An ideal blend of rich historical past and breathtaking beauty, Hot Springs National Park is the perfect camping location. This park is labeled as the oldest park in the system, but its story goes way beyond the title. This National Park continues to stand as a well-known “American Spa” and has also remained an important symbol of healing since the 20th century.
I’ve put together a helpful Hot Springs National Park camping guide that will tell you in complete detail the top-rated places to camp and additional information to make your trip memorable! There are many ways you can choose to explore Hot Springs National Park, but below are the best ways to get the most out of your entire visit.
What You Can Expect While Camping in Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park is located in the great state of Arkansas and calls itself the “oldest area in the national park system.” In 1832, just forty years before Yellowstone became the first national park, President Andrew Jackson set aside the hot springs as a particular reservation.
When it comes to Hot Springs National Park, you’ll find it has a deep past. Historical bathhouse architecture has continued to spark curiosity in National Park campers for hundreds of years. Plan to thoroughly enjoy an array of ancient thermal springs, countless creeks, shaded forests, unique geology, and breathtaking mountain views without leaving the comforts of town.
Camping in Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park will offer you some of the top places to camp. You’ll get the ultimate camping experience while enjoying various activities such as hiking, shopping, boating, and many other outdoor activities. Also, plan to attend a sporting event or even a horse race if you enjoy sports.
Highly rated campgrounds in Hot Springs National Park are Gulpha Gorge, Lake Ouachita, Lake Catherine State Park, KOA Campground, and Catherine’s Landing.
Best Hot Springs National Park Camping Spots
Hot Springs National Park Camping: Gulpha Gorge
Gulpha Gorge is the perfect secluded camping spot near the historic downtown. They offer a campground for both tents and RVs. You’ll be pleased to know it has full hookups, amp electricity, sewer, and freshwater connections. Plan ahead as this camping location is first-come, first-serve.
You’ll have access to flushable toilets, potable water, grills, picnic tables, trash/recycling, and a dump station. If needed, electric, water, and sewer hookups are also available.
Enjoy the outdoors along scenic hiking trails and beautiful winding creeks that flow right through the campsites.
Hot Springs National Park Camping: Lake Ouachita State Park
Lake Ouachita is one of the most favored camping locations in Hot Springs! It offers a vast forty thousand acres of beautiful clear water. Lake Ouachita Park has ninety-three campsites for tents and RVs, even locations directly on the water. You can even rent a fully equipped cabin that overlooks the gorgeous lake.
While camping, you can use the public toilets, showers, potable water, picnic tables, boat rentals, and grills. In addition, there’s access to full hookups for water, sewer, and 50-amp electricity if needed.
State Park Activities
Enjoy outdoor activities such as guided hikes, eagle cruises, kayak tours, and even horseback riding. You can also plan to ski, swim, boat, scuba dive, fish, and even kayak along the crisp, clean waters.
Hot Springs National Park Camping: Lake Catherine State Park
Another fantastic option in Hot Springs National Park is Lake Catherine State Park. If you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful place to camp, this is your spot! This state park sits directly on Lake Catherine and is home to a breathtaking waterfall. Lake Catherine State Park features twenty fully equipped cabins, some with lake views and private fishing piers. Pitch your tent on any of the seventy additional lakeshore campsites!
You’ll be able to use their public toilets, showers, potable water, boat rentals, fire pits, and grills. Water and electrical hookups are available if needed as well.
Activities include guided hikes, lake tours, and seasonal horseback rides. Of course, you’ll always be able to enjoy swimming and relaxing by the clear lakeside.
Hot Springs National Park Camping: Hot Springs KOA Campground
If you’re on the lookout for the perfect RV Park, Hot Springs KOA is the highest-rated park available in the area. Campers love it’s only two miles from the historic bathhouse row and downtown. This campground accommodates RVs and tents, as well as offers cabins.
Amenities include toilets, showers, family games, shuttles, snack bars, a pool, WiFi, a common area kitchen, and a laundry area. Water and electricity hookups are also available for use.
Enjoy a handful of activities such as lake swimming, a featured pool, fishing, duck watching, a playground, and even mini-golf and an arcade.
Hot Springs National Park Camping: Catherine’s Landing
Lastly, for a luxurious glamping experience, check out Catherine’s Landing! You’ll be surrounded by gorgeous views of the forests and Lake Catherine. Need to rent a place? Choose to camp in a yurt or cottage.
Catherine’s Landing gives glamping a whole new name. Enjoy premium drinks for purchase, WiFi, concierges on call, fire pits, gift shops, kids playground, a saline swimming pool, fitness center, pontoon and kayak rentals, scenic walking trails, grills, potable water, picnic tables, showers, and restrooms. Cable, electricity, and water hookups are also available for RVs.
More Included Activities
You can be pampered with accessible use of the Catherine’s Landing heated pool and fire pits. Camp in style with the included fitness center, cozy beds, climate controls, and even WiFi in the woods, not to mention the array of close attractions.
Fees and Registrations for Hot Springs National Park Camping
Gulpha Gorge now requires reservations and will cost you thirty-four dollars a night. You can stay up to fourteen days and thirty days in a calendar year. You may be able to sneak in last minute as they do run on a first-come, first-serve basis. Lake Ouachita State Park will also require you to make reservations ahead of time and averages about fourteen dollars per night to come camp in their state park, making it the easiest if you’re on a budget. Lake Catherine State Park will cost you two hundred and thirty dollars a night to rent a cabin, but tent camping is much more affordable as it only runs about twenty-three dollars a night.
Hot Springs KOA Campground requires reservations and varies its rates depending on the type of camping you plan to do. For example, tent camping per night will cost between thirty-five to thirty-eight dollars a night, to give you an idea. Catherine’s Landing will require reservations and varies in cost per night depending on how you choose to come and camp. For example, tent camping per night will be range from sixty to one hundred and fifty-two dollars a night, while Yurt rentals range from one hundred and sixty to two hundred and eighty-four dollars a night.
Things To Do While Camping in Hot Springs National Park
Enjoy the gorgeous lakes and hot springs, drink some of the purest spring water, and hike the beautiful trails during your visit. In addition, you can venture into town and add to your fun list besides traditional outdoor camping activities like hiking, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, fishing, and boating.
Take a tour of the historic Fordyce Bathhouse, which has claimed itself to be one of the fanciest bathhouses on the historic bathhouse row.
Stroll Along the Grand Promenade
Once you’ve become familiar with the park’s history, take a stroll along the grand promenade and view the additional eight bathhouses on the bathhouse row. You can even stop by the National Park’s Administrative Building.
Buckstaff Bathhouse and Quapaw Bathhouse
The Buckstaff Bathhouse and the Quapaw Bathhouse are the only remaining operating bathhouses in Hot Springs National Park. Find healing powers in the natural hot springs water at one of the few standing bathing houses.
Hot Springs National Park houses many wildlife species such as black bears, white-tailed deer, coyotes, and bats. But don’t worry! You aren’t likely to see a bear in your campground, but it never hurts to secure all food items in your car or in bear canisters to keep them out of reach for other wildlife. Unfortunately, you’ll run into mosquitoes in this area, so plan accordingly and pack lots of bug spray and citronella candles!
Make Sure To Bring
Camping is more than just deciding on your final destination. It’s also about picking the most suitable camping gear to ensure you have the best experience possible.
Essentials will always include tents or RVs, sleeping bags, and foldable chairs, but here are some of my favorite items for a trip to Hot Springs National Park:
- Portable Camping Stoves: Camping stoves are an easier way to cook up your favorites while camping.
- Portable Water Container: This will save you from making too many trips to the campground water stations!
- Bug Spray/Mosquito Repellent: You are guaranteed to run into mosquitoes and bugs during your stay, so don’t forget to pack a few bottles.
- Bear-proof food storage: You’ll need to make sure you pack up your food safely to prevent bears from being attracted to your campsite!
Wrapping Up Hot Springs National Park Camping
I hope you’ve now added Hot Springs National Park to your camping list this season. Even rookie campers will enjoy the outdoor activities at these campgrounds, and if you decide to go the glamping route, I encourage you to plan a day seeing nearby attractions in the historic downtown!
Looking for more information on hot springs? Check out our Complete Guide to Natural Hot Springs!