Arkansas’ nickname is “The Natural State” because it offers so much to the nature lover. And I have to say that Hot Springs is the best outdoor town in Arkansas. Hot Springs really does have it all.
I might be a little partial because it is my hometown, but here are five reasons I think Hot Springs is the best town for an outdoor lifestyle.
Reason No. 1 – Hot Springs National Park
This is probably my favorite reason for loving this outdoor town in Arkansas so much. There is no other place in the state, maybe event the country, where you can hike a national park trail from the downtown area. I work in Downtown Hot Springs, and when I leave my office I can walk to a national park trail within five minutes.
If you are up for a long hike, there is no need to pack a lunch. You can arrange your hike so you come into the downtown area around lunch time. In Downtown Hot Springs there so many great restaurants to chose from. You can have anything from duck tacos at The Avenue to burger at the Brick House Grill to well-crafted sandwiches and coffee at Kollective Coffee + Tea.
And if you arrange your hike to finish in Downtown Hot Springs, you can relax afterwards with home-brewed craft beer in Hot Springs National Park at Superior Bathhouse Brewery.
Hot Springs National Park offers 26 miles of hiking trails. You can camp nestled in between two ridges at Gulpha Gorge Campground. And you can explore the hot springs, which come out of the ground at 143 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reason No. 2 – IMBA EPICS trails
I am not a huge mountain biker, although I enjoy going ever once in a while. But it is becoming more and more popular. The International Mountain Bicycling Association rates the most gnarly trails as “IMBA EPICS.”
There are three EPICS rides around Hot Springs – the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, the Womble Trail, and the Ouachita Tail.
The City of Hot Springs is also looking to add new trails to a 2,000-acre track of unspoiled woodlands in order to bring more mountain biking tourism to the area.
Garland County is also home to Cedar Glades Park, a 10-mile single track loop.
So if you are into mountain biking, Hot Springs is the place for you.
All three trails are long distance trails with the options to hop on and off to suite your time frame or ability.
Reason No. 3 – So many lakes!
Garland County doesn’t just have a lake for fishing or cooling off in the summer – it has three. And if you drive just a little to the south, you can play in another large lake, Degray Lake. Adjacent to the City of Hot Springs are Lake Hamilton and Lake Catherine. But a short drive outside the city limits you will find Lake Ouachita.
Unlike Lake Catherine and Lake Hamilton, Lake Ouachita (and Degray Lake) are not developed with houses and commercial property. This is pretty awesome for nature lovers because you are surrounded by lush forests and blue water. Lake Ouachita is about 66,000 acres of water and has nearly 700 miles of shoreline, making it the largest lake within Arkansas.
I love paddling into and exploring the many coves and diving into the deep water in the main channel.
Reason No. 4 – Ouachita National Forest
Some of my favorite places to hike are part of the Ouachita National Forest. And the national forest is very close to Hot Springs.
The Ouachita National Forest consists of 1.7 million acres, and has the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, a 223-mile hiking trail though the heart of the national forests, passes by just to the north of Hot Springs.
To read about the section of the Ouachita Trail nearest Hot Springs, check out my Ouachita Trail – Section Nine trip report.
Within the national forest, you can hike, mountain bike, backpack, fish, hunt, picnic, camp, and this list goes on and on. With so much to do so close at hand, Hot Springs is really is the best outdoor town in Arkansas.
Reason No. 5 – Float on down a river
If you get bored with flatwater kayaking on Lakes Ouachtia, Hamilton, or Catherine, you can do a river float on either the Ouachita River or Caddo River.
And when the rains slow, you can float 6 miles on the Ouachita River from below Remmel Dam, which creates Lake Catherine, to I-30 in Malvern. The Remmel to Rockport Float is dam controlled so it can float it all summer long.
The Ouahcita River above Lake Ouachita is great place for a river float. You can access the river at several points west of Mount Ida, about an hour’s drive from Hot Springs.
The Caddo River is another great river float and can be accessed from several locations around the Caddo Gap and Glenwood area. It too is about an hour drive from Hot Springs.
Why I love living in this outdoor town in Arkansas
I was born and raised in Hot Springs, and I can’t believe how much opportunity there is for adventure here. I lived in another part of the state in my early 20s and was super bummed because I had to drive so far to find any kind of outdoor activities. Living in Hot Springs, makes it hard to imagine living anywhere else.