Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

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Hot Springs National Park is about an hour drive from Little Rock in Arkansas. The town of Hot Springs, AR is the boyhood home of former President Bill Clinton and there are many signs to point out that fact around town. Hot Springs became popular as a spa town utilizing about 47 natural hot springs from the mid -1800s up until World War 2.

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Officially Hot Springs National Park moved under the Department of Interior and National Park Service in 1921. Spas, hotels, and visitors seeking medicinal treatments had been utilizing the natural hot springs in the Ouachita Mountains prior to becoming a protected national park (it had been considered a federal reservation).

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All the old hotels line up on the street known as Boathouse Row closest to the hills that carry the hot spring water down to the bathers. Basically, there are natural hot springs in the middle of this town! A lot of great Art Deco-style buildings exists in this area along with a lot of green space making for a lovely backdrop to the shops, restaurants, hotels, and hot springs.

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Hot Springs National Park does have some hiking, camping, picnicking areas as well. I opted to take the hike from Boathouse Row (where I parked) and hiked up the steep Peak Trail (.6 miles pretty much straight uphill, holy calf exercise!)  and looped around on the Hot Springs Mountain Trail (1.7 miles)

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At the beginning of the steep slope:

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At the end of the Peak Trail is a bathroom, picnic area, a few great overlooks, and Mountain Tower. I totally stuck my head under the bathroom faucet to cool off on this 98 degree day.

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Visitors can go to the top of Mountain Tower for a fee. I used Mountain Tower to cool off in the air conditioning and drink from the water fountain. There is a gift shop with bottled water, soda, snacks, and trinkets too.

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If your visit to Hot Springs National Park is on a hot day or you are not much of a hiker, consider the .5 mile long Grand Promenade just slightly higher than street level, making its own little park. There is shade and benches to line the easy brick walkway.

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Hot Springs National Park and Hot Springs, Arkansas is a perfect day or two day getaway. If you are planning some time in Arkansas include this destination in your travels. While it isn’t as “nature-y” as most national parks it has a colorful history including Major League Baseball, Al Capone, and illegal gambling. A cell phone tour where you call in at different points is a fantastic way to gain some knowledge of Hot Springs at your own pace.

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I would definitely return to Hot Springs but I’d try hiking around on a slightly cooler day Smile Poor planning on my part. Also good to note is that Hot Springs National Park is free. Save some money while seeing some sights! And if you aren’t a nature person, there are many cute museums, stores, and restaurants to hang out in and spend some exploring the town.

Reader Question: Hiking or Shopping? Or Both?

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Crater Of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas

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Ever since reading about Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas a year ago when a park guest found a 8.5 carat diamond, I’ve wanted to visit here. Can you imagine going diamond hunting one day and finding a huge uncut diamond that you get to keep!?! How cool is that?!

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That is exactly what happens at Crater of Diamonds State Park.  If you find it, you keep it! 457 diamonds were unearthed by visitors last year alone (source), granted only a few are considered significant.

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If  you don’t know how to find diamonds, that is okay here. I had no idea what I was doing so I watched the video about the wet and dry methods. Visitors can rent shovels, wagons, and other tools needed to sift through the dirt.

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Once I learned the history of Crater of Diamonds State Park, I walked back to the plowed diamond field about 38 acres of land. The Crater of Diamonds State Park is 911 acres but this is the only section where you are allowed to dig.

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Crater of Diamonds State park was so different than what I was expecting! I envisioned a normal park with hiking trails where hikers occasionally stumbled upon diamonds. I was so wrong!

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Families and groups brought coolers, lawn chairs, tents, and their diamond mining tools of course. People were planning on using their $8 admission wisely and digging all-day in the 99 degree heat on this Saturday.

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I read on a sign that Crater of Diamonds is the 7th largest diamond site in the world and the only one accessible to the public.

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As I mentioned, it was 99 degrees so I walked around the dirt field with my eyes on the ground and scoped out the place but in the hot, hot sun I was melting. Smartly the people of Crater of Diamonds State Park opened a water recreation pool next to the diamond dig site. Brilliant! I’m sure it gets really busy in the heat of the day.

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Diggers can camp here and there was one hiking trail that was really lame. I’m glad I made the trek to Pike County in Arkansas but I don’t think diamond digging is for me. On a crisp 70 degree day I could definitely hang out in a lawn chair and watch my friends and family have at it though.

If you decide to check out Crater of Diamonds State Park, it is a 2 hour drive from Little Rock off some smaller county roads in a dry county. Bring your own cocktails!

Reader question: Digging for diamond- fun Saturday activity? or you’d rather lounge in your sunchair?

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