Hot Springs, Arkansas and Surrounding Area
A couple of days ago, my family and I returned from a nice vacation in Arkansas. We stayed in the Ouachita National Forest in Mount Ida, AR. Our trip included visits to Hot Springs, Magic Springs, a couple of hikes, and the kids went digging for diamonds as well.
On our first full day in Arkansas, my wife and the kids headed out to a local state park to dig for diamonds. As a rule, I do not post photos of my family in this very public blog, so I won’t be posting any images of my children in this post. However, I can say that they really enjoyed their time at the crystal dig site, but came up short on finding anything of value.
I spent the day hiking the Hunt Loop at Iron Springs near the Jessieville Ranger Station in the Ouachita National Forest. Whenever I travel through Arkansas on Scenic 7, I always take at least a few minutes to stop at Iron Springs. It’s a lovely little spot to take a break, eat a sandwich, or just take in the sights. This was the first time that I walked the Hunt Loop Trail at Iron Springs, and I must say that I really enjoyed it. There were plenty of nice sights to check out, and I ran into a few other hikers along the way. The trail got a bit rough in a couple of spots, but overall all it was a decent trail to walk. The terrain was a tad rocky in place as well, so if you ever decide to take this short 1.1 mile trail, be sure to wear sturdy footwear.
I also took a hike on the Friendship Trail at the Jessieville Ranger Station. This was a much smoother trail and I highly recommend it to anybody who wants to take a hike but might not be up to any long treks on rough terrain. This trail is specifically designed for people with handicaps or who just can’t handle tough trails. It has only one steady upgrade and the entire trail is blacktopped and paved with plenty of space for wheelchairs to pass each other. The trail is dotted by a number of informational signs about the wildlife and the forest, and the highlight of the trail is the fish pond (also handicap friendly) that has a pavilion suitable for get togethers.
On our second day in Arkansas, the family trekked over to Magic Springs, an amusement park near Hot Springs. I’m a huge coaster fan, and couldn’t wait to tackle any of the big rides that Magic Springs had to offer. There weren’t that many big thrill rides in the park, but the few it had were well worth checking out. There was almost no line for any of the rides (we went on a Monday), so I got on each of the big rides after a very small (if any) waiting period.
My favorite ride in the bunch was The Gauntlet. Suspended from the rail and with feet free in the air, this coaster whipped myself and other riders around a few times and was very fun. I also enjoyed riding the X Coaster, which featured a 90 degree vertical lift and multiple corkscrews before dropping you back in reverse to do it all over again. My wife said it was one of the craziest things she’s ever watched me ride, and I have to admit that it was a bit crazy BUT I will say that I never felt safer on a coaster than I did on this bad boy.
I also rode Big Bad John, a traditional roller coaster with a couple of nice twist and turns. My son and wife rode this one as well, and they really enjoyed it. The wooden rocker, Arkansas Twister, was a teeth-rattling, rickety wreck. It’s the biggest coaster on the property, but it banged me up more than any other wooden coaster that I’ve ever ridden. It was fun to a degree, but I don’t recommend riding it more than once.
Other highlights included the Plummet Summit, a large flume ride that dumps tons of water on riders and bystanders, and the Ozark Taxi Co., a car driving experience that allows drivers of all ages to make a couple of loops in an old timey car. My wife, kids, and other family members also went to the Crystal Springs Water Park, which is part of the Magic Springs Property. They really had a blast soaking up fun on the lazy river and multiple water slides.
On our final full day in Arkansas, the family and I took a walking tour of the city of Hot Springs. I’ve been here multiple times, but there have been a few new stores and sights added to the area. I really enjoyed checking out Stella Mae’s, a rockabilly and alt store that featured plenty of retro styled clothing and products. When I heard the Reverend Horton Heat blaring over the speakers in the store, I knew that I was in the right place.
After walking around Hot Springs, we ventured over to the newer part of town to eat at The Purple Cow. Another retro style place, but this time around instead of rockabilly, golden oldies were playing over the speakers as we dined in a very 1950’s styled restaurant that included a great soda shop that featured tasty floats, sundaes, and pie.
I tackled the Purple Cow Ice Cream Soda while my wife and son split a piece of Purple Cow Ice Cream Pie and my daughter had a traditional root beer float. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you visit this place for great burgers and even better dessert!
We finished the trip off with a quiet visit to the Charlton Creek Campground, where the kids played in the water and I just chilled out for a bit. It was a very shady little campground and there was a very nice creek on the property. It was the perfect ending to a fun vacation.