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Hi, I'm Georgina! A coffee-loving adventure enthusiast here to share my favorite travel tips with you! My goal is to inspire others to get out and explore this wild planet by camping, hiking, or wandering around a fun new city!

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  • Georgina D'Angelo

Top 5 Hot Springs National Park Hikes

Updated: Feb 25

woman walking on a hiking trail hot springs national park arkansas

Hot Springs National Park is the smallest national park in the U.S. after Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri (but does that count?). It’s not well-known, which means it’s not very busy, and best of all it has free admission!


However, this lesser-known park still has so much to offer. The hiking at Hot Springs National Park is incredible, Gulpha Gorge Campground is a great place to stay, and Bathhouse Row in downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas, is a must-visit attraction.


If you’re interested in camping and enjoying the best hiking in Hot Springs, Arkansas, then look no further! This is one of my favorite national parks. It’s a hidden gem, in my opinion. And the best part? It's a super dog-friendly national park!


Take a look at the best Hot Springs National Park hikes, how to get to the park, where to stay, how to camp here, etc., and start planning your outdoor adventure!


In this article...



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Hot Springs National Park Overview


Location: This underrated national park is located in western Arkansas.

Open: Year-round

Entrance Fee: Free! Hot Springs National Park has no entrance fee.

Dog-Friendly: Yes, Hot Springs National Park is very dog-friendly.

Size: Hot Springs National Park is 5,550 acres, making it the second smallest national park in the US behind Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Wildlife: Deer, snakes, turtles, frogs, salamanders, lizards, chipmunks, and more

Park Established: March 4, 1921


Man crossing stream - Best Hikes in Hot Springs National Park Arkansas

5 Best Hikes in Hot Springs National Park


  • Goat Rock Trail: 2.4 miles roundtrip

  • Sunset Trail: 13 miles roundtrip

  • Gulpha Gorge Trail: 1.2 miles roundtrip

  • Oertel Trail: 3.2 miles roundtrip

  • Hot Springs Mountain Trail: 3.3 miles roundtrip


Keep reading for the details of each hike. Do not forget to pack lots of water if you’re planning on hitting these trails. While some are quite short, you do not want to get dehydrated, especially in the summer.


If you’re hiking Sunset Trail, bring an extra bottle as it’s quite a trek. Check out the essentials you should always bring on a day hike before you hit the trail.


These trails connect to one another at different points, so for some of them, you’ll have to hike a portion of another trail to get to the next.


You can park at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower for access to some of these trails and at Gulpha Gorge Campground for access to the Gulpha Gorge Trail (which leads into several others).


1. Goat Rock Trail


2.4-mile out & back | Moderately Difficult


This is a 2.4-mile out & back trail. It’s rated as moderately difficult; after hiking this trail, we would say it’s doable if your knees and back are in good shape.


But, it can get a little steep and slippery in some places if it has rained recently. This trail also has a wonderful view of the national park!



2. Sunset Trail


13-mile loop | Challenging


Sunset Trail is a 13-mile loop that winds all around Hot Springs National Park. Because this is the second smallest national park, you can actually hike around the entire park.


This will likely take you most of the day, but if you’re an experienced hiker, you could maybe squeeze in another hike on top of Sunset Trail.



3. Gulpha Gorge Trail


1.2-mile out & back | Moderately Difficult


This 1.2-mile out & back trail starts right from Gulpha Gorge Campground, so if you’re camping in Hot Springs National Park, this one's for you! It’s got beautiful scenery, from the lush forest to streams, and even a rock cave.



4. Oertel Trail


3.2-mile out & back | Moderately Difficult


Oertel Trail is a 3.2-mile out & back that has a few more challenging parts. It gets fairly steep at some points. This is one of the quietest trails in Hot Springs National Park, which is great if you're wanting to have a peaceful and quiet time in nature.



5. Hot Springs Mountain Trail


3.3-mile loop | Easy


You can’t miss this 3.3-mile loop trail which takes you past the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, an observation tower with amazing views of Hot Springs, Arkansas.


It begins at Gulpha Gorge Campground. In the spring, the wildflowers are gorgeous on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.



Hot Springs National Park Hikes: Trip Planning


Before you head to Arkansas' nature gem and explore it for yourself, here are some helpful tips so you can plan the most epic hiking adventure. This underrated national park is well worth a visit and boasts some of the best hiking trails in Arkansas.


How to Get to Hot Springs National Park


The closest airport to Hot Springs National Park is Memorial Field Airport (HOT) in Hot Springs, Arkansas. This is a municipal airport; there are few flights in and out. Another option is to fly into Little Rock, Arkansas, about an hour away, and rent a car and drive in.


Do you need a car in Hot Springs National Park?


There is a bus service in Hot Springs, Intracity Transit, however, it's not reliable for getting around the national park. A car is highly recommended when visiting Hot Springs National Park. You'll be able to make the most of your time here and check off more hikes, bathhouses, etc.


Where to Stay in Hot Springs


Hot Springs National Park has one official campground, Gulpha Gorge Campground. It is a great place to stay during your visit if you have all the camping essentials you need. Read more on camping in Hot Springs National Park below.


If you plan on visiting Hot Springs National Park but don't want to go camping, check out this super cute Airbnb! It's located just outside downtown Hot Springs and is a short drive to the national park. Plus it has a hot tub!


There are also several great hotels in Downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas which is a few minutes from the national park. Here are the best hotels in Hot Springs:



Best Time to Visit Hot Springs National Park


Summer is the busiest season at Hot Springs National Park. Because it is located in the southern US, summer temperatures can often be uncomfortable for hiking and camping.


The best time to visit Hot Springs National Park is in the spring or fall months, March through May or September through November. These months are cooler and less crowded, perfect for making the most of the Hot Springs National Park hikes.


Essentials for Hiking in Hot Springs National Park


Before you hit the trails, make sure you're prepared so you can make the most of your hiking adventure and have a great time. Below are five things you should bring on these Hot Springs National Park hikes. Read more about day hiking essentials here.


  • Hiking Boots | Soloman has waterproof, super comfortable hiking boots for men and women

  • Day Bag | A small backpack or day bag is perfect for carrying essentials like water, snacks, or extra clothing layers.

  • Water | Always bring water on your hikes no matter how long or what the weather is like. A reusable water bottle or a water bladder that fits in your backpack are great options.

  • Snacks | High-energy snacks are a must when hiking. Some great options are trail mix, the best fruit and nut bars, and even candy.


Hot Springs National Park Camping


If you plan on camping in Hot Springs National Park, check out Gulpha Gorge Campground! This is the one and only campground located in the national park, and it's a great one.


  • Bathrooms: Full bathrooms are available for guests but no showers.

  • Hookups: All the sites are fully equipped with electricity, water, and sewage.

  • Campfires: Some sites have fire pits while others only have grills.


We spent two nights in Gulpha Gorge Campground and loved it. You can access all the best hikes in Hot Springs National Park right from the campsite which is extremely convenient.


Plan your Hot Springs National Park camping adventure and stay prepared with this camping essentials checklist.


FJ Cruiser with Roof Top Tent Camping setup in Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park Camping - Gulpha Gorge Campground

Make sure you book in advance since Gulpha Gorge is the only campground in the park. If you’re going sometime between April and September, chances are it will be quite busy as this is a very popular time to go camping.


With Hot Springs being located in the southern US, you can comfortably camp and hike here nearly any time of year.


If you want to avoid crowds, I suggest visiting in March or October for pretty scenery, good temps, and few people. Check out my complete guide to camping in the fall if you plan a fall trip!


Hot Springs National Park Camping FAQs


Can you camp anywhere in Hot Springs National Park?

You are only allowed to camp in Gulpha Gorge Campground in Hot Springs National Park, and reservations are required. Backcountry camping is not permitted anywhere in this national park.


How much does it cost to camp in Hot Springs National Park?

Campsites cost $34 per night at Gulpha Gorge Campground in Hot Springs National Park. You must reserve a site in advance.


Can you reach the hiking trails from Gulpha Gorge Campground?

Be prepared to cross a small river to get to the trail heads from Gulpha Gorge Campground. There is a rock path for crossing, but rain can greatly affect water levels. If it has rained recently, the water may go above your shoes.


If you have waterproof hiking boots (I adore this linked pair), you’ll be fine! And if it hasn’t rained recently, the water shouldn't be that high.


You can also just park your car at this campsite if you're heading here for a day's adventure! There are extra parking areas for hikers to access.


US National Park Checklist Printable | Alpacka My Bags


Downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas


After you enjoy the best Hot Springs National Park hikes, head downtown for more fun activities. We visited the Hot Springs Mountain Tower and Bathhouse Row, and we highly recommend them! There are also restaurants, cute stores, boutiques, etc. in downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas.



You can't swim in the hot springs in Hot Springs National Park (ironic right?), which can be a bummer. This is due to the temperature of the water being far too hot for people to soak in.


However, you can wander down to one of the natural hot springs downtown, located at the end of Bathhouse Row. Here you can admire the hot spring pools and even feel the water. Or fill up your water bottle at one of the cold spring water fountains in downtown Hot Springs!


There are also bathhouses in downtown Hot Springs where you can soak and relax in the hot spring water. It is cooled slightly so it's perfect for soaking in.


Hot Springs Mountain Tower



Hot Springs Mountain Tower costs $11 for general admission or $9 with an America the Beautiful Pass, which we highly recommend investing in if you plan on visiting multiple national parks and monuments.


You can drive up and park in the tower's parking lot, or hike the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and you'll pass the tower. Once you're inside and have purchased tickets, you'll ride the elevator up to the top where there's a mini museum and the outdoor observation deck.


The views here are spectacular, and you can read about a lot of Hot Springs' history as well, from the national park itself to the bathhouses, and more! This is a must when visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas and the national park.


Bathhouse Row, Hot Springs Arkansas


Quapaw Baths in Hot Springs, Arkansas

There are bathhouses you can visit in dowtown Hot Springs, Arkansas located on what's known as "Bathhouse Row." Quapaw and Buckstaff Baths are the two best places. Here you can enjoy the water pumped straight from the hot springs, which is slightly cooled so it's the perfect temperature to relax in.


Quapaw Baths

We visited Quapaw Baths, as their public pools are first come, first served. There are four pools with different temperatures of water to soak in and relax.


They also have private baths and massages available, which you need reservations for. If you plan on visiting the public pools, make sure you arrive early, as it can get busy!


Bring a pair of flip-flops or sandals; they also have them available to rent if you don't have any. Be aware that you are not allowed to walk around the pools barefoot.



Hot Springs National Park Trails: FAQ


How many days do you need in Hot Springs National Park?

Plan to spend 2 days in Hot Springs National Park. This is a small national park, but there are several things to enjoy including great hiking trails, the mountain tower and observation deck, and the relaxing bathhouse downtown.


Take at least one full day to explore the Hot Springs National Park trails. The mountain tower and bathhouses can be completed in a just few hours if you're in a time crunch.


What are three things to do at Hot Springs National Park?

The best things to do at Hot Springs National Park are to go hiking on the best trails like Goat Rock Trail, soak in the pools at Quapaw Baths on Bathhouse Row, and head to the top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower for the best views in the area.


What is the best easy trail in Hot Springs National Park?

The best easy trail in Hot Springs National Park is Hot Springs Mountain Trail. This 3.3-mile loop trail takes you past the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, an observation tower with amazing views of Hot Springs, Arkansas.


Hot Springs Arkansas Hiking, Camping, & Bathhouses


Overall, Hot Springs National Park is definitely worth visiting. Plan a stay at Gulpha Gorge Campground, enjoy some of the best Hot Springs, Arkansas hiking trails, and relax at the bathhouses downtown.


It's the perfect blend of nature and city; from the escape to Hot Springs National Park to the vibrant downtown, this southern gem needs to be on your adventure travel list.


Start planning your epic adventure to this underrated US national park. From how to get here, where to stay, the best time to visit, and the best hiking trails, you now know how to best enjoy Hot Springs, Arkansas! Will you be checking off these Hot Springs National Park trails?


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aboutME

Hi, I'm Georgina, adventure enthusiast and creator of Alpacka My Bags. I'm here for all of your travel and adventure planning needs! 

 

I've been exploring this beautiful planet since I was a child, so I decided it was time to share my travel tips with others to enjoy. After college, I knew the "traditional career path" was not for me.

 

I needed to travel and explore what this world has to offer. It sounds cliché but you do only live once. So I made going on adventures a priority, and soon realized that I wanted to share them with others so you can enjoy them too! 

My passion is spreading the travel bug and showing others that travel is attainable and so worth it. From itineraries to camping tips to packing lists, Alpacka My Bags has you covered!

Join me, and often my partner and my dog, as we find exciting adventures and travel recommendations for you! If you've been bit by the travel bug just as I have, I hope you find my tips useful for all of your future travels.

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