Hike Hot Springs Mountain then Soak at Buckstaff Bathhouse
Arkansas › Buckstaff Bathhouse
Added by Joy Scarola
Not only do you get to experience a traditional bath just like in the 1800s, but just behind the town there are various trails to hike on Hot Springs Mountain.
Start your day at the Buckstaff Bathhouse. I would recommend doing the hike first and the traditional bath experience after, but depending on the day and time of year, the bathhouse may be closed in the afternoon. You can check their hours here. After you buy a ticket and store your belongings, you will be guided to the dressing room where an attendant provides a bathsheet for you to wear and guides you through the whole experience.
First, you start with a private bath tub filled with fresh 98-100 degree water straight from Hot Springs Mountain. The tubs are large enough for you to stretch out, and you soak for 20 minutes. You are then taken to table where your attendant applies hot packs to your desired part of the body (up to four for twenty minutes). The hot packs are used to provide heat therapy for specific aches or pains. Then, you are taken to a head-out steam cabinet where you steam for five minutes, benefiting lung or sinus conditions. Next, your attendant takes you to a sitz (sitting) tub filled with 108-degree water for ten minutes to help with problems and pains in the lower back. Lastly, you are taken to a two-minute cool down shower that is a refreshing experience.
While you're in the area, be sure to get out and explore Hot Springs Mountain. Start by taking Peak Trail to Hot Springs Mountain Tower, which offers spectacular views of the town of Hot Springs. From there, follow Hot Springs Mountain Trail to the Gulpa Gorge Trail to the Goat Rock Trail. Make sure to hike up the Goat Rock for some more spectacular views. Then take Goat Rock Trail to Upper Dogwood Trail back to Hot Springs Mountain Trail. Finally, from Hot Springs Mountain Trail take the Honeysuckle Trail back to Peak Trail and you will return back at Hot Springs Visitor Center.
To complete your Hot Springs National Park experience, take a tour of the Fordyce Bathhouse, which is also the visitor center. The exhibit takes you through the traditions of one of the most popular bathhouses in America. It is very cool to see that your bath experience at Buckstaff Bathhouse is exactly how many Americans experienced it so long ago - it is a truly authentic experience!
- Bathing suit (optional for bath experience)
- Hiking attire and shoes
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Energizing Hike Followed By A Soak And Massage
We followed the route as described except since we were pressed for time we took the Arlington Trail down from Lower Dogwood. This takes you to the back of the Arlington Hotel. It took us about 2 hours to hike from the Tufa Terrace Trail, Peak, Hot Springs Mountain, Gulpha Gorge, Goat Rock, Upper Dogwood, Lower Dogwood to Arlington. The first 3 were a bit steep but the the rest either had lots of switchbacks or were more level so all in all the hike was less strenuous than we anticipated. Trails are well marked. We did soaking and massages at the Quapaw Bath House. You can soak on your own in 5 different temperature tubs or have a private bath. Massages were ok, not great. But they are kinda of like pizza - even bad pizza is still good. 😀. We also had great burgers for lunch at the Ohio Club across the street.
Outbounder Dipping Prohibited
Normally I'm all down for checking out touristy things because I often surprise myself with what I find. Having just come off an extensive road trip I was excited about the springs. However, as interesting as this hike and spring water splash was, I cannot hid my disappointment. It was overly crowded and the bathhouses (the ones that were open) all closed by early afternoon. Emphasize-- you cannot simply "dip" into the springs. You have to go to a bathhouse. Go with your elderly grandparents/ parents who would enjoy confined and roofed in spring experiences rather than jumping in a rock hole in nature.
Baths are Great - Don't Hike Sunset Trail!
We thought we'd take on the challenge of the Sunset Trail - a supposed 9.8 miles and the longest in the park. With our 3 kids (10, 8, 5.5) we set out early in the morning from the campground at Gulpha Gorge hiking the trail counter-clockwise. The trails rolls through the hills and is quite stunning only our miles were adding up faster than we were completing the trail. By the time we made it back around to the Visitor Center, we had clocked 13.3 miles and we were all dead tired. The map said it was another 1.4 miles from the VC back to the campground but the kids just weren't going to make it. Luckily, we ran into a park ranger and he gave my husband a ride back to the campground to pick up our truck and rescue the rest of us. We learned that many of the trails need to be re-measured, and re-signed (the signage on Sunset was also awful). Just be careful which trails you hike and make sure you have accurate information before setting out!! BBQ from a local dive that night, and a soak in a traditional bath at Buckstaff the following morning were both fantastic.
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