Out of the many miles of trails in Hot Springs National Park, one of the most popular trails is the Gulpha Gorge Trail to the Goat Rock overlook. And for a good reason, this trail passes through a lush forest filled with various trees, including oak and hickory.
Hikers can enjoy beautiful views of the creek and the surrounding area throughout the hike. The trail is well-maintained, with mostly flat terrain, although there are some sections that are steeper and require some effort to climb.
On the trail there are many highlights such as the historic stone bridge, stone steps, and the Goat Rock that overlooks the Ouachita mountains. Overall, the Gulpha Gorge Trail is a great hiking option for those looking to explore the natural beauty of Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park Highlights
Short on time? Here are some of the park highlights
Best Time to Go: Spring (March to May) and Fall (September to November) are the best times to go. At this time there are usually fewer crowds and the temperatures are milder. Out of the two shoulder seasons Fall is my favorite time to go because the leaves start to change colors and a dip in the hot springs is refreshing during the cooler weather.
How to Get Here and Around: If you’re driving, take the Hot Springs exit off I-30 and head south on Highway 70. Follow the signs to the national park and continue to the Gulpha Gorge Campground. The trailhead is located near the campground.
If you are planning on flying in. The nearest airport to Hot Springs National Park is the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, which is about an hour’s drive from the park. From the airport, you can rent a car, take a taxi, or arrange for a shuttle service to the park.
National Park Pass: Great thing about Hot Springs National Park is that it is a fee free park. However, most National Parks are not like this. If you plan on visiting other National Parks, The America the Beautiful park pass is a huge money saver. It will give you access to over 400+ park systems and all National Parks for $80 good for the whole year!
Gulpha Gorge Trail to Goat Rock Stats
These hiking stats are for the Gulpha Gorge Trail to the Goat Rock overlook starting at the Gulpha Gorge Campground.
- Distance: 2.1 miles
- Trail Type: Out & Back
- Elevation Gain: 593.83ft
- Elevation Loss: 311.68ft
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Est. Length of Time: 1 Hour 4 minutes
Map of Gulpha Gorge Trail to Goat Rock
Hiking The Gulpha Gorge Trail to Goat Rock
Hiking the Gulpha Gorge Trail to Goat Rock is one of the most popular trails in the park. The trail is approximately 2.1 miles long and is rated as moderate in difficulty, with some steep inclines and rocky terrain.
The trailhead for the Gulpha Gorge Trail is located at the Gulpha Gorge Campground, which is just a short drive from downtown Hot Springs. The trail begins by following the creek upstream and gradually ascends up the side of the gorge.
As you hike, you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the surrounding forest and the creek below. After about 1.5 miles, you’ll reach a junction where the trail splits. To reach Goat Rock, you’ll want to take the left fork, which will lead you up to the top of the ridge.
Once you reach Goat Rock, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Ouachita Mountains and the surrounding area. This is a great spot to stop for a picnic or to simply take in the scenery before making your way back down the trail.
It’s important to note that the Gulpha Gorge Trail can be quite rocky and steep in places, so it’s recommended that you wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots and bring plenty of water and snacks. Additionally, be sure to check the weather forecast before you head out, as conditions can change quickly in the mountains.
Best Time to Hike Gulpha Gorge Trail
The best time to visit Hot Springs National Park depends on your preferences and interests.
Spring (March to May) or fall (September to November):If you enjoy mild temperatures and fewer crowds, then the best time to visit Hot Springs National Park is in the spring (March to May) or fall (September to November). During these seasons, the weather is comfortable, and the park is not as crowded as during the summer months.
Insider tip: If you’re interested in seeing the fall foliage, then the best time to visit is in the fall around October. The autumn colors in the park are breathtaking.
Summer (June to August): If you prefer warmer weather and don’t mind larger crowds, then the summer months (June to August) are the best time to visit. The temperature will be hotter and more humid but you can cool off while you explore the town, check out the local breweries, or just get a bite to eat.
Insider tip: Keep in mind that the peak tourist season in Hot Springs National Park is from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so you can expect larger crowds during this time. Also, be prepared for possible thunderstorms during the summer months.
Winter (December to February) This is when the park has the fewest crowds and coldest weather. The best things to do are check out the local stores, holiday events, and the hot Springs.
Overall, the best time to visit Hot Springs National Park depends on your interests and preferences.
How to Get to Gulpha Gorge Trail
Gulpha Gorge Trail is located within the Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, USA. Here are the directions to reach the trail:
By Car: If you’re driving, take the Hot Springs exit off I-30 and head south on Highway 70. Follow the signs to the national park and continue to the Gulpha Gorge Campground. The trailhead is located near the campground.
By Bus: The closest bus station to Hot Springs National Park is the Greyhound Station in Malvern, Arkansas, which is about 20 miles from the park. You can take a taxi or a shuttle from the station to the park.
By Air: The nearest airport to Hot Springs National Park is the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, which is about an hour’s drive from the park. From the airport, you can rent a car, take a taxi, or arrange for a shuttle service to the park.
Once you reach the park, follow the signs to the Gulpha Gorge Campground, and park your vehicle. The trailhead is located towards the back end of the campground, and you can begin your hike from there.
Tips for Hiking in Hot Springs National Park
Leave No Trace: Before heading on your outdoor journey, make sure to review the Leave No Trace principles to help protect and leave these National Parks better than you found them. Remember the basics to pack out what you pack in this way so we can keep these places beautiful for the next generations.
Plan Ahead: Always check the national park website and weather forecast. This helps you prepare for any weather changes or trail closures. That way there aren’t any surprises along the way.
Hike at Off Times: Big crowds is a big thing you will notice during peak season at Hot National Park. I recommend hiking at those slightly off times to avoid too much traffic and when temperatures are a little cooler.
Brush up on Basic First Aid: Be sure to re-stock any supplies you have used in your first aid kit. Also, be sure to revisit things in your first aid kit that you may need and also items that you haven’t used and dont think youll need. The best first aid kit is one that is tailored to your needs.
Know Trail Etiquette: Don’t forget to brush up on hiking etiquette. In general, always try to give hikers going uphill the right of way, stay on the trail, and just be a decent person to others. You’d be surprised by how many people fail to do this. It is probably one of the most important things as it makes everyone’s experiences better.
Bring a Map: With the rise of many hiking phone apps it can be highly tempting to forego a paper map. Always bring a paper map. It is always better to have a backpack for navigation if things happen. Also, be sure you know how to read a topographic map!
Cell service: I highly recommend downloading the trail details prior to arriving and bringing a physical park map. I use AllTrails Pro to download all of my hiking maps so I can navigate without cell service.
Bring Water: Bring plenty of water or have a way to filter water. I recommend bringing at least a 1-3L hydration bladder depending on how much hiking you are planning on doing. For filtering water there usually is quite a few water sources around and the urban part of the park is fairly close.
Sun Hat and Sunscreen: Hot Springs National Park can get pretty warm during the day in the Summer during peak season. Luckily, it is fairly shaded. I do highly recommend sunscreen or sun protection if you are going during peak season.
Bug spray: If going in the summer bug spray can be helpful. Most areas are not too bad but near the water sources you may encounter some more bugs.
Gear You Need for Hiking in Hot Springs National Park
Depending on what season you go will vary what you bring when I pack. But in general I would start with the following.
Hiking Backpack: This might go without saying. But I recommend bringing a hiking backpack or daypack depending on if you are day hiking or backpacking. Having a bag even in the urban portion of the park can be helpful for carrying swimwear for the hot springs.
10 Essentials: I generally start with the 10 essentials and build from there. These essentials cover the basics for first aid, sunscreen, headlamps, and more. It’s a system created in case of emergencies.
Base Layer: Depending on when you go. You will either need a long sleeve, or t-shirt base layer. If going on the summer start with moisture-wicking underwear and a synthetic or wool t-shirt or long sleeve shirt. Start with a long sleeve if you are going during colder months.
Middle Layer: For a middle layer if you’re going in the summer I recommend a loose nylon button down something durable but breathable. If you’re going in the cooler months a fleece or puffy coat will work well. For bottoms a light breathable pair of hiking pants or shorts should keep you comfortable all day.
Outer layers: Check the forecast. I would bring some light rain gear just in case or at least have a poncho. Be sure to check the forecast to plan ahead and make sure. Weather can be somewhat unpredictable in the Ouachita mountains.
Socks for hiking: Opt for a breathable pair of socks. I recommend a merino wool blend because they last long and keep your feet from becoming a “swamp”. There are a lot of awesome socks for hikers out there. My favorite is Darn Tough micro hiker.
Hiking boots, shoes, or hiking sandals: Most of the trails in Hot Springs are maintained well. I would lean toward hiking boots, shoes, or trail runners. You definitely could rock hiking sandals if you wanted to. I just prefer to have my toes covered.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the Goat Rock trail? This depends on what trail you are using to connect to Goat Rock trail. But, in this guide I am recommending the Gulpha Gorge trail to Goat Rock trail which is a 2.1 mile trek.
What time is check in at Gulpha Gorge Campground? Gulpha Gorge used to be a first come first served campground. Now reservations are required and check in times are frequently most up to date on the NPS site.
How many trails are in Hot Springs National Park? There are 19 maintained active trails in Hot Springs National Park.
Can you swim in hot springs Arkansas? Oh yes, this is what Hot Springs is known for. I recommend checking out the bathhouse row for a really neat hot spring experience.
The Gulpha Gorge Trail to Goat Rock is one of the best hikes in Hot Springs National Park. It offers a variety of highlights from historical stone architecture, wildlife, and an amazing overlook. Out of the many things to do in Hot Springs National Park, if you do one hiking trail it has got to be this one!