Hot Springs National Park and its namesake city in Arkansas are together known as “The American Spa” because of their legendary waters. While the soothing waters are a primary attraction for visitors wanting to unwind and relax, there are also plenty of unforgettable Hot Springs vacation rentals, as well as points of interest that are sure to intrigue. If you’re looking for activities that don’t involve the renowned waters, check out the top family-friendly hiking trails in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
1. Sunset Trail
As the longest trail in the national park, you might doubt the Sunset Trail as a suitable hike with kids. The entire trail covers over 10 miles, which is why visitors often break the hike up into three separate sections. The first part of the trail across West Mountain is considered the most popular, for its overlooks and proximity to downtown Hot Springs. Choose the second section of Sunset Trail for the most scenic views through the forests of Sugarloaf Mountain. If you want to see an old family estate and learn more about the thermal springs, plan your hike on the Stonebridge Road portion of the trail.
2. Hot Springs Mountain Trail
This rewarding trail will take you through a beautiful hardwood and pine mixed forest to incredible vistas from Hot Springs Mountain. The hardest part about Hot Springs Mountain Trail is the incline. While there are sloping descents that aren’t too difficult for young hikers, areas with an upward incline might present more of a challenge. However, the ascent isn’t unimaginably steep, and kids should be able to finish the hike with a bit of encouragement.
3. Goat Rock Trail
The Goat Rock Trail has all sorts of adventures awaiting the kids. Young explorers can trek through flowery glades that offer views of Indian Mountain and east Hot Springs. They can scramble across uneven and rocky ground, and then pass underneath huge boulders. To make the climb to Goat Rock Overlook, stone steps will take you 240 nonvertical feet up to the summit. An unforgettable view of Indian Mountain awaits.
4. Grand Promenade
If you’re looking for a wheelchair or stroller accessible hike, consider a walk along the Grand Promenade. It may not take you through dense forestry or up a mountain, but it’s a half-mile stretch that offers views of the historic downtown of Hot Springs. In addition, you’ll get to see the Arlington Law, the hot springs cascade, quartz veins in the sandstone and tufa cliffs. It’s a must-see for visitors to the national park, considered a National Recreation Trail since 1982.
5. Tufa Terrace Trail
Tufa rocks aren’t just part of the cliffs along the Grand Promenade. There’s an entire trail named after the massive tufa, porous rocks made of calcium carbonate. The tufa cliffs visible along the mountainside from the Tufa Terrace Trail were formed over millennia as the springs flowed down the mountain. Hiking this trail will give you a chance to learn more about tufa and the terraces that formed over thousands of years.
6. Peak Trail
The Peak Trail is almost a continuation of the Tufa Terrace Trail. It starts at tufa terrace and lends itself to another teaching moment. Hikers on the Peak Trail may spot green boxes along the way. Those are spring water collection boxes. According to the National Park Arkansas, a bulk of the 700,000 or so gallons of thermal water that flows from Hot Springs Mountain is collected from 27 of the 47 active springs. The water is delivered to a reservoir, where it’s distributed to bathhouses. And the entire process has much to do with the green box.
7. Gulpha Gorge Trail
The Gulpha Gorge Trail is an adventure of winding trails and a climb. It’s not recommended for the very young, as the incline is steep. However, those who attempt the hike and find themselves in need of rest will find a bench just before the summit. The trail also has a stone shelter to provide relief from sudden downpours or the summer sun.
8. West Mountain Trail
This 1.2-mile trail includes 14 mortar and stone steps, a stone footbridge and a fork in the road. With a little bit of intrigue both on the trail and from the sights nearby, the West Mountain Trail is a top choice hike for families with kids. At one point, the trail will become steep, but most of the path is level with gradual shifts in incline. Your kids might also be able to spot the forest animals that make their homes in the hollow den trees in the area.
9. Canyon Trail
The Canyon Trail is less than a mile, and but is an interesting hike for families with kids. The nice views of the Medical Arts Building and the Arlington Hotel might interest the adults. The serpentine path once part of an old carriage road could engage the kids. The hike isn’t considered easy, because it leads up a mountain to an outcropping. But you’ll get to absorb all the views from the overlook, and maybe even stop for a picnic where the Canyon Trail intersects the West Mountain Trail.
10. Mountain Top Trail
Mountain Top Trail, at a distance of about 1.5 miles, is considered longer than most of the other trail in the national park. The beginning of the hike won’t be too difficult for families with children. The trail starts on a smooth gravel path, and begins to gradually rise. The climb is relatively smooth, but the descent can get a bit rocky. It intersects a number of different trails, so you have the option of continuing on a different path if looking for a change. Kids will get to see pine warblers from the trail all year round, and smell the scent of pine trees all around.