02/09/2017 – Hot Springs National Park

Hello,

I want to start off by saying I miss my dog. A lot. My sister Jenny has been taking care of him. Thanks for loving him and letting him sleep in your bed. Leaving Mason behind was tough but bringing him on this trip would not have been fair. Many parks have dog restrictions. Not because they don’t like dogs but because non native animals can disrupt the wildlife. National Park Service manages National Parks and other lands and monuments. The National Park title means the aim is preserving the land. The focus is to not alter the original state of the land and wildlife. On the other hand a National Forest may allow commercial logging and recreational hunting.

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Hot Springs, Arkansas. This town has a TON of history. From Al Capone and Babe Ruth to Bill Clinton. The oddest and smallest National Park in the United States HSNP still has a lot to offer.

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At 1,256 feet the observation tower looks over the entire park and city of Hot Springs. Do this first. I was confused of the park layout until doing this. The tower is located at the top of Hot Springs mountain. At the foot of the mountain is bathhouse row.Well marked trails lead from Hot Springs mountain peak to bathhouse row. From the tower you can view music mountain and sugarloaf mountain. You can also hike from the campground on the Northside of the mountain to bathhouse row. Allow ample time and energy to do this. I hiked into town after making camp and had no problem navigating the trail back to camp at night. Bring a headlamp and trail map.

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My second stop was at one of the many hot spring water fountains. You will see locals filling up their jugs. The mineral water was delicious and I stocked up on a few gallons. I plan on saving some for when I’m in the heat of Texas.

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The highlight of HSNP is bathhouse row. The parks visitor center is located in a old building named the Fordyce Bathhouse. It is now a museum that showcases what it looked like back when it opened 1915. The bathhouses today are rented out by park services to private businesses. I spent a few hours soaking in Quapaw Baths & Spa. Many locals frequent the bathhouses and have annual passes. I paid $20 for a day pass and left relaxed and content.

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I spent the rest of the day and night exploring the surrounding terrain. The park has a lot more to offer than just the bathhouses. I do recommend doing both nature and relaxation at this park. The park balances both things well. I spent the night in the parks only campground. It was well maintained and close enough to trailheads.

The town of Hot Springs has a lot to offer including some of the oldest prohibition bars in the nation. It’s touristy and almost tacky while remaining unique and organic. Would I go back? Yes and no. I would love to have a constant supply of the mineral water. But I don’t know if I would like to spend anymore time in the bathhouses. It was a great experience though. The park was nothing like I imagined.

John Putrino

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