We pulled into Gulpha Gorge Campground, the Hot Springs National Park Campground, and what a surprise. It was Tuesday and there were only three other campers there. The campground is beautiful and spacious with full hookups for only $30 a night. I’ve never heard of national park campgrounds with full hookups!
The other campers were all huddled together by the river, so we opted to go to the empty side of the campground with a long driveway and easy backup. What a beautiful place (although being near a busy road, the traffic is a bit noisy).
Hot Springs National Park was historically known for its healing waters. Doctors had actually prescribed their patients to bathe there. The water is odorless, colorless and flavorless. It is not in a volcanic region and so the natural process is different leaving the water very pleasant.
Wednesday morning, we had a nice slow start and then headed into town to the visitor center and to check out “Bath House Row”. Although there are only two functioning bath houses now, the Buckstaff (for a traditional bath) and the Quapaw (modern pools), what an impressive place this must have been in the day. Fantastic architecture and some of the remnant of the interiors was amazing too. The visitor center is located inside one of the old bath houses and serves as a museum. You can take a self- guided tour through it. Then off to lunch at the oldest restaurant, The Ohio Club, for some tasty burgers. And finally a stroll down The Grand Promenade and back to the Beast and the campground for some more relaxation.
Wednesday seemed to bring more campers into the campground. Four arrived in the morning, and of course, parked down by the others at the river. But then another two arrived later, one in between us and the river group, and then one next to us. Oh my. I really cherished being alone.
We took a long time to get started on Thursday. I think that we’ve been pushing so hard that some R&R was in order and this was not a bad place to get started. The temperatures were warm, the campground lovely and comfortable, and lots of good trails to walk. We planned to walk a long and more strenuous trail today and then soak in the hot pool for a while. Good plan. So we registered for another night. We hiked the Gulpha Gorge Trail (very steep) up to the junction of the North Mountain Loop Drive, and then backtracked and walked a short trail over to Goat Rock. It was a good and strenuous hike. Back to Annie and then head into town to the modern Quapaw Bathhouse.
The pools are wonderful, super clean, and well attended to, but not cheap. It costs $20 per person, plus if you don’t have your own flip-flops, you have to buy their cheap but functional ones for $3 each. There are four big pools, all at different temperatures with waterfalls and jets. We of course, tried them all. After a nice long soak, we wandered back to our campsite, made dinner, and were too relaxed to do any planning for travel the next day.
So the next morning, we woke up, and enjoyed another slow morning with a big breakfast and ample chill time. Okay, it’s Friday. I started looking at possibilities of where to travel tomorrow and realized that the campgrounds we wanted to head to were full for the weekend. Best plan is to stay put for the weekend. After all, it’s a great campground, it’s warm outside, and there is good hiking. We registered for the rest of the weekend.
After lunch, we took a nice long hike along the West Mountain Trail. Our dog has been very happy with the walks. Only problem was that I did find a tick, on his nose! But it is t- shirt weather and we’re in the woods. Perfect! After our wonderful hike, we headed to a grocery store and back to the campsite. There were more campers now, but nowhere near full.
On Saturday, our last full day, we had a relaxing start, then headed out for one last beautiful hike. We walked the Hot Springs Mountain Trail this time. I can’t get over how beautifully developed these trails are. Of course, Coda was in heaven with so many new smells to check out. After our walk, we headed back to our campground. The picnic area and creek area were busy with people out to enjoy the warmth and sunshine. Late afternoon we headed back into town to enjoy the fabulous hot pools for one last time. It was a great day!
We enjoyed our stay at Gulpha Gorge Campground and Hot Springs National Park immensely. What a wonderful getaway!