Ooops! I did it again. I visited another National Park. I did say I was going to visit five before the end of this year, so are we really that surprise that we’re moving right along the goal?
Just kidding! Although, you may be wondering to yourself, “Samantha, I’ve never even heard of Hot Springs National Park before. How did you happen to stumble upon it?” Excellent question, reader. I’ll tell you. It’s the closest one to my home town. Yeah, that’s it.
On my quest to find national parks within a reasonable distance to where I was located, Hot Springs was the first to pop up. I did do some research on Hot Springs before deciding to make the trip out though. And everything I found actually incited a lot more curiosity in me, and that’s what finally sealed the deal.
Hot Springs National Park is located right next to Hot Springs, Arkansas (Fun fact: I actually thought the park was a part of the city, but it turns out that because it’s a national park, it’s actually privately owned. By the government). It’s the smallest of all the national parks and, according to the establishment date of the land itself, it’s also the oldest national park (Although it wasn’t actually designated a national park until much later. So I guess you can still call yourself the oldest, Yellowstone).
Now, I know I’ve only been to two national parks prior to coming here, but I think Hot Springs might actually be starkly different from most other parks. Generally, the places I go camping or hiking have several areas that are fairly remote—no roads or restaurants or signs of city life in general nearby. But Hot Springs felt like it was literally dropped in the middle of a city—which might explain why I was so confused to find out that Hot Springs, the city was not the same thing as Hot Springs, the national park.
There’s a road that runs straight from Hot Springs, the city, into Hot Springs, the park. At some point—possibly right by the visitor’s center—this road turns from being property of the city to property of the park. There are businesses lining both sides of the street and everything is set up to make you feel like you’re never too far away from civilization. This may be a little off-putting to those of you that prefer to be completely cut off from advanced technology when you’re adventuring outdoors, but let me assure you, once you’re in some of the mountainous regions of the park, you really can’t tell that there’s a burger joint just a few hundred feet below you.
Some trails are paved and easier to trek than others. Some even have wide stretches of road, so if you preferred, you could drive through the wood rather than hike it. These roads are also used for getting up into shelters and picnicking areas.
From the name “Hot Springs,” one could certainly assume that actual hot springs can be found throughout the park. During one of my first hikes near the main road, I managed to find a few. I was skeptical at first whether or not I would get to see one—probably because I’ve never actually seen any hot springs prior to this trip—but you can actually see the smoke rising from the water and into the air.
Like most people, I definitely keep up with photos and videos of other people traveling to far-off destinations, imaging what it must be like to ride in hot air balloons in Turkey or go underwater cave-diving in Thailand. Something I’ve definitely seen online before were pictures of people traveling to places like Iceland and bathing in what looked like natural hot springs in the middle of the snowy woods somewhere. Apparently, that’s not always the case.
None of the wild hot springs at the park are actually safe for bathing. However, you can still try them out at one of two operating bathhouses located on the main road.
This is the one I visited while I was there. Each of the two houses, however, offer options to bathe in the the public baths, your own private bath to bathe in, and even several spa options—including massages and facials (Some of these services weren’t available at the time of my visit due to COVID restrictions, so make sure to check online—Quapaw Bathhouse and Buckstaff Bathhouse—for a full list of services).
Hiking and relaxing are the two biggest draws to this park, for sure. You could go for a morning hike, get a spa treatment at one of the bathhouses afterwards, check out some of the local stores, and then go to dinner at one fo the nearby restaurants. Everything you could want or need for, say, a weekend trip is literally within walking distance. If you’re someone that loves having the best of both worlds on an adventurous outing, Hot Springs National Park is the destination for you.
Let me know what you thought about Hot Springs National Park in the comments section down below! You can also read more about the park and maybe plan your trip out on their website!
I’ve got two more parks to go before I reach my “Visit Five National Parks in 2021” goal. If you have a suggestion for which ones I should visit, leave those in the comments too!
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