Hot Springs National Park is the smallest park of its kind in America. Small, but mighty; people have been visiting the area for more than 200 years to bathe in the therapeutic waters. Located in Arkansas, Hot Springs National Park covers an area of just 22.4 km2 (8.64 sq mi) of thermal springs, mountains and part of the bordering town.
The area was designated a Reservation in 1832 to protect 47 natural thermal springs. In 1921 it was renamed Hot Springs National Park. Its early reservation status makes it the oldest national park in America.
The town of Hot Springs was built around the springs to accommodate the growing number of visitors. The urban area covers the northern end of the town and the park’s status also protects Bathhouse Row, a grand collection of historic bathhouses. Of the original eight, only one bathhouse remains in active use. Here, visitors can experience thermal mineral baths and numerous spa treatments. A large museum in the Fordyce Bathhouse gives a fascinating insight into the history of the town and park.
Popular visitor attractions include the Fordyce Bathhouse itself, the visitor centre and the Grand Promenade. A walk along the Grand Promenade allows a closer look at the natural springs and surrounding features. For a taste of the hot springs, visitors and townspeople flock to one of the many fountains providing odourless, natural spring water.
The remainder of the park is primarily forest – deciduous on the northern slopes of the basins and ridges; pine on the south side. 42 km (~26 mi) of hikes and trails offer an excellent way to explore The trails on Hot Springs Mountain are clearly marked and at the summit, there’s an observation tower providing a panoramic view of the surrounding area.