Explore Hot Springs
Discover the best spots for ziplining, kayaking and mountain biking right in your backyard.
H ot Springs and surrounding areas are an ideal backdrop for summer exploration and adventure. From the waters of area lakes to soaring through treetops, there are so many different ways to see this city.
“Hot Springs is such a beautiful place to get out and do things; even just strolling downtown can be an adventure,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs. “With the surrounding lakes and all the great hiking around here, we’ve really got a little bit of everything, and it changes every time you’re here.”
According to the director of visitor services, Jimmy Sample, in recent years there has been an increase in interest in adventure tourism.
“We get calls every day about white water kayaking and ziplining, and mountain biking which is really popular,” he said. “Hot Springs is so unique in that you’re no more than 25 or 30 minutes away from these places for a quick day trip during your vacation to Hot Springs.
“People don’t realize the caliber of state parks we have surrounding Hot Springs and things you can get out and see here.”
For the thrill seekers looking for a quick getaway to see Hot Springs from a different perspective, The Ziplines and Ouachita Bend offers seven platform to ground “zips” just off Highway 171.
“Our zips average about 1,000 feet in length, with the highest one at 120 feet above the ground, so you’re above the treeline in a few places,” said Cindy Smith, owner and operator along with her husband and son. “The longest one is 1,300 feet, which is about a quarter mile.”
The Smiths’ middle son, Tony, who used the property primarily to hunt, came up with the idea after his in-laws rode a zipline on vacation.
“His story is he dreamt it when he fell asleep in the deer stand,” Cindy said. “He’d never hunted on that southeast corner before, but we started researching it.”
The terrain of the southeast corner of the property made it difficult for hunting, but perfect for this attraction, which has brought in visitors from all over the world.
“It’s been fun and interesting to see who all has found us,” she said. “We’ve had people from Northern Ireland, the Phillipines and Korea, everywhere. And it’s always interesting to see why they’re here and the friendships they make with other ‘zippers.’”
Everything from honeymoons to anniversaries and celebrations of life have been booked with Ouachita Bend, connecting the employees and visitors with new friends every trip.
“We had two women once, one who had survived breast cancer and the other with stage four colon cancer, who were on a celebration of life tour,” Smith said. “The woman with colon cancer said she didn’t want to die on the couch and was
“We’ve had people from Northern Ireland, the Phillipines and Korea, everywhere. And it’s always interesting to see why they’re here and the friendships they make with other ‘zippers.’”
doing everything she could as kind of a bucket list. What’s so neat about it is my son, Tony, is a survivor and he was their guide. We make those kinds of connections all the time.”
Getting people outdoors for a fun and safe adventure is what Ouachita Bend is all about.
Similarly, the rangers at area state parks who provide guided kayak tours want visitors of Hot Springs to love the waters here as much as the locals do.
“For someone looking to get into kayaking, taking our classes or going on a guided tour with us is a great way to do it,” said Keith Bell, chief park interpreter for Lake Catherine State Park. “We mostly get folks from out of town who just want to give it a try, and no experience is needed to join one of our kayaking tours.”
According to Bell, while kayaking is becoming increasingly popular, the tours are nothing new to state parks.
“With the growing popularity of water sports, it’s really a good idea to take our classes to learn water safety,” he said. “We use the sit on top kayaks which are completely bouyant and easy to handle. It’s rare to flip them over, but if you do they’re easy to get back on.”
Seeing the lake from a kayak is a completely different experience, he said.
“It really frees you up to see things you wouldn’t see in a boat cruising around the lake,” he said. “We take individuals in the cove, and sometimes to the main waters if it’s calm enough.
“And our moonlight cove tours when there’s a full moon are a completely differ- ent experience that people really seem to like. There are a lot of beautiful things to see in Hot Springs.”
For cycling enthusiasts looking to see a different side of the city, Hot Springs boasts many trails for experienced riders. And Parkside Cycle offers rentals of mountain and road bikes perfect for a day outdoors.
“In the past few years, Hot Springs has started to realize the importance of bicycle-friendliness, but there’s still plenty of work to be done,” said Jan Hubbard, of Parkside. “Generally our rentals are for people who are having their bikes repaired with us, but we do get a lot of people interested in riding the trails around here.”
“Most of our cyclists ride for fitness as opposed to sightseeing, but we do like to reccommend trails within a two-hour radius like the Womble Trail or Cedar Glades for them to try out,” Hubbard said. “As long as you know what you’re in for it is a great way to get out and see Hot Springs in a different way.”
A cyclist treks through a trail at Cedar Glades Park; Holly Boles and Brandon Barnes take a ride in their kayaks on Lake Catherine; and a group “zips” through the course at The Ziplines and Ouachita Bend in Hot Springs.