Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

Kurt Norris
Last Updated: March 14th, 2024

Occupying 5,500 acres in Garland County, Hot Springs National Park is the oldest managed park in the U.S. It attracts visitors from around the world thanks to the natural therapeutic properties of its waters. As a result, the community of Hot Springs has long been a popular tourist destination and offers visitors a comfortable stay throughout their visit to the park.

While hot springs are not widespread in Arkansas, The Natural State does boast a significant variety of thermal pools concentrated within the national park. And while these thermal pools are far too warm for the human body to submerge, the spa community of Hot Springs offers several ways visitors can engage with the mineral waters in a safe environment.

Beyond the thermal pools, Hot Springs National Park also boasts several miles of fantastic hiking trails. While passing by the region’s eponymous water features, visitors along these paths will explore Arkansas’ many other natural attractions while engaging the local flora and fauna species.

From the best ways to interact with the region’s natural mineral waters to the top nearby attractions and accommodation options, this is everything you need to know before visiting Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.

History of Hot Springs National Park


Unlike most hot springs, the thermal pools at Hot Springs National Park are not heated via volcanic activity beneath the planet’s surface. Instead, the natural pools are sourced from rainwater that is believed to have first fallen to the planet’s surface thousands of years ago.

Over the millennia, the water slowly percolates its way further through the earth’s crust to depths of a kilometer or more. As the water gets deeper into the planet, it continuously heats until it suddenly shoots itself self-back up to the planet’s surface, where it is then fed into the 47 natural pools in Hot Springs National Park.

While Hot Springs only became an internationally recognized tourist destination in the 19th century, the natural thermal pools had attracted visitors for millennia, dating back to the indigenous tribes that resided in the area long before European explorers even made their way to American shores.

When Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto explored the region in 1541, he became the first European to visit the hot springs. Dubbing the area the Valley of Vapors, Soto continue on his expedition.

The hot springs remained unclaimed until 1673, when French explorers passed through the region, claiming the land for France. Over the following 150 years, the hot springs would pass between the Spanish and French but were ultimately ceded to the United States in 1818.

In 1832 the land was established into the Hot Springs Reserve, which would become Hot Springs National Park a century later following the founding of the National Park Service. Over this time, the town of Hot Springs developed into a spa and resort community and developed infrastructure to service the mineral waters, including bathhouses and thermal spas.

While many of the bathhouses in the park have since closed, millions of visitors continue to flock to Hot Springs National Park each year to embrace the therapeutic properties of the natural mineral waters in the same rustic complexes once enjoyed by the national park’s earliest visitors.

Hot Springs National Park Facilities


Operating as a resort town for over a century, Hot Springs has developed a robust infrastructure for tourism and offers several facilities that provide various ways to engage with the national park’s mineral waters. These are just some facilities you can expect to find in Hot Springs National Park.

Natural Outdoor Springs

Hot Springs National Park features 47 natural outdoor hot springs. However, while these are the most beautiful and pristine naturally occurring hot springs in the park, they also feature temperatures far too warm for visitors to swim in, averaging 147 degrees Fahrenheit.

Visitors are permitted to touch two of the park’s thermal pools, and even these are limited to light splashes. Instead, guests are encouraged to explore the spring complex while embracing the facility’s natural setting and breathing in the fresh air from the mineral waters.

Bathhouse Row

Visitors keen on submerging in the region’s mineral waters will instead want to head to the park’s Bathhouse Row. Established in the mid-19th century, Bathhouse Row was once the home to nine bathhouses between 1892 and 1923. These facilities were popular amongst the park’s earliest tourists and offered a comfortable soak combining hot and cold spring sources.

Today’s visitors are encouraged to stroll the historic street, but only three buildings are currently open. While Fordyce Bathhouse now serves as a visitor’s center, Buckstaff Baths,, and Quapaw Bathhouse continue to provide guests with a serene soaking experience complete with onsite spa services.

Hot Spring Fountains

Due to the natural purification process of the water’s movement through the planet, the spring is clean and entirely safe to drink from the source. In addition, thanks to its high mineral concentrations, the spring water contains more nutritional value than artificially purified water.

The community of Hot Springs capitalizes on its abundant source of clean, fresh water by providing several hot spring fountains scattered throughout the community that is connected directly to the aquifer.

Seven different hot spring fountains are scattered throughout the town and the park, and visitors are even encouraged to fill their water bottles to bring back home. Those who prefer cold water can fill their bottles at Happy Hollow or Whittington Spring, providing mineral-rich waters sourced from a different cold-water spring nearby.

Accommodations Options at Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas


As a historical spa community, Hot Spring has several accommodation options near Hot Springs National Park. Shamrock Motel Hot Springs offers visitors quaint and cozy accommodations less than a mile from the entrance to Hot Springs National Park.

Alternatively, visitors can book a room at the extravagant 1884 Wildwood Bed and Breakfast Inn. The historical inn features traditional rustic designs combined with modern amenities for an authentic yet comfortable visit reminiscent of Hot Spring’s earliest days as a tourist destination.

Dame Fortune’s Cottage Court offers a fantastic mid-range alternative only 0.7 miles from the national park. Boasting a wide variety of comfort amenities, this hotel puts visitors in the center of the action and provides convenient access to the region’s many attractions.

Getting to the Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

There are several ways to access Hot Springs National Park, the easiest of which is by private vehicle. However, those traveling further distances and arriving by air will be happy to know there are two airports in the region.

Hot Springs Memorial Field is a small local airport that services various commercial flights from Dallas, TX, and Memphis, TN. However, most visitors to hot springs instead land at the nearby Little Rock National Airport.

While this more popular landing point is located about 60 miles away, it does offer a shuttle service between it and Hot Springs National Park.


About The Author

Kurt Norris

A Canada-based freelance writer, Kurt acquired his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. He began his professional writing career while in school as a sports journalist. Upon graduating, Kurt left the courtside media desk behind and began venturing the globe. Throughout his journeys, Kurt enjoys partaking in slow travel and loves to explore the histories and cultures of each destination, which he shares with others through his writing.

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