First, we went without having any preconceived notions about what we'd find in Hot Springs NP, which worked out well. I noticed from some other comments that people seemed surprised this was not a vast park. The Parks Service serves to protect national heritage and that can be a monument, a series of monuments (like the National Mall or the C&O Canal in Washington, DC), etc.
Hot Springs NP has a visitor center in the Fordyce Bathhouse, which gives a person as sense of what the bathhouse culture was like decades ago, and how hot springs are formed. The building itself is exquisite from the outside. The neighboring bathhouses are also fascinating from the outside. And yes, the town butts right up against it all - which we found fun.
I loved the people watching. We went on an Easter weekend, the weather was gorgeous and people seemed in good spirits. The buildings across the street also have some fascinating architecture if you look up beyond the ground floor.
The park itself stretches 8 square miles Near the bathhouses is an entrance to the park (in between the bathhouses and the Arlington Hotel) where you can see some hot 'springlets' and do a series of short hikes (0.2 miles each).
There are also spots where you can drive for views - up each of the 'mountains' (there are several spots to stop on the Western Mountain and there is a tower on the other side. We walked up to it but didn't go in.
If you are more ambitious, we also did a longer 9 mile hike, which started at the top of the Western Mountain loop (free parking). **We used GPS but also referred to the free map we got from the NPS staff at the Fordyce Bathhouse.**
From the parking lot you follow the Sunset Trail west, and then gradually loop north and east, until you reach the Cedar Glades Road. From there you walk downhill back into town, passing some beautiful homes and lilac trees. After a short walk on the main road (where we stopped for a iced latte), we walked back uphill, taking the path of a carriage road from the 1800s, winding our way back to the car. We had a grand time hiking, finding many beautiful blooms, enjoying the views. Sure you aren't far from town but you do get away from it all.
(Both the shorter and longer hikes were dog friendly - we brought ours on leash)
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.