Monday, October 13, 2014

Best trails to see Hot Springs’ wonders

Waterfall on Tufa Terrace Trail.
Photo courtesy of Hot Springs NPS.
Among the best ways to see Hot Springs National Park’s top sights is via a day hike. Just three short trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – thermal springs, Gilded Age buildings, and fantastic vistas.

Thermal springs
For more than 100 years, people have collected the hot spring water flowing from the 43 thermal springs now in the park. As the mineral waters lack the sulphur odor common to most hot springs, people flocked here to treat rheumatism and other ailments. The 0.2-mile Tufa Terrace Trail allows you to see some of the geology involved in the springs; you’ll see deposits of white, gleaming tufa, which is calcium carbonate brought to the surface and left behind by the spring water.

19th-century architecture
Several buildings from the Gilded Age sit on Bathhouse Row, once home to spa-like facilities for visitors seeking the hot springs’ alleged healing properties. Two urban routes, when combined, offer a 1-mile loop around the row; take the sidewalk along Central Avenue from Court Street to Fountain Street and then link up with the Grand Promenade Trail, which heads along the row’s backside.

Great vistas
Though hardly a backcountry wilderness experience, the national park does offer a number of forested trails to enjoy. The 1.7-mile Hot Springs Mountain Trail heads through a beautiful mixed hardwood and pine forest and climbs to 1,200-plus feet above sea level, offering views of the quaint Arkansas countryside, the city of Hot Springs, and the ancient Ouachita Mountains.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.