Hot Springs was much different than any other national park I’ve been to. The city itself is part of the park, so the whole campground, the downtown area, the bathhouses, and everything was all part of the national park experience.
I camped in the official national park campground, called Gulpha Gorge campground. I was lucky enough to grab a site next to the creek (site 31) which was awesome.
This was an amazing home base for the park because I was able to use the trail system to get downtown, which is where all the bathhouses are as well as a ton of cool restaurants, bars, and shops. The image below is the main trail map I used. Over the course of the week Booker and I hiked every one of these trails (that’s the other thing, dogs can go on the trails!). I’ve outlined the campground and the downtown area and highlighted the trail that we mostly used to get downtown, which was called the Oertal Trail. You can combine the trails in a bunch of different ways to get down there though.
On one occasion we used the Upper and Lower dogwood trails to get to the Arlington trail, which went right into the 7th floor of the Arlington hotel. It ended at a pool deck, where we entered the gate and went into the building, then down to the ground level of the hotel from there and out into the street downtown.
The end of the Arlington Trail, at the 7th floor of the hotel
If you take the Oertel trail it drops you off right in the middle of bathhouse row, which is also where the visitor center and gift shop are located (in old bathhouses of course).
End of the Oertel trail
National Park Visitor Center
We also visited a brewery downtown that was inside an old bathhouse called Superior Bathhouse Brewery. They actually brew the beer with water directly from the hot springs and claim to be the only brewery in the world that does this. And I have to say that the beer was amazing… They had a Basil Honey Kolsch called the “Beez Kneez” that was one of the best beers I’ve had in a long time.
Another thing worth mentioning is that Hot Springs was probably the most dog friendly place I’ve ever been. Booker was able to hike on all the trails, he went in the hotel, in a hat store with me, several bars and restaurants, and the brewery. Every place just let him come inside and hang out which was awesome.
Booker in the Superior Bathhouse Brewery
Booker and I had a blast spending a week in Hot Springs. The mixture of outdoors activities with hiking and camping, but also being able to go into a lively downtown, was really unique and fun. Also Arkansas and this entire area is just beautiful, especially in the fall. This is definitely a place I’d like to come back and visit at some point.
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I think Hot Springs exceeded my expectations more than any other national park, but to be honest my expectations were pretty low. It’s an “urban” national park so the city itself is part of the park. We were able to hike from our campsite a mile or two through the woods and get downtown where there were tons of cool bars, shops, and bath houses. And the downtown here was one of the most dog friendly places I’ve ever been. Overall booker and I had an amazing week here.