Hot Springs, Arkansas, by CamperMay 3, 2023
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Our first official excursion as a novice camper family in our 2023 Ember RV Overland Series 191MDB took us 3.5 hours from home to the Lake Ouachita State Park, which is located on Arkansas’ largest lake, Lake Ouachita. This destination is located within the Ouachita National Forest, the oldest and largest national forest in the south with a smooth 1.8 million acres in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
The 360-acre state park public recreation area is a quick ten miles northwest of Hot Springs, home to the Hot Springs National Park, a 5,550-acre, stunning park. The park, which became the 18th national park in 1921, is a unique blend of hiking trails out the outskirts of town and a high-trafficked destination in the middle of town.
Lake Ouachita State Park, and our incredible location at site 17 in camp area A, offered us tremendous views under the cover of Shortleaf pines. After a quick set up, we hightailed it to the shoreline to watch our first sunset over the lake and skip rocks across the azure lake ripples.
The pines were utterly breathtaking.
During our stay we strolled to the walk-in tent camp peninsula of the camp area to skip rocks, tracked down a Great blue heron, visited the historic – and allegedly healing – three sisters springs, and of course ventured into Hot Springs.
Hot Springs is an experience.
With historic Bathhouse row as its epicenter, the urban community ebbs and flows with nature as its common denominator. The thermal water is nearly 4,000-year-old spring water in its natural state, which is said by many to allegedly cure many ailments.
Built in 1912, Buckstaff Bathhouse is the only bathhouse on the row to operate continuously for more than a century and provides many of the same hydrotherapy treatments and services it did as when it first opened.
The full bathhouse experience includes a mineral water whirlpool, hot packs, sitz bath, vapor cabinet, and a Swedish massage, which is “an adventure in indulgence” and something I will absolutely do again.
The Buckstaff, and its Bathhouse Row counterparts, sit within the Zig-Zag Mountains, which are part of the Ouachita Mountains, which means after spending the morning at Buckstaff you have the opportunity to take a quick hike where at the top you can ride to the top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower where from the upper observation deck you see 140 square miles of surrounding countryside, which includes the entire park and a portion of the Ouachita Mountains.
Top off your time in town with lunch at Superior Bathhouse Brewery, the only brewery in a National Park, and a bag full of goodies from Bathhouse Soapery to stock the camper and get back to the camp site because you won’t want to miss sunset on Lake Ouachita.
It’s almost as good as sleeping under the stars with the Stargazer Skylight. Almost.
This destination deserves a spot on your travel agenda. It’s unforgettable.