Hot Springs National Park may be surrounded by a city, but there are some great hiking trails within the park, just steps away from town. Downtown Hot Springs is flanked by several mountains, with the two prominent ones being North Mountain and West Mountain. Combining two trails to make a West Mountain Loop trail is a great way to explore this side of Hot Springs National Park.
The West Mountain Loop in Hot Springs National Park combines the majority of the Mountain Top Trail with the West Mountain Trail for a 2.9 lollipop loop. This loop is a great way to explore West Mountain and the natural beauty of the Ouachita Mountains.
At every intersection, there is an informative placard telling you about the natural aspects or history of the area.
Finding the trailhead for the West Mountain Loop in Hot Springs National Park
There are several ways to access the trails on West Mountain. For this particular loop, the hike starts on the Mountain Top Trail from the Whittington Avenue trailhead. The trailhead is just west of West Mountain Drive. There is not a parking lot, but there is ample parking along the street.
Trailhead to West Mountain Trail
The West Mountain Loop begins with the Mountain Top Trail and climbing West the mountain parallel to the road. The trail is a nice wide path with a crushed gravel surface. There are many hardwoods and pines along this portion, and the woods are open without a lot of understory.
This part of the trail can be steep. It climbs about 200 feet, and there are no switchbacks. It goes straight up the mountain, but with a few breaks, it’s not too bad.
Around mile 0.5, you come to the end of the “stick” portion of the lollipop loop. This is where the West Mountain Trail intersects. It doesn’t matter which way you go, you will end up back here again. I chose to go to the right in order to get the steep part over with sooner.
Stop and read the placard at this intersection which tells of National Park Ranger James Alexander Cary, who was killed by bootleggers in 1927.
West Mountain Trail to Sunset Trail intersections
Going to the right, you stay on the Mountain Top Trail and continue climbing toward the top. The climbing continues, but there are few switchbacks to help ease the climb.
At mile 0.9 you come to the Sunset Trail and the highest point of the trail. At this intersection, you want to continue straight across, staying on the Mountain Top Trail.
If you want to add a little to your hike, take the spur trail to the left, 0.2 miles to the West Mountain Overlook, for amazing views of the City of Hot Springs.
Sunset Trail to West Mountain Trail
The West Mountain Loop in Hot Springs National Park continues along the Mountain Top Trail for about another 0.3 miles. Here the trail is steep, but you are hiking downhill. However, that crushed gravel can be a little slippery, so careful footing is needed. Trekking poles are also a great help.
The trail has switchbacks, so that eases the steepness a little.
There are fewer large trees and a rockier terrain this close to the mountain top. If hiking in the leaf-off season, you begin to get glimpses of the City of Hot Springs through the trees.
West Mountain Trail to overlook
At mile 1.2 you come to another intersection, this time you are going to leave the Mountain Top Trail, which continues down the mountain to Park Avenue. At this intersection, you want to go left onto the West Mountain Trail.
You are going to stay on this trail for the rest of the “lollipop” portion of the West Mountain Loop Trail.
The West Mountain Trails skirts around the middle elevation of West Mountain. So that makes this part of the trail easy and fairly level. Here you get unique views through the trees of Hot Springs. My favorite part is where I can spot my office building through the trees. I still marvel that I work in such close proximity to a national park.
At mile 1.5, you come to another intersection, this time with the Oak Trail, which skirts around a lower elevation on the south side of West Mountain. Here you want to continue straight to stay on the West Mountain Trail.
The trail climbs a little in elevation at a steady rate. Around mile 2, you come to the second overlook on West Mountain Drive. Here you can take the sights of the City of Hot Springs as well as North Mountain and the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.
If you packed a lunch, this is a great place to stop and enjoy a picnic. For a great hike on the opposing mountain try the Goat Rock Trail.
Overlook to trailhead
After you’ve taken in all the views of the city and Hot Springs National Park, cross the road to continue your hike on West Mountain Loop. The trail continues to skirt around the same elevation of West Mountain for a gentle descent back down to the Mountain Top Trail.
Here the woods are open and full of hardwoods and pine trees. The trail passes a novaculite glade, which is really pretty and you can see why bootleggers once hid here.
At mile 2.5, you come back to the “stick” portion of the lollipop loop. This is where the West Mountain Trail intersects with the Mountain Top Trail. From here you just retrace your steps back to the Whittington Avenue trailhead.
West Mountain Loop, Hot Springs National Park
Hiking this 2.9-mile lollipop loop is a great way to explore Hot Springs National Park. When hiking this loop, you get a great taste of the Ouachita Mountains and well as great views of the City of Hot Springs.
Once you step onto the trail, you are immersed in the forest and it’s hard to believe there is a city just steps away. With peaks of the town through the trees, it’s the best of both worlds.
- 2.9 miles lollipop loop
- Elevation gain and loss 520 feet
- Dogs allowed
- Backcountry camping not allowed