Our Labor Day destination was also our first camping visit to Arkansas. We camped at Catherine’s Landing and explored Hot Springs, Hot Springs National Park, and Lake Catherine.
Catherine’s Landing is an RV resort that earns the designation of resort. The campground features a beautiful lodge and pool. They have a boat launch, walking trails, disk golf, a playground, and bags boards. They also offer boat, kayak, SUP, and bike rentals, as well as a zip-line facility on property. This is a large facility, so bikes are nice to have if you will be moving around the campground a lot. They have weekend activities for kids and adults alike. The weekend we visited they had a guided walk about protecting bees as well as a wine tasting. They also had inflatables all weekend. The bath houses were placed nicely around the campground and were among the nicest and largest bath houses we’ve ever seen. The sites were large concrete pads and had picnic tables, a fire pit, and a grill. We had a back-in site near Lake Catherine with full hook ups. We had family join us that rented a beautiful cabin, again maybe the nicest cabin we’ve seen in a campground. Catherine’s Landing is owned by RVC and we were so impressed with the facility that we noted their other locations for future camping trips.
Downtown Hot Springs is a small tourist town lined with non-franchise shops as well as the trendy tourist attractions like the ducks and escape rooms. We enjoyed walking around and people watching, but didn't really go in many of the shops. We did stop in Kollective Coffee + Tea and had a nice espresso and a Happy Tea, which was a loose tea served in a small french press. We had lunch at Superior Bathhouse Brewery, of which we really didn’t have high expectations going in. We were blown away with our meals. We both had an outstanding greek salad with gyro meat and a couple ciders that were unique and outstanding. Everyone in our party enjoyed their meals and we would put this on our list to do again. We typically steer clear of the “you can’t miss it” breakfast place and instead seek out a small diner if we eat breakfast out. We ate at the “you can’t miss it” place, The Pancake Shop. The wait was long, but really was worth it. They brew good coffee and make generous egg and meat dishes, which fit our Paleo lifestyle. The kids were pleased to find 1/2 grapefruits on the menu. We follow the paleo diet, had a vegan diner with us, as well as a a couple SAD (standard American diners) join us, and everyone found something perfect at both of the restaurants we ate at, which is impressive in a tourist town.
Hot Springs National Park is the main attraction of the area. The smallest of the 59 National Parks, HSNP is known for its 143 degree spring water and historic bathhouses. We started our adventure at the visitor center to get started on the Junior Ranger Program. The program was our guide as we visited bathhouse row and walked the promenade trail. This is an NPS site like none other; the historic spas are the focal point. We spent much of the time exploring Bathhouse Row and well-manicured garden paths. There are NPS trails in the hills nearby but we chose to instead hike at Lake Catherine State Park.
Lake Catherine was our destination on Sunday. We hiked the waterfall trail at Lake Catherine State Park. You'll want to complete this trail by hiking counterclockwise; this saves the creek, waterfall, and suspension bridge for the final leg of the hike. An interesting thing to understand about Lake Catherine and the other diamond lakes is they are all formed by the Ouachita River. The water at Lake Catherine is very cold all year, which is surprising when 143 degree water is pouring out of the earth a few miles from the lake. It was explained to us by a fisherman that the lake was colder than the rest because is was fed from the bottom of the deep Lake Hamilton. Seems reasonable to us. We did paddle board on the lake and even jumped in for a brief, but refreshing swim.
We would certainly return to both Hot Springs and Catherine's Landing and would enjoy most of these activities again.
Shane and Jessica
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