Take a walk along the beautiful Grand Promenade, add a short hike into your afternoon plans, or grab your pack and tackle the rugged 9-mile Sunset Trail, all in Hot Springs National Park.
Hot Springs may be one of the smaller national parks in the U.S., but it’s packed full of stunning singletrack, epic overlooks, and a historic downtown eager to be explored. Long before the concept of a national park was even considered, this area “had been set aside by the federal government to preserve its use as an area for recreation,” a notable first, and a testament to the unique and historic significance the area holds. Though there is a long list of places you should visit in town, these are the four must-do hikes to add to your list during your visit to Hot Springs NP in Arkansas.
One of your first stops should always be the Grand Promenade, a beautiful brick walkway that “offers views of historic downtown Hot Springs, the Arlington Lawn, the hot springs cascade, [and] quartz veins in the sandstone and tufa cliffs," according to the NRT Database. Though short, the 0.5-mile trail is a focal point of the park’s history, and it was even granted the status of a “National Recreation Trail” in 1982. The park’s visitor center is located alongside the trail, which helps make it one of the most-visited hikes in the park.
As the longest maintained trail in Hot Springs, it’s easy to find your way onto the Sunset Trail. In addition to the main trailheads on West Mountain and in Gulpha Gorge, there is parking virtually any time the trail crosses a major road. Divided into three sections, West Mountain hosts “the highest point in the park, Music Mountain (1405'),” with Sugarloaf Mountain offering a beautiful ridgetop traverse with the option to visit Balanced Rock. The final Stonebridge Road Section links Cedar Glades Road and Gulpha Gorge Campground, passing Rick's Pond and numerous stone structures on the way.
For two short day hikes, consider the overlook hike to Goat Rock, or a quiet two-mile loop atop West Mountain. These classics explore the park’s two focus hiking areas, and both would make an excellent addition to your plans if you’re already in town. Both areas provide a beautiful assortment of fall colors, and – if you set your alarm early enough – Goat Rock offers a stunning view of the sunrise less than one mile from the trailhead.