Happy Mother’s Day!
We had planned for months a trip to Corpus Christi and Padre Island National Seashore to take windsurfing lessons at Worldwinds Windsurfing on the bay, but the weather had different plans and at the last minute I was searching for a little sunshine for the weekend, and Hot Springs, at only 4ish hours away from DFW, promised to have the least rain chances, according to Weather Underground.
Unfortunately, we got a late start, running hours behind and hit all the rush hour traffic, and arriving in Hot Springs after dark. I booked a beautiful AirBNB in Hot Springs Village, which is a gated, master-planned community about 11 miles outside of Hot Springs set on a series of lakes. Our rental was right on Lake Desoto, which was just lovely! Our family of five shared two upstairs bedrooms and my oldest slept downstairs on the couch. Arriving so late, we just unloaded, walked our dogs and then hurried to the hot tub, which was set on an enclosed patio overlooking the lake! Click HERE to be directed to the link to see the AirBNB we rented.
Saturday morning my husband and I woke up and decided to take the dogs for a walk. We hadn’t looked at a map, but there was a sidewalk between us and the lake and we decided to just see where it went! After our row of townhomes, we crossed a bridge over the water and headed to the marina, which was just diagonal from our rental home. We hoped the Desoto Marina was open and serving breakfast but found that they didn’t open until noon. We continued around until we came to the Waypoint Trailhead, an out and back trail of 1.5 miles. Our little walk ended up taking us 1.5 hours and my dog Dublin and I were exhausted when we returned.
Our rental also had kayaks in the storage area for use on the lake, and the marina just across the way also rents boats and paddleboards. I wished many times that we had just one more day to spend playing on the lake!
Hot Springs Village has many, many cute breakfast restaurants minutes from our rental, but we chose Mulligan’s on Ponce Golf Course. The food was okay, but by the time we drove there breakfast was unfortunately over. It was a beautiful course, however, and the rest of our weekend, it was hard to get my husband’s mind off the many beautiful golf courses around Hot Springs.
Ready to go exploring, we headed to Gulpha Gorge Campground on Hot Springs National Park. The National Park is most famous for their Bathhouse Row, and the many fun shops and entertainment around it. The historic bathhouses back up to Hot Springs Mountain, which offers a scenic drive and views up to the Tower. There are hiking trails all along the mountain and down to the other side, which is where Gulpha Gorge Campgound sits, on the shores of Gulpha Creek. A small campground of only 40 sites, I had tried to get a reservation when our plans changed but it was completely full. The campground also has a small picnic area and a place to play in the water, so that’s where we headed!
Upon arriving, we walked across the stepping stone of the creek to the Gulpha Gorge Trailhead, and hiked up the trail and back down. The trail connects with two other trails, if we had wanted to hike longer. It’s a series of steep switchbacks and by the time we finished, we were eager to cool off in the water. The dogs were having fun, as were the kids! The water was very cool, and while we couldn’t swim, there were a few 3-4′ holes where we could submerge in the rushing water!
One of my favorite hiking trails is at Lake Catherine State Park, the Falls Creek Falls Trail, which is about a 2-mile loop. About half-way along the trail there is a waterfall with a small swimming area. Clear cool water cascades over large rocks, and it’s a wonderful place to hang out for an afternoon.
One of the wonderful things about Arkansas State Parks is that there isn’t a fee to visit! The trail to the falls run along the shores of Lake Catherine, and it’s very scenic. At the falls, we all cooled off but there were quite a few people there, and it was harder with the dogs. We stayed about an hour and left as more people and dogs were arriving. My kids all said they wish we had stayed at Gulpha Gorge. Some days you just can’t win!
It’s about a 20-minute drive back to Hot Springs from Lake Catherine, and by now we were all starving. We stopped for dinner at a place I had been with my friends on a Girl’s Weekend back in 2021, Fisherman’s Wharf on Lake Hamilton. There was quite a line, with several big groups for graduation parties and a big bachelorette party but we called ahead and only had to wait a few minutes for a table. The restaurant has a large patio area overlooking the lake which is lovely, and on this visit, the views made up for the food, although I really enjoyed my fried catfish, and our server was wonderful.
We arrived back at the rental to find a party going on across the water at the Lake Desoto Marina, which had been closed when we walked over for breakfast. Live music was playing, and we jumped in the hot tub and enjoyed it through the screened-in deck!
I woke up early on Mother’s Day, and before it got too warm we headed to the Pickleball Center at Hot Springs Village. It was included in our things to do with our AirBNB, but unfortunately the office was closed on Sundays and we didn’t have a code. Luckily there were several people playing and they let us in! The Pickleball Courts are really nice, and we had a great time!
After checking out of the AirBNB, we headed back to the National Park and drove up to Hot Springs Mountain Tower. There’s a nice gift shop and you can go up the elevator to the top of the tower. We received a discount with our America the Beautiful National Park Pass to the top of the tower, and enjoyed looking around the Ouachita Mountains! Since our dogs weren’t allowed to go, my daughter stayed down at the car with them.
Back down off the mountain, we parked across the street from the Arlington Hotel on Fountain Street and walked along Central Avenue to see the bathhouses. We passed many other dogs and I do love how dog friendly Hot Springs is! We stopped in for lunch at Superior Bathhouse Brewery along Bathhouse Row. Superior is the only brewery in a National Park, and I always enjoy their food. They brew their beer and root beer using the water from the thermal springs. I’m not a beer drinker, but I love their root beer! Remember how I said that Hot Springs is dog friendly, dogs are allowed both inside and out on the patio at Superior, too! We opted to eat outside, and ordered a yummy pretzel with beer cheese and hot dogs and hamburgers for lunch.
Our last stop before heading back to Texas was at the Arlington Hotel for ice cream! I love the old hotel, which is also very dog friendly! The hotel has as colorful a history as the rest of Hot Springs, and Hollywood stars and mafia bosses all stayed at the Arlington! Al Capone’s ghost is even said to haunt one of the rooms at the hotel! We walked in the side door and found their Mother’s Day Brunch was underway, and it looked incredible! We headed down to the basement to Mamoo’s Creamery, which my youngest had been begging for since we arrived in Hot Springs! Their ice cream is all made in the shop, and it’s so good! So it was with a very sweet taste in our mouths as we waved goodbye to Hot Springs and headed home!
Hot Springs National Park
101 Reserve St., Hot Springs AR
Click HERE to visit their website
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