It’s one of my favorite Arkansas anecdotes, Hot Springs National Park, while not the first National Park, is the oldest. According to the National Park website, “On April 20, 1832, President Andrew Jackson signed legislation to set aside “…four sections of land including said (hot) springs, reserved for the future disposal of the United States (which) shall not be entered, located, or appropriated, for any other purpose whatsoever.” This makes Hot Springs National Park the oldest national park among current National Park units, predating Yellowstone National Park by forty years.” the article goes on to say, “Congress failed to pass any legislation for administering the site. As a result, no controls were exerted in the area, and people continued to settle there, building businesses around and over the springs.”
This is why Hot Springs National Park, to the casual visitor, seems different than most national parks. It feels way more urban than most, but that is just the facade. At a time when that facade seems to be going through a time of reconstruction, rejuvenation, and restoration, it may be the perfect time to explore some of the things that make it like other national parks, and what better way than a trail run.
The 18-mile Hot Springs National Park Trail Run covers some of the more remote sections of the park while also giving a nod to its urban history. This event, like the Arkansas Traveller 100, two weeks ago is a part of the Arkansas Ultra Running Association series. This year the 79 participants met in the parking lot at Fat Jack’s Oyster Sports Bar & Grill across Grand Ave. from the former location of the Majestic Hotel and just down the street from the Arlington Hotel, but this is not where the race starts.
@arkansasoutside75 From the Hot Springs National Park Run. The run up Old Canyon Road. See article at ArkansasOutside.com #AROutside #ArkansasOutside #ThisIsMyArkansas #ExploreArkansas #OutdoorAdventures #OutdoorPhotography #OutdoorLife #Arkansas #VisitArkansas #Outdoors #Outside ♬ original sound – ArkansasOutside
Just before the race start, runners cross Grand Avenue and turn south and then into what looks like an alley next to the Mountain Valley Water building, The trailhead start is at the bottom of the Old Canyon Road which switchbacks up and heads west through the park. Runners quickly find themselves immersed in a more traditional national park setting.
After this climb, the trail is a series of uphills and downhills for 18 miles utilizing some historic roads and older singletrack. It’s rocky and rooty passing the Gulpha Gorge Campground. The trail eventually comes out behind the Arlington Hotel and then it’s just a couple of blocks to the finish at Fat Jack’s. It’s a heck of a run. This weekend, the weather started off nice but as the day went on, temperatures climbed. It turned out to be a warm year for the run.
Hot Springs is busy with outdoor recreation and other events. Last week saw the first Arkansas High Country Race hosted by the city. We’re less than a month away from the Spa City Running Festival and the Güdrun – Northwoods MTB Festival.
The Arkansas Ultra Running Association Series is far from over this year. The next race on the schedule is the Sunset 6/12/24 Hour Endurance Challenge on November 25-26 followed by the LOViT Trail Marathon on December 3. Better get training.