When Barry saw that the longest trail in Hot Springs National Park was the Sunset Trail, he set a goal of hiking it, naturally! At around 10 miles, it would be a long hike already, and adding to that the fact that it didn't go all the way back to the Gulpha Gorge Campground. We'd have to add on a few additional miles to get back through Hot Springs downtown and to our site, so this was destined to be an epic hike and long day. But we love a challenge, and we'd been doing a lot of hiking lately, so I said "Sure; let's go for it!"
Fortunately, the trail does start from the campground, so we did have that going for us. We got a fairly early start, but the temperature was already rising, hinting at a hot day. So we packed plenty of water and snacks, slathered on sunscreen and DEET, and set off.
One of the first spots we encountered was Rick's Pond.
The trail builders didn't seem to know about switchbacks, as multiple places on the trail just went straight UP the side of a mountain. Rocky, steep, these were tough going. We were very thankful for our trusty hiking poles.
We took a .2 mile side spur trail to Balanced Rock. It's not quite as impressive as the formation of the same name at Arches National Park, but it was still pretty cool.
The views along this trail tended to be peekaboo because of the dense woods, but there were a few nice vantage points. Barry can never resist climbing up high, while I say "Be careful!"
The highest point on the trail, and indeed in the entire park, is Music Mountain at 1405'. Here's a view looking down at Hot Springs from near the summit.
The trail ends at the absolutely gorgeous West Summit Overlook. By this point, I was ready to pack it in for the day, but we still had a ways to go to get back to the campground.
Here are some (but not all) of the short trails we had to take to get back to the campground, plus walking through downtown Hot Springs, then hopping on our old friends, the Dead Chief Trail and Gulpha Gorge Trail. Hot Springs National Park has such a nice trail system; we were very impressed by it.
In the end, we tallied 15 miles, and the first thing I did was head down to the creek behind our campsite and soak my aching feet in the cool water for awhile. Whew, that felt amazing!
Barry had mentioned in the morning that he'd woken up with a sore throat, but he was determined to do the hike anyway. He is persistent that way. By the end of the day, there was no escaping the fact that he had a cold. But he was still speedier than me on the hike, as usual!
A few days later, I'd wake up with the dreaded sore throat as well. We forged onward with our travels -- and adventures -- but we haven't gotten completely back to 100% even as I write this almost two weeks later. We're getting there, though!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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