12 Parks in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Hot Springs, Arkansas is known for its natural hot springs and has been a popular spot for relaxation and rejuvenation since the early 1800s. The city, nestled in the Ouachita Mountains, features numerous parks where visitors can enjoy the outdoors and take in the beautiful scenery.

From large urban parks with amenities to small neighborhood green spaces, Hot Springs has something for everyone. This article will highlight 12 of the top parks in Hot Springs and provide details on their locations, main features, and why you should add them to your Hot Springs itinerary.

Town Mountain Trail

Town Mountain Trail is located on the west side of Hot Springs National Park. This nearly 2-mile trail winds through the lush forest on Hot Springs Mountain, climbing over 500 feet to provide gorgeous city and mountain views from multiple overlooks along the way.

The trail has a few steep sections but is mostly a moderate climb up wooden and stone stairs. The lower trailhead starts behind the Army Navy Hospital near downtown Hot Springs. Along the way up, highlights include Uncle Sam Overlook with views across Hot Springs valley and Hot Springs Mountain Tower – an 65-foot tall overlook platform offering 360 degree views across Hot Springs and the Ouachita Mountains.

The shady forest trail provides a peaceful nature escape from downtown Hot Springs, with opportunities to spot birds and other wildlife. Once you reach the mountain summit, you’ll find the short walk to Goat Rock Overlook worthwhile for its panoramic views.

The trailhead can be hard to find, so use a detailed map or ask the national park visitor center for directions before heading out. With interesting terrain, scenic overlooks, and a close proximity to downtown, Town Mountain Trail is one of the top places to hike in Hot Springs.

Gulpha Gorge Campground


Gulpha Gorge Campground is a peaceful wooded spot located off the Gorge Road scenic route, just northeast of Hot Springs National Park. The campground contains over 40 individual campsites plus three pavilions that can be reserved for group gatherings. Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring, and lantern pole. Free hot showers are offered at the on-site bath house.

A camp store sells supplies like ice, firewood, charcoal and limited grocery items. The scenic Gulpha Creek runs along the park perimeter, accessible from short trails leading from some of the campsites. You’ll enjoy shady relaxation along the creek or while picnicking at one of the three pavilions that can accommodate over 100 people each.

Two short but spectacular hiking trails start from Gulpha Gorge campground. The Gorge trail follows Gulpha Creek downstream into the deep river valley. Rock formations tower over 100 feet tall in spots, with rocky cliffs and lush vegetation hugging the trail. The Benefield Loop trail climbs high above the opposite side of the gorge, offering excellent views across Hot Springs National Park.

Gulpha Gorge Campground has served as the base camp for the Arkansas State Boy’s Basketball Championship for over 30 years and also hosts car shows, music festivals, company picnics, and other regional events. Campers looking for a peaceful wooded retreat close to Hot Springs will appreciate this hidden gem of a campground with its exceptional hiking trails showcasing the Ouachita forest scenery.

Lake Hamilton Park


On the southeast side of Lake Hamilton lies Lake Hamilton Park, a peaceful spot with grassy fields, shady picnic areas, children’s playgrounds and access to small boat launches on the lake shore. Located on Carpenter Dam Road just east of downtown Hot Springs, this 30 acre park provides a perfect spot for lakeside picnicking with scenic views across Lake Hamilton.

The park contains several covered picnic pavilions that can be reserved, along with many picnic tables scattered around the grassy lakefront lawn. You’ll find children’s play areas with slides and swings, along with park restroom facilities. The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area manages a small boat launch area at Lake Hamilton Park, allowing launching of kayaks, canoes, john boats and other non-motorized watercraft.

A one mile hiking trail encircles the park to provide easy lakefront walking with plenty of scenic views across Lake Hamilton. From November through April the AGFC manages Lake Hamilton as a trout fishery, so you can try fishing from the rocky shoreline or small fishing pier on site.

While Lake Hamilton Park lacks a swimming area, visitors flock here March through November for picnicking and peaceful relaxation by the lake. Families will appreciate the children’s play areas and grassy fields perfect for frisbee or ball games when taking a break from boating on Lake Hamilton. With beautiful lake views and recreational access to Lake Hamilton outside of Hot Springs National Park, Lake Hamilton Park deserves a spot on your must-visit list during any trip to Hot Springs.

Whittington Park


Whittington Park is the largest city park in Hot Springs, spanning over 300 acres on the northeast side of the city. The park boasts ample recreation facilities, natural areas, and a scenic creek running through the property. Conveniently located at the intersection of Highway 70 E and Highway 298, Whittington Park has rightfully earned its reputation as Hot Springs’ top spot for outdoor recreation and events.

The park contains over seven miles of multi-use trails that wind through meadows, pine forests and along Whittington Creek. Trail users will find parking lots, maps and trail markers to guide you. You can hike, jog, bike or rollerblade on over twenty miles of natural surface trails. In winter months, six miles of trails convert to cross country ski paths after good snow falls.

Other park amenities include twelve reservable picnic pavilions, a botanical garden, tennis courts, two 18-hole disc golf courses and a dog park. You’ll also find playgrounds, soccer fields, sand volleyball pits, walking tracks and restroom facilities scattered conveniently around the grounds.

Whittington Park hosts some of Hot Springs’ biggest annual events, like the Valley Folk Festival, Vintage Market Days, Hot Springs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Open and the Hot Springs 50K/50 Mile ultramarathon. The park also offers a scenic wedding venue at Whittington Point Overlook, high above the creek junction. Families flock to Whittington Park year-round to enjoy the plentiful recreation amenities and natural scenery this gorgeous park has to offer just minutes from downtown Hot Springs.

Hot Springs Creek Greenway


The Hot Springs Creek Greenway is one of the city’s newer park projects, featuring over 5 miles of paved recreational paths following Hot Springs Creek through the city. Downtown access points allow visitors to park and walk short or long sections of the creekside greenway. Or visitors can traverse the entire multi-use path from one end to the other by bike, foot, skates or wheelchair.

The greenway navigates through some of the city’s most interesting scenery. Starting from the north trailhead on Olive Street, you’ll pass by historic baseball fields where Babe Ruth once played, underneath Broadway Avenue bridge, and behind Bathhouse Row. Interpretive signs explain the significance of these areas along the way.

The path crosses Central Avenue downtown before passing the Hot Springs National Park visitor center, continuing behind the Arlington Hotel and convention center downtown. Further along you’ll traverse under scenic bridges and find charming views of Hot Springs Creek bubbling over rocky outcroppings and small waterfalls.

South trailheads can be found at the Creekside RV Park off Malvern Avenue or Vine Street trailhead, crossing Vine street footbridge. This section passes behind Oaklawn Racing Casino and follows the creekbend behind the farmers market downtown. Plans are underway to extend the trail further south to the splash pad water park off Hobson Avenue.

The Hot Springs Creek Greenway allows locals and tourists alike to traverse the heart of Hot Springs by foot or bicycle on a paved recreation path, enjoying cooling shade along the creek and intriguing views of historic sites downtown. It provides an eco-friendly tour option showcasing Hot Springs charm where the city meets nature.

Fountain Lake State Park


Twenty miles east of Hot Springs lies crystal clear Fountain Lake, the centerpiece of Fountain Lake State Park. Encompassing over 560 acres along the lakeshore, the park offers idyllic relaxation paired with excellent fishing and boating access to this spring-fed lake. Operated by the Arkansas State Park system, Fountain Lake State Park provides the perfect destination for a day trip from Hot Springs into Garland County’s beautiful scenery.

The state park offers shady campsites for tents and RVs, or you can rent one of eleven newly constructed cabins that sleep up to eight guests. Many sites directly overlook the waterfront, thanks to Fountain Lake’s long and winding shoreline. You’ll find bath houses with hot showers, a boat launch area and fish cleaning station for anglers.

Visitors enjoy boating, waterskiing and jetskiing on the calm open waters. You can rent kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and pedal boats by the hour or day to enjoy a relaxing paddle along wooded coves and rocky bluffs. Trout, crappie, bass and catfish get stocked regularly in the lake for excellent seasonal fishing.

Six different hiking trails traverse the hilly park, ranging from easy to moderate difficulty levels. The Cabin Loop, Lakeshore and Rim Rock trails reward hikers with gorgeous lake views from scenic overlooks. Don’t miss thestaticfiles/media/pictures/cascading waterfall feeding the lake from high atop the rocky bluffs — it’s an exceptional spot for landscape photos.

Fountain Lake glistens like a hidden gem just twenty minutes from Hot Springs city life — offering visitors gorgeous scenery, a diverse fishery, boating access and miles of nature trails perfect for outdoor recreation. It deserves top billing on your must-see parks list around Hot Springs.

Garvan Woodland Gardens


Tucked into a peninsula jutting out into Lake Hamilton, Garvan Woodland Gardens ranks among the most beautiful botanical gardens in the United States. This 210 acre preserve owned by University of Arkansas showcases meticulously tended gardens, rock formations, water features and architectural elements across a densely wooded landscape. Thanks to year-round blooms and scenic views, Garvan attracts visitors 12 months a year.

The garden layout utilizes the hilly terrain, with climbing paths, elevated walkways and scenic overlooks integrated seamlessly throughout the grounds. Blooming bulb displays greeting visitors at the entryway garden gate transition into lush water lily pools, then towering stands of azaleas, camellias, daffodils plus thousands of other flowers, trees and plants.

Notable garden collections include an Asian-themed garden, wildflower meadow, one of the nation’s largest peony collections and theAnthony Chapel complex.

This contemporary open-air chapel overlooks Lake Hamilton, its soaring glass walls and spiral staircase design complementing the surrounding forest views. The chapel hosts over 700 weddings annually and serves as an architectural showpiece for the garden. Seasonal light displays usher evening visitors along garden paths glittering with over a million lights from November through January.

Garvan Woodland Gardens stands out as one of Hot Springs’ true world-class attractions — equal parts meticulously cultivated botanical retreat, architecturally intriguing landmark and scenic natural preserve overlooking picturesque Lake Hamilton. The stunning gardens shouldn’t be missed during any visit to Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Magic Springs Theme and Water Park


Families visiting Hot Springs should pencil in a full day of thrill rides and water slides at Magic Springs Theme and Water Park, located ten miles west of downtown. Spanning 70 acres along the Ouachita River, Magic Springs offers one of Arkansas’ largest collections of amusement park rides coupled with a massive Crystal Falls water park. Visitors enjoy heart-pumping thrills followed by cooling relief in soothing water attractions at this family-friendly destination.

In the theme park section, families will find over a dozen rides from mild to extreme. Young kids can drive their own vehicles on Convoy or ride a Ferris Wheel with views across Lake Hamilton. Bigger kids and adults will brave the Gauntlet — one of the South’s tallest and fastest roller coasters with a pulse-quickening vertical lift hill ascent. Other popular rides include The Big Bad John drop tower, Sparkler spinning planes that reach 7Gs, and the Tsunami Surge 64-foot tall giant swing.

When you need a break from the screams of thrill rides, head next door to Crystal Falls water park. Relax lazily floating the 850-foot long Crystal River lazy river, plunge down two massive enclosed water slides, or let kids play at Splash Island kiddie area. Crystal Falls covers nearly eight acres, with lifeguards constantly overseeing all attractions and pools.

Visitors shouldn’t miss rides like Black Lightning and Thunder Run wooden roller coasters crossing each other’s paths, providing awesome visuals and airtime pops. With multi-generational appeal across dozens of rides, slides and family play areas, Magic Springs Theme and Water Park offers almost guaranteed full day fun on any Hot Springs family vacation.

Hot Springs National Park


No article on Hot Springs’ top parks would be complete without highlighting Hot Springs National Park — the oldest area managed by the National Park Service. Encompassing much of Hot Springs’ downtown plus Hot Springs Mountain, the national park centers around 47 natural hot springs concentrated in one area. For over 200 years, travelers have come here seeking the springs’ purported healing benefits.

Start your park visit at the Grand Promenade, an intricately tiled bathhouse row showcasing eight preserved bathhouses now converted into galleries, gift shops and the park visitor center. Ranger-guided tours through two historic bathhouses explain the area’s history as “America’s first resort.” The park manages several drinking fountains spewing the hot spring water still hot enough for tea directly from the thermal source.

Hiking trails lace the mountain behind Bathhouse Row, like the one mile Happy Hollow Trail leading to scenic vistas from Inspiration Point. The park also oversees Gulpha Gorge campground and recreation area already highlighted earlier in this article. Don’t miss a side trip up the Hot Springs Mountain Tower observation tower — at 216 feet tall, it offers panoramic views across 40 miles to Mount Magazine.

The national park preserves Hot Springs’ enduring legacy centered around its healing waters, evident in century-old architecture lining Bathhouse Row downtown. Make time to visit the elegant former Fordyce bathhouse, now housing park visitor center exhibits explaining the springs’ cultural significance attracting everyone from Native Americans to 1920s baseball players for R&R. Hot Springs National Park showcases the alluring heart of this scenic Arkansas city.

Hurricane Lake Park


Twenty-five miles south of Hot Springs off Highway 7 lies Hurricane Lake Park, a lesser-visited yet supremely scenic spot operated by Hot Springs National Park. Encompassing a small lake formed by Hurricane Creek plus the surrounding forested slopes, Hurricane Lake Park spans 120 acres tucked inside a steep river valley. Outdoors enthusiasts will appreciate this natural retreat offering lakeside relaxation, fishing access and great hiking trails just a short drive from downtown Hot Springs.

The Civilian Conservation Corps built facilities here in the 1930s, with many amenities still welcoming modern visitors. Park at the picnic area atop the steep hill then descend almost 500 feet down steps to reach Hurricane Lake. The cool blue lake stays stocked with catfish, bream and bass, with old stone boathouse ruins and fishing pier jutting out into the water. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy lakeside at a shady picnic table.

When you’re ready to work off lunch, embark onto the park’s exceptional hiking trail network. The Lake Trail loops the lake and creek, while the 2.2 mile Cedar Creek Trail climbs steeply up the opposite shoreline with gorgeous scenes looking down across the narrow lake framed by tall pines. Linking trails traverse between Hurricane Lake area over to Hot Springs’ northern park boundary. With variable trail difficulties and terrain, Hurricane Lake Park offers something for novice walkers or veteran hikers.

Don’t let its remote location deter you — Hurricane Lake Park delivers supremely serene lake vistas coupled with excellent hiking trail infrastructure, all managed under the Hot Springs National Park umbrella. Pencil in half a day here to soak up scenic views far from city crowds.

College of the Ouachitas Park


Tucked away in west Hot Springs, the College of the Ouachitas Park often flies under visitors’ radars, overshadowed by the nearby national park. Yet this small college campus park spanning just over 40 acres offers big amenities perfect for an afternoon visit. Conveniently located at the intersection of Twin Rivers Drive and Hobson Avenue, the park provides Greenbrier residents and Hot Springs visitors an excellent spot for relaxation or recreation.

Outdoor attractions include the Jim Buie Walking Trail encircling a small fishing pond, tennis courts, sand volleyball pits, and a modern playground area ideal for young kids. Covered pavilions with picnic tables allow hosting birthday parties or family reunions, with restrooms and ample parking readily available.

The park often hosts community events like outdoor movies, car shows and athletic competitions using facilities like the baseball field, basketball court and open grass event lawn. Leashed dogs can enjoy exercise inside the fenced bark park section containing agility equipment.

While compact in size compared to larger city parks, the College of the Ouachitas Park packs great amenities into a perfectly manicured landscape. Visitors staying at nearby hotels will appreciate having walkable access to jogging trails, playground equipment plus pavilions and green space for relaxation. Next time you find yourself in west Hot Springs, take an hour to unwind surrounded by nature at this lesser-known neighborhood park gem.

Quapaw Baths Park


Last on our list sits Quapaw Baths Park, encapsulating the historic Quapaw Bathhouse now under private management separate from Hot Springs National Park a half mile away. Quapaw Baths Park spans several acres downtown on Bathhouse Row, allowing visitors to not just tour a pristine historic bathhouse facility but also personally experience thermal bathing rituals drawn from Hot Springs centuries-old tradition.

The elaborate Spanish revival-style Quapaw Bathhouse first opened in 1922. After shutting down for decades, the privately-owned bathhouse reopened in 2008 after extensive renovation. Visitors can now take self-guided or guided tours of this ornate bathhouse, getting a firsthand glimpse of marble pool halls, stained glass ceilings and the same thermal spring water that has lured travelers here for ages.

Conclusion

Hot Springs proudly upholds its designation as the first national park while continuing to establish itself as a premier destination for relaxation, recreation and natural scenery. Beyond the healing waters that put Hot Springs on the map, visitors will discover plentiful parks providing family fun, outdoor adventure and gorgeous botanical landscapes.

From scenic campgrounds like Gulpha Gorge to the meticulous gardens of Garvan Woodland, Hot Springs spans attractions suiting all tastes. Fun-seekers flock to Magic Springs amusement and water park, while hikers cherish the peaceful solitude of Lake Ouachita Vista Trail. Even locals need only venture to their neighborhood park to enjoy amenities like College of the Ouachitas’ walking trails or Whittington Park’s disc golf.

The local parks profiled here reveal just a sampling of what Hot Springs offers visitors year-round. Whether you seek adrenaline-pumping thrills or peaceful communion with nature, Hot Springs’ diverse parks provide the perfect playground. Immerse yourself in these natural escapes, then unwind back downtown to soak in the thermal mineral waters at Quapaw Baths. With this blend of recreation, scenery and renewal, Hot Springs clearly upholds its reputation as the quintessential place to relax, restore and explore Arkansas’ natural beauty.

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