create the first nature reserve in the United States, and while it is the oldest protected area, it is also the smallest national park in the country. For more than two hundred years, since before this Arkansas national park was created, visitors have taken advantage of the benefits offered by the thermal springs in this area. Since the official establishment of the reserve, the park has been managed in an effort to conserve the purity of the hot water that occurs naturally, allowing following generations to enjoy the benefits as well. In the years following the founding of Hot Springs National Park, there have been a number of bathhouses erected, where visitors can bathe in the mineral waters in a spa-like environment.
Visitors to the hot springs in Arkansas can participate in a number of outdoor activities, including hiking along the 26 miles of trails, driving the mountain roads, and camping at the Gulpha Gorge Campground. With breathtaking panoramas and plenty of adventure awaiting hikers and climbers, trekking through the hills and forests is a longstanding and well-loved activity in the Arkansas National Park. Scenic byways are a great excuse for cruising along the roads that cut through and around the mountains of the park. For a nominal fee, visitors can camp overnight or for several nights at the Gulpha Gorge Campground at the park.
Finally, the main attraction of the Hot Springs National Park are, of course, the hot springs and bathhouses, where guests can enjoy the soothing waters. While the first bathing experiences took place in the natural pools themselves, and the original bathhouse structures were quite simple, today visitors can rely on updated facilities at each of the bathing houses on Bathhouse Row. Originally, many of the structures on the row were pay bathhouses operated by local hotels, sanatoriums, and even hospitals. Fees for these bathhouses financed the equipment and services rendered at each establishment.
While visiting this Arkansas national park, you can tour the Fordyce Bathhouse, which has been transformed into a park museum, and if you like, you can also experience a traditional bath at one of the other bathhouses, which will consist of a twenty-minute soak in 98 degree water, several minutes in a steam cabinet, several more minutes in an upright tub of steaming water at 108 degrees, heat therapy packs for localized aches and treatment, a cool down shower, and finally, a full body Swedish massage.
Whether you choose to hike through the flora that envelopes the park or experience Bathhouse Row in a traditional bath, the hot springs in Arkansas offer a fine array of encounters with history and nature. In additional, though Hot Springs National Park is the state’s most famous, there are five other major parks and historic sites in Arkansas, all of which are worth visiting if you have the time. These include Fort Smith and the Buffalo National River.