Ready yourself for your hike by filling your water bottle at the Thermal Water Jug Fountain and by consulting the park map. From behind Bathhouse Row, a horseshoe-shaped ridge beckons the hiker.
Music Mountain (elevation 1,405 feet) is the park’s highest peak. The mountain is composed of erosion-resistant sandstone and novaculite (a fine-grained rock used for whetstones). Thick forests of oak and hickory blanket the slopes.
The park’s trail system is divided into two parts. On one side of Highway 7 (Central Avenue, downtown Hot Springs) is a network of short trails contouring up and around Hot Springs Mountain. On the other side of town are longer and more remote paths that tour West Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain.
Check out the National Park Service map/ guide: Hot Springs Mountain and North Mountain Trails
Among the Hot Springs Mountain Trails are Dogwood Trail, which is the one to take in the spring when the park’s predominant flowering tree bursts into bloom. You can observe a bit of the park’s geology by hiking the 0.2 mile Tufa Terrace Trail past outcroppings of tufa rock, formed by mineral deposits from hot springs.
Dead Chief Trail(1.6 miles) begins quite steeply and eventually levels off and contours around Hot Springs Mountain to the park’s picnic ground and campground.
In a hurry? Peak Trail (0.5 mile long) is the shortest and steepest route from Bathhouse Row to the summit of Hot Springs Mountain. This mountaintop has long been the locale for a series of observation towers.
Sunset Trail (10 miles) is the longest trail in Hot Springs National Park and traverses the park’s most remote areas. Watch for wildflowers in the spring, wild turkeys and deer in the fall.
NPS suggests hikers plan a jaunt on Sunset Trail in 3 sections: the first, popular section across West Mountain with a trailhead near town. The second section travels old road beds through the pine and hardwood forest on Sugarloaf Mountain. The third section crosses Fordyce Mountain, part of the recharge area for the hot springs.
When you’ve finished hiking Sunset Trail, or making a long loop with related trails, you’ll be ready for a soak in the springs!