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Historical interest and natural beauty strike a perfect balance in Hot Springs National Park. This little gem is the oldest park to be managed by the National Park System, but its storied past extends thousands of years beyond that as a sacred place for numerous Indigenous Peoples. Visitors today can enjoy peaceful hiking trails, grandiose bathhouses, and endless recreational activities in the park and the nearby city of Hot Springs.

Those looking to make the most of their escape to nature will have their pick from a wealth of excellent camping options in the area. Whether you’re looking for a deluxe glamping experience or free dispersed camping, we’ve got you covered. This guide details all of the best places to camp in and near Hot Springs National Park and provides need-to-know information to help you have your best possible trip. Happy Camping!

Gulpha Creek in the fall.
You can camp year-round in and near Hot Springs National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Mitch Smith.

In this Guide:

Camping in Hot Springs National Park

Given the relatively small size of the park and its urban surroundings, camping options are limited inside Hot Springs National Park. Backcountry and dispersed camping are not permitted anywhere inside the park. The only place you can camp within Hot Springs National Park is at the Gulpha Gorge Campground, but fortunately, this is an excellent option.

With a shady and idyllic location on the banks of Gulpha Creek, Gulpha Gorge Campground accommodates both tents and RVs and gives campers easy proximity to trails, bathhouses, the Visitor Center, and other attractions. It is open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis.

An RV parked by the stream at Gulpha Gorge Campground.
Many of the sites at Gulpha Gorge Campground are located right along Gulpha Creek. Photo courtesy of NPS/Mitch Smith.

Gulpha Gorge Campground

# of Sites: 40

Type: Tent, RV

Fees: $30/night (credit or debit only)

Amenities:

  • Flush toilets
  • Potable water
  • Electric, water, and sewer hookups
  • Dump station
  • Trash/recycling
  • Picnic tables
  • Grills

Pets: Pets are allowed in the campground and on all of the trails in Hot Springs National Park. Dogs must be kept on a 6′ leash.

Fires: Grills are provided at all campsites. Ground fires are only permitted in designated fire rings at the campground.

Reservations: It is not possible to reserve a spot at Gulpha Gorge Campground. All sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. It is important to register before setting up camp and you can only pay with a credit or debit card.

Wildlife: Hot Springs National Park is home to thousands of species, including black bears, white tailed deer, coyotes, and bats. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll see a bear at the campground, be sure to secure all of your food items in a car or bear canister. The most common animal you’ll encounter in the summertime is the mosquito, so pack the bug spray!

Website: Gulpha Gorge Campground

A white tailed deer, seen while camping at Hot Springs National Park.
White tailed deer are common in Hot Springs National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Mitch Smith.

Campgrounds Near Hot Springs National Park

From rustic to resort-like, there are plenty of great camping options near Hot Springs National Park to suit every style and budget. In this section, you’ll find our recommendations for the best campgrounds within a 35-minute drive from the National Park.

Hot Springs KOA

# of sites: 70

Type: RV, Tent, Cabins

Fees: $30/night (Tent), $40-$75/night (RV), $75-$140/night (Cabin)

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: 4 miles ( 7-minute drive)

Amenities:

  • Toilets/Showers
  • Communal kitchen
  • Laundry
  • Water/Electric hookups (50 amp max)
  • WiFi
  • Pool
  • Snack bar
  • Games
  • Shuttle to Hot Springs National Park

Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.

Fires: Permitted in designated fire pits. Firewood is available for purchase at the campground.

Reservations: Recommended. Reservations can be made HERE.

Website: Hot Springs National Park KOA

Bar Fifty RV Park and Horse Camp

# of sites: 57

Type: Tent, RV, Bunkhouse

Fees: $15 (Tent), $32 (RV)

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: 20 miles (35-minute drive)

Amenities:

  • Toilets/Showers
  • Potable Water
  • Water/Electric hookups
  • Picnic tables
  • Horse pens

Pets: Yes.

Fires: Yes

Reservations: Recommended for busy weekends/holidays. Can be made HERE.

Website: Bar Fifty RV Park and Horse Camp

Lake Ouachita State Park

# of sites: 93

Type: Walk-in tent, Tent, RV, Cabin

Fees: $14/night (Tent), $36/night (RV w/hookups), $200-$250 (Cabin)

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: 15 miles (25-minute drive)

Amenities:

  • Toilets/Showers
  • Potable water
  • Water/sewer/electric (50 amp) hookups (Class AAA sites)
  • Picnic tables
  • Barbeques
  • Gift shop in Visitor’s Center
  • Boat rentals

Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.

Fires: Yes, in designated areas.

Reservations: Recommended. There is a two-night minimum for weekend reservations and a three-night minimum for holidays. Reservations can be made HERE.

Website: Lake Ouachita State Park

Charlton Recreation Area

# of sites: 52

Type: Tent, RV, Group

Fees: $15/night (tent sites), $25/night (Single RV sites w/hookups), $40/night (Double RV sites w/hookups), $40/night (Group tent site)

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: 22 miles (35-minute drive)

Amenities:

  • Flush toilets/Showers
  • Potable water
  • Picnic tables
  • Barbeques and fire pits
  • Tent/trailer pad
  • Swimming area
  • Water/Electric hookups (Loops B & C)
  • Dump Station

Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.

Fires: Yes, in designated areas.

Reservations: N/A. All sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Website: Charlton Recreation Area

Lake Catherine State Park

# of sites: 76

Type: Tent, RV, Yurt, Cabins

Fees: $13/night (primitive tent sites), $23/night (Class B sites), $36/night (class AAA sites), $58/night (yurt), $100/night (cabins)

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: 13 miles (20-minute drive)

Amenities:

  • Flush toilets/Showers
  • Potable water
  • Picnic tables
  • Barbeques and fire pits
  • Tent/trailer pad
  • Marina/Boat Rentals
  • Water/Electric hookups

Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.

Fires: Yes, in designated areas.

Reservations: Highly recommended. Reservations can be made HERE.

Website: Lake Catherine State Park

RV Camping near Hot Springs National Park
There are plenty of great options for both RV and tent camping near Hot Springs National Park.

Dispersed Camping Near Hot Springs National Park

The hands-down best place for dispersed camping near Hot Springs National Park is in Ouachita National Forest. This incredible wilderness area encompasses 1.8 million acres and includes Arkansas’ largest lake, Lake Ouachita.

The Forest Service offers this advice about camping in Ouachita National Forest:

“…[P]rimitive camping is allowed almost anywhere in the Ouachita National Forest unless there is a sign stating otherwise, or it is a wildlife food plot. Located throughout the Forests are areas that have been campsites for many years. These are located along roadsides, trails, mountain tops, or near streams.”

For easy access to Hot Springs National Park, camp in the southeastern part of Ouachita National Forest. The Jessieville-Winona-Fourche Ranger District and Caddo/Womble Ranger District are both good options. If you are feeling adventurous, head towards Ouachita via US-270W or AR-298W, and choose a series of dirt roads to follow to seek out a camp spot once inside the forest.

Those looking for a little more guidance can check out the recommendations on this website.

Always follow National Forest Guidelines and Leave No Trace Practices when dispersed camping.

Dispersed Camping near Hot Springs National Park
Dispersed camping near Hot Springs National Park is a peaceful and free option.

Ouachita National Forest

# of Sites: Varies

Type: Primitive (some spaces can accommodate RVs, but no hookups)

Fees: Free

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: Varies (likely about an hour+ drive)

Amenities:

  • None
  • Water should be filtered before drinking from lakes or streams.
  • There may be a recreation area nearby with water/bathrooms, and necessities are available in some towns within 30-minutes’ drive.

Pets: Yes

Fires: Yes

Reservations: N/A

Website: Ouachita National Forest

Tent Camping Hot Springs National Park

Conclusion

Whether you’re enjoying the modern comforts of an RV Resort or adventuring into the wilderness to find that perfect dispersed campsite, you’ll be well-situated to make the most of all that Hot Springs National Park has to offer. We hope this guide helps you spend less time planning and more time in the great outdoors. Got any questions or tips to share? Leave them in the comments below.

Happy Camping!