Hot Springs National Park

Today I want to share about a trip we took over Thanksgiving break to Lake Catherine State Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We rented a cabin right on the lake and enjoyed hiking within the park which I wrote about here.

Lake Catherine State Park Arkansas
Lake Catherine State Park in Hot Springs Arkansas

What to do in hot springs, arkansas

We spent a large part of our time hiking and relaxing at Lake Catherine, but we were excited to explore the area too. There is a lot to do!

Garvan Woodland Gardens is the botanical garden of the University of Arkansas. We didn’t make it to the gardens on this trip, but a stroll through the Evan Childrens Adventure Garden which features the Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House is high on my list for return visits.

The Mid America Science Museum is another spot that is high on my list for our next trip to Hot Springs. The museum has an outdoor exhibit called Dino-Lites which features festive dinosaurs dressed up for the holiday season.

Hot Springs National Park is located in historic downtown Hot Springs. The indoor tours are currently closed because of COVID-19, but we were happy to walk the trails and read signage about the history of the park.

Hot Springs National Park

According to hotsprings.org, ‘Native American tribes called this location the “Valley of the Vapors” and believed that the naturally hot springs had healing powers.’

Hot Springs National Park
A penny for good luck (and a donation).

Grand promenade at hot springs national park

The Grand Promenade is a National Recreation Trail. Learn more about the history of the promendade here. Despite being adjacent to the busy downtown streets, this area felt serene. Our girls loved stomping in the autumn leaves.

Hot Springs National Park

We also enjoyed walking past Bath House Row which consists of eight bathhouse buildings and the historic Arlington Hotel , the largest hotel in Arkansas according to the hotel’s website.

“Politicians, dignitaries, actors, gangsters and entertainment and sports legends bathed in our bath house, danced to our music and enjoyed our splendor and charm. The Arlington has survived a devastating fire, economic downturns, changing social attitudes and much more. Steeped in history, The Arlington is truly a legend.” (arlingtonhotel.com)

Hot Springs Arkansas Arlington Hotel
Arlington Hotel

where to eat in hot springs, arkansas

As we strolled the streets of downtown Hot Springs, we made mental notes of several restaurants and breweries we hope to visit on return trips (post COVID-19). This time we grabbed a quick (and delicious!) cupcake at Fat Bottomed Girl’s Cupcakes. This local favorite was featured on the Food Network’s television show, Cupcake Wars.

We also found a great lunch spot with outdoor seating outside downtown. Taco Mama was a hit for our whole family. The authentic Mexican food was fresh and delicious. The local owner exuded hospitality.

Hot Springs Arkansas Cupcakes

I’m currently reading a book called This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are which explores place attachment. I admit that I never expected to live in Arkansas, but since moving here two years ago, I’ve enjoyed exploring the Natural State. Trips like this one, and our recent trip to Mount Magazine State Park, have been great ways to build a deeper connection to the beautiful state which we now call ‘home’.

Arkansas in the Fall: Lost Valley Trail, Buffalo National River

My original post about hiking Lost Valley Trail in the Buffalo National River area continues to be our most popular post about hikes in Arkansas.

On our first trip to Lost Valley, we went in the middle of summer. A copperhead greeted us on the trail. On our return trip this fall, we spotted a tarantula!

Tarantulas in arkansas

“Texas brown tarantulas, the only species found in the state, live in dry, upland areas like the Arkansas River Valley and the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains” according to Kristen Bartlow, watchable wildlife coordinator with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (article from Arkansas Democrat Gazette)

But don’t let spiders or snakes keep you away.

Natural Bridge

There is a lot to love about this hike including caves, bluffs, and waterfalls.

The trail is 2.4 miles round trip with countless rocks and trees to explore.

On the day of our hike the water was low, so the rocks were less slippery (and the waterfalls were less spectacular).

Eden Falls Cave was closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

But overall, this hike remains one of the best hikes we’ve gone on in Arkansas!

elk in arkansas

Another highlight of this autumn trip was spotting elk near Ponca, right down the road from the Lost Valley trail head.

“Fall is especially a great time to elk watch as the bulls go into mating season form, bugling and battling for herd domination right before your eyes!” according to buffaloriver.com.

ozark cafe

To top off our adventure, we ordered a round of cinnamon rolls to-go from the popular Ozark Cafe in nearby Jasper, Arkansas. This was a delicious decision.

Wonder and Wisdom

“Indeed, before you the whole universe is like a grain from a balance, or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.

But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance.

For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for you would not fashion what you hate.

How could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?

But you spare all things, because they are yours,

Oh Ruler and Lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” – Wisdom 11: 22-26.

These pictures were taken in Hobbs State Park last weekend. During these challenging times, I’m seeking perspective in the Word and in the woods.

More about Hobbs State Park:

Arkansas Day Trip: Hobbs State Park and War Eagle Mill

Hiking Pigeon Roost Trail in Arkansas’ Hobbs State Park

Arkansas Hiking: It’s Too Hot, I Hate Ticks, I’m Scared of Snakes…And Other Excuses I Made This Summer

Top 10 Posts in 2019

Natural Falls State Park in Oklahoma

Last weekend the weather was dreary and overcast. We were tempted to stay at home, but I’m glad we decided to venture out to explore a new state park. The trip was even more fun because my sister hiked with us.

dripping springs trail

Natural Falls State Park is located near the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas. The park is only an hour away from our home in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The main attraction is a 77-foot waterfall which you can enjoy from observation platforms above and below the falls along the Dripping Springs Trail.

View from above waterfall
Waterfall view from below falls
Bridge crosses over the waterfall
Autumn color in the forest.
There is a small fishing area and a picnic table along the trail.
The girls love playing with ‘gross’ things. Photo credit – my amazing sister.

The one mile trail is rated as moderate on AllTrails.com. There are a couple steep sections. There is also a short, narrow section that was a little slick because of the weather, so we held onto the girls’ hands to make sure they wouldn’t slip.

Uphill section of the trail

5 things to know before you go

  1. There is a parking fee.
  2. You can rent a yurt if you want to spend the night.
  3. Amenities include a playground and a restroom.
  4. Here is a park map.
  5. You can learn more about the park at travelok.com.