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, ‘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.” (

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’.


Falls Branch Trail at Lake Catherine State Park

Lake Catherine State Park

Lake Catherine State Park is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the Ouachita Mountain region of the state. The state park offers a full-service marina where boat rentals are available year round.

We rented a cabin right on the lake for our weekend visit. Besides cabins, the park also has 70 campsites, six primitive tent sites, one Rent-A-Camp, and one Rent-A-Yurt according to the park’s website.

Hiking at lake catherine state park

There are four hiking trails at Lake Catherine State Park. Here is a map of the park’s trails. We decided to hike on the Falls Branch Trail which is two miles in length. This trail is ranked as a top ten hike in Arkansas by AllTrails and is rated as moderate.

Lake Catherine Arkansas State Park. Falls Branch Trail

Falls Branch Trail

Our girls woke up before the sun, so we started our hike early in the morning before the fog had lifted. Our early start time added a quiet, magical feel to our hike through the forest, and also helped us avoid weekend crowds.

This trail is family-friendly, however the rocks are slippery in places.

Lake Catherine Arkansas State Park. Falls Branch Trail
Hardwood Forest
Lake Catherine Arkansas State Park. Falls Branch Trail
Lake Catherine Arkansas State Park. Falls Branch Trail
Lake Catherine Arkansas State Park. Falls Branch Trail
Little Canyon Creek
Lake Catherine Arkansas State Park. Falls Branch Trail
Falls Creek Falls
Lake Catherine Arkansas State Park. Falls Branch Trail
Lake Catherine

I love to hike in Arkansas in the autumn because we don’t have to worry as much about pesky bugs, snakes, or heat. However, the water levels in the lake, creek and falls were lower. For a different perspective, check out this blog post from arkokhiker from a visit they took in June.

Bald Eagles in arkansas

At the end of the hike, there is a bench that overlooks the lake. We spotted several ducks swimming in the mist. I also spotted a bald eagle, or at least I believe I did – it was difficult to see in the distance. Lake Catherine State Park is hosting Eagle Bonanza Tours in January. Call (501) 844-4176 to sign-up for a free boat tour.

Arkansas State TreE

We were mesmerized by the towering trees at Lake Catherine State Park. Did you know that the Arkansas State Tree is the Loblolly Pine?

Lake Catherine Arkansas State Park. Arkansas

One of the things we appreciated about spending a weekend at Lake Catherine State Park was how relaxing and peaceful the park felt while also being close to restaurants and attractions like Hot Springs National Park. I’ll write more about these attractions in my next post.