Hot Springs National Park was a real surprise to us. We were thinking Yellowstone, lots of wild spaces with a few boardwalks so you could get close to hot water. Hot Springs National Park is entirely different. For one thing, all the hot springs come out of the side of the same hill in a cluster. Since the place was originally found, the hot water has been used as a bathing area both for cleanliness, for treatment of illness and just plain comfort. One of the consequences is that all the hot springs were long ago capped and all the hot water pooled in one big aqueduct system. There is a central row of original bathhouses with a lovely outdoor walking plaza. All the hot water comes out in controlled civilized structures. These are fountains, waterfalls and grottos. There is one spot where there is a spring in a lawn, probably because some pipe is leaking. You can walk around and see all the hot springs in a couple of hours and it is a pretty walk. We had the good fortune to have the park’s water specialist and biologist show off the spring area to us. We are interested in sampling the hot water’s green goop to see if it has any hot water acclimated diatoms. The park is supportive of the idea so we got visiting royalty treatment and we really appreciated it. We will be trying to get the permits in order for sampling for a fall visit.
One thing that was a big disappointment is it is a very developed place where the actual hot water is. There are two spas you can go into to swim but they are not swimming pools. They are full out spas. The cheapest visit is $20 each to just sit in the huge hot tub and it goes up from there. The full spa treatment with the works will cost you over $600 each for four hours of massage, aroma therapy, hot stones, facial and foot treatments and everything else before you get into the hot water. I walked in, and being scent sensitive, I found the aroma therapy quickly made the place a no go zone for me, never mind the price.
The rest of the area around the Hot Springs reminded me most of Niagra Falls. There was even a wax museum and a Ripley’s believe or not type place. It is a rather exclusive sort of place for all that, with a suburb of charming homes and some lovely bike paths. There was abundant free parking in the parkade one block off the main street and it was even tall enough to accommodate our pick up with canoe. Bonus!
We stayed at the national park’s campground and I can highly recommend it. It is small. It is in a ravine with a small creek complete with trout and full babbling brook sensoround. The campground is small with only about 50 sites altogether. Most back onto the creek for a very pretty view. There are no reservations and the number of full service and part service sites is limited. About half the sites are no service for tenters. We got a full service site for $13 a night since my husband has the senior pass. There were no open sites on the creek so we took an interior one but it was very nice anyway.
One of the best things about the campground is that the ridge between the campground and Hot Springs townsite is a ridge covered with lots of trails. They criss cross and you can walk from the campground to the springs and main part of town. Since we arrived just as the trees were budding, the trails were visible. We did not do the full walk due to Dick still recovering from his long walk off a short dock, but we did do some of the less than one mile trails that lead from the campground. They are really nice trails, quite demanding with steeps stairs in some places and wide and open with room to walk side by side in others. The rock formations are multicoloured and SO beautiful.We also took the winding road in our truck to the top of the ridge so we got to see the view from the top in spite of Dick’s still recovering knee.
We really enjoyed our stay at Hot Springs National Park and we will definitely go again if we can, “God willing and the crick don’t rise”.