We’ve written about this before, but one of many reasons we choose camping vs. hotels in national parks is the easy access to hiking trails. Getting an early morning start before the crowds at the gate and staying until sunset are some of the best parts about camping in the parks. Among national park campgrounds with easy access to trails, the Gulpha Gorge Campground in Hot Springs National Park has to rank high on the list.
So, what do you need to know about visiting the Gulpha Gorge Campground? Gulpha Gorge is the only campground in Hot Springs National Park. It’s a front-country, modern campground for RVs and tents right on one of the main hiking arteries connected to the rest of the park. It’s where we stayed for 3 nights during our Midwest National Park Road Trip in 2020.
Where is the Campground?
Address for Gulpha Gorge Campground
305 Gorge Road
Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs, AR 71901
Gulpha Gorge Campground is a front-country campground in Hot Springs National Park. It’s the only campground in the park boundaries and has sites for both RV and tent camping. As mentioned above, Gulpha Gorge Campground is popular because it’s located directly on the main hiking trail system. The hiking trails from the campground lead directly to the visitor’s center and the most popular attractions in the park.
To enter the campground, from East Grand Avenue, turn North onto Gorge Road (AR Highway 7). The campground driveway will be the first driveway on the left, past the Gulpha Gorge Picnic Area.
What amenities does Gulpha Gorge Campground have?
Gulpha Gorge offers the amenities of a fully-developed campground, including 40 sites with electric hook ups.
You can expect to have these amenities when you visit the campground:
- Potable water and flush toilets. There are no showers in the campground, however we paid for a shower at the nearby KOA.
- Sites that accommodate both a tent or RV.
- Moderate to good cell-phone reception with areas of excellent coverage.
- Evening ranger programs in the campground.
- Easy access to the park’s hiking trails which lead directly to Bath House Row.
Can you make reservations at Gulpha Gorge?
Gulpha Gorge Campground is open year-round, however does not accept reservations. All campsites are first-come, first-serve. With limited camping available in the area, the 40 campsites regularly fill up throughout the year. It’s best to arrive as early in the day as possible to ensure camping for the night.
While the camping in Gulpha Gorge is ‘tighter packed’ than most National Park Service campgrounds, there are some sites that offer a more secluded experience. If possible, secure one of the sites on the outer loop, closest to Gulpha Creek. Traffic from Gorge Road run pretty steady throughout the day and night, so we recommend choosing a site farthest from the road as well.
Payment for camping at Gulpha Gorge happens by a vending machine. Yep, you read that correctly — instead of a ranger station, take your debit or credit card to the vending machine located inside the campground center. Visitors can stay for 14 consecutive days and no more than 30 days per calendar year.
Where can I hike near the campground?
Most of the hiking trails in Hot Springs National Park were built during the 1920s and improved by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. The Gulpha Gorge Campground was constructed in this era and well-connected to the park’s trail network. From the campground, visitors can hike:
- Sunset Trail – the longest trail in Hot Springs National Park.
- Gulpha Gorge Trail – 0.6 mile steep climb connecting to Hot Springs Loop Road and the rest of the North Mountain Trails
- Oertel Trail – 1.4 miles of flat and rolling hills that connects directly behind the Park’s Visitor Center and Bathhouse Row.
Most of the other trails throughout Hot Springs National Park can be reached via one of these three trails. Gulpha Gorge’s highlight for us was definitely being able to leave the car behind for the time we were in the park.
Other #parkchaser tips to know?
- Hot Springs can be busy at all times of the year. The campground fills quickly, so arrive early in the day.
- Although all of the campsites have picnic tables, not all of the campsites have campfire rings. If you’re interested in a campfire during your stay, make sure you check the site you choose for a ring. We also had difficulty finding firewood (the nearby KOA sold us a bundle) and collecting within the park is not allowed.
- Hot Springs National Park is close to so many other national park units. Make your stay at Hot Springs a ‘base camp’ for visits to other Arkansas National Park sites like: