Hiking Hot Springs National Park: The Gulpha Gorge Trail

One of the things we loved most about our time in Hot Springs National Park was the hiking trails. The trails here are old, many developed during the CCC era of the 1930s and 40s. You get the sense that many feet have wandered these paths, looking for an escape from city life and to soak the comfort of a nice steamy bath. Today we’re posting about the Gulpha Gorge Trail, the connection point between the Gulpha Gorge Campground and the rest of the hiking trails in Hot Springs National Park.

What did we love most about the trail?

It’s a short hike from the campground (about 1.2 miles), but with nearly 400 feet of elevation change, it’s challenging!
It connected us with the rest of the hiking trails in the park (so we could leave the car in the campground and hike to the rest of the sights).
Great views of the campground, Gulpha Creek and the Hot Springs area at the top.

Planning to Hike the Gulpha Gorge Trail

About the Trail

The Gulpha Gorge Trail is a one-way, out-and-back trail in the central part of Hot Springs National Park. The trail departs from the Gulpha Gorge Campground and connects to many of the other trails in the park. As you’ll see below, it’s also possible to add the Gulpha Gorge Trail on as a ‘spur’ from any of the hikes on Hot Springs Mountain. Hike down to the campground, check out Gulpha Creek, and hike back up.

Trail Distance: (0.6 miles one way, about 1.2 miles round trip)

The National Park Service describes the trail has strenuous and we’d confirm it’s among the more challenging trails in the park. Departing from the campground, it climbs nearly straight up Hot Springs Mountain. We don’t have any official gear to confirm this, but we’ve heard that parts of the trail range from 12-21% grade. It’s a lung-burner!

About 3/4 of the way up, the trail has two junctions. The first is for the Goat Rock Trail (the route we chose), a relatively flat, ridgeline-loop hike past a popular rock formation. The second junction is at the end of the Gulpha Gorge Trail, where it connects to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail and the rest of the park’s hiking network.

The Trailhead

The trailhead for the Gulpha Gorge Trail can be found near the amphitheater in the Gulpha Gorge Campground. If you’re not camping in the campground, there is ample parking in the Gulpha Gorge Picnic Area off Gorge Road.

When to Hike the Gulpha Gorge Trail

The Gulpha Gorge Campground remains open year-round, as do the trails in the park. There’s no real ‘bad’ time of the year to hike the trails here, just times when you’ll find more people around. Given how popular Hot Springs National Park is (and that the hiking trails are generally busy), sometimes the trails can feel a bit crowded. The bulk of hikers are out midday, from 9 am to 3 pm, so we recommend traveling before or later in the day.

Where to Stay when Hiking the Gulpha Gorge Trail

Most people hiking the trail start from the campground. If you’re looking for more information about the campground, check out our complete guide to the Gulpha Gorge Campground:

Camping in Gulpha Gorge Campground

 


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Greg & Amy
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