This longer route combines the Sunset Trail
and Sunset Trail (Stonebridge Section)
in the most popular usage of these two scenic trails into one long, meandering route around the park.
Features: Fall Colors — River/Creek — Views — Wildlife
The starting and ending points of this route make a shuttle necessary. Leave a car at the Gulpha Gorge Campground, or arrange to be dropped off at the Sunset trailhead on W. Mountain Summit Drive.
If you're looking to escape from the crowds and urban areas of Hot Springs, this hike is the one for you! Covering a relatively long distance of nearly 10 miles, this trail traverses some of the most varied terrain in the park.
Visitors can choose to begin the route at either the north or the south end, though the proximity to parking makes the southwestern extent the more popular option, and the southern trailhead is where this guide begins. As visitors first leave town, the trail is somewhat rolling, though any elevation change will be gradual. The first few miles of the trail are also more likely to have other visitors, but don't worry, the crowds thin after the two-mile mark. You'll enjoy traversing West Mountain, and there are multiple great overlooks to be had on this portion of the trail.
Moving into the middle section of the trail is where the feeling of solitude will begin, and where you're most likely to see wildlife. Deer and wild turkey can be found in these quiet places, and are always a treat to catch sight of. There are also plenty of outcrops of novaculite, a mineral found in the Hot Springs Area that produces beautiful white outcrops. Take a moment to gaze at Balanced Rock, and the short jaunt down the Balanced Rock Trail
is well worth your time.
As you continue northeast, you'll enjoy the mixed forest and scenic glades that present themselves near the trail. The trail will eventually come to a T, where the most popular route heads east to the Sunset Trail (Stonebridge Section)
Take this branch to the east, as the trail continues to descend. You'll soon find yourself near Stonebridge Rd, where you'll want to use caution crossing. On the other side of the road, you'll find Ricks Pond. Here is a great place to look for beaver or heron, and take in the sights around the pond. As the trail continues to Hwy 7, you'll have the opportunity to look at the ruins of an old generator mill. Enjoy looking through the ruins, but don't climb them!
After carefully crossing Hwy 7, you'll find yourself climbing the gentle slope that used to be Old Gorge Road. As the trail moves back into the forest and away from the road, keep an eye out for the remnants of the original stone retaining wall.
Continue on your way until you reach the Gulpha Gorge campground, where your journey will come to an end.
On this less populated trail, look for deer and turkey, and beaver near Ricks Pond.