As the Nation's first federally protected reservation, Hot Springs National Park has been the hub of central Arkansas attractions since 1832. Today the park protects eight historic bathhouses with the former luxurious Fordyce Bathhouse housing the park visitor center. The entire "Bathhouse Row" area is a National Historic Landmark District that contains the grandest collection of bathhouses of its kind in North America.
The park was created by Congress in 1832. It is the nation's oldest and smallest national park. Originally named Hot Springs Reservation, it was renamed in 1921. It was originally created to protect the region's 47 natural flowing thermal springs.
Personal vehicles or bicycles can be used on the roads. The City of Hot Springs runs a trolley to the tower on Hot Springs Mountain from May to October. Vehicles more than 30 feet long are prohibited on Hot Springs Mountain because the road has hairpin curves.
Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center, Central Avenue (Hwy 7) between Reserve and Fountain Streets, Phone: 501-624-3383, ext. 640. Daily 9AM-5PM. The visitor center in the former Fordyce Bathhouse is also a 24-room museum offering self-guided tours. Considered the most elegant bathhouse when completed in 1915, it exhibits beautiful mosaic tile floors, marble, stained glass windows and ceilings, a gymnasium, and routine bathing equipment. The 15-minute orientation movie, Valley of Vapors, offers a brief history of the area. Taking the Baths is a 9-minute video showing the traditional bathing routine in the Hot Springs bathhouses. Rest rooms and water fountains are located in the basement. Other rooms shown include the music room, massage rooms and a bowling alley.
Bathhouse Row on Central Avenue includes the Fordyce Bathhouse and seven other bathhouses all built in the early 20th century. The Row is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Aside from the Fordyce which serves as the park visitor center, the Buckstaff is the only other operating bathhouse; it is still in use as a spa. The other bathhouses are vacant but awaiting new uses.
The Grand Promenade is a landscaped walkway behind Bathhouse Row which offers a glimpse of the springs and historic landscape features. Entrances are from behind the Visitor Center and from Fountain Street.
Scenic mountain drives on West Mountain, Hot Springs, and North Mountains have overlooks to the surrounding areas. An observation tower on top of Hot Springs Mountain is operated by a concessioner and offers a panoramic view of the Zig Zag range of the Ouachita Mountains.
The Park Hotel, 211 Fountain St. Hot Springs (in historic downtown Hot Springs on first right past Bath House Row), ☎ (501)624-5323, . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11AM. Exemplifies the architectural brilliance of the 1920's and 1930's. Completed in 1929 and opened to the public in 1930, a mélange of Spanish Revival influences. Throughout its long and varied history, original architectural elements have been beautifully preserved, immediately evident upon entrance into the spectacular tiled lobby.edit
La Quinta Inn & Suites (La Quinta), 4253 Central Avew, ☎ 501.5206400, . checkin: 3:00pm; checkout: 11:00am. Beautifully renovated opened brand new As LA Quinta Inn & Suites December 2011. This hotel is centrally located in Hot Springs, next to great dining and close to Oaklawn, Downtown Hot Springs/Hot Springs National Park, Magic Springs, and Mercy Hospital. Hotel features a great hot breakfast, indoor heated pool, True HD tv channels, and suites are available.edit
Country Inn & Suites, 4307 Central Ave, ☎ 501.525.2225, . checkin: 3:00pm; checkout: 12:00pm. edit
Gulpha Gorge, $10 per night ($5 with a Golden Age or Golden Access card.) Sites are available on a first come, first served basis. No reservations can be taken. Campsites have a picnic table, pedestal grill, and water nearby. While there are no showers or hookups, there are modern restrooms. Water is available at several stations throughout the campground most of the year and at the dump station. Quiet hours are 10PM-6AM. Pets are allowed if leashed.
Campgrounds with more amenities can be found in commercial, State Park, Corps of Engineers, and Forest Service campgrounds in the surrounding area.
Caution is advised when handling the thermal spring waters, as their temperatures may reach 100 degrees Farenheit. Also, persons with heart or respiratory conditions as should have written consent from a physician before bathing.