I think one of the first things that come as a surprise to mosts people is that Hot Springs National Park is an urban park, right smack in Downtown Hot Springs, although there are hiking and camping opportunities in the park. The second most surprising thing is that there aren’t actually places to soak in the hot springs except in the bathhouses! That’s right, there are no outdoor thermal pools! But there is more than enough beauty and excitement in Hot Springs to make up for it! A town with an incredible history, a great night life and tons of things to do in Arkansas, proving why it’s known as The Natural State!
We visited Hot Springs over Mother’s Day Weekend, which wasn’t our first choice. We had planned for 6 months to go to Padre Island National Seashore and take windsurfing lessons offered there in the park, but the weather in Texas had other plans. So, at the last minute I was searching for sunny skies as closed to DFW as possible, and Hot Springs was a winner! From us, it’s about a 4-4.5 hour drive, if you can avoid traffic going through Dallas on I-30.
We visit Hot Springs about once a year, because it is so close and there is so much to do, and Arkansas really is beautiful! This was Mother’s Day Weekend (no, it’s not just a day), so it was everything I wanted to do, and what I always want to do is find some clear, cool water and play!
While we were staying at an AirBNB some 11 miles away at the master-planned community of Hot Springs Village, which was great, what I always wanted to do was camp at the National Park Campground, Gulpha Gorge. A small campground of only 40 spaces, it of course fills up quickly, so that’s still on my bucket list!
Gulpha Gorge Campgrounds sits along the banks of Gulpha Creek, and there is no charge for day use. There is a picnic area at the front of the campground, and a nice area in the creek at the back for playing in the water or crossing it and hiking the Gulpha Gorge Trail.
We crossed and hiked the trail, going to the left, a nice hike but we were glad to get back down to the water. The trail intersects with Hot Springs Mountain Trail, which will take you up to the Tower, and Goat Rock Trail, so you could really make a full day of hiking!
There’s not really a place large enough to swim in the creek, but enough “holes” that you can get wet and cool off! It was a little crowded, and plenty of kids and dogs, including ours, but everyone was having fun! My kids did not want to leave!
Hot Springs National Park
101 Reserve St., Hot Springs, AR
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