Take a break from exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park and soak in the mineral springs of Hot Springs, N.C.
This charming historic town wasn't always called "Hot Springs." In 1882, it was founded as "Warm Springs," named for the warm-water springs in the area. However, higher temperature pools were discovered, leading the townsfolk to rename their town "Hot Springs." In the years since, it has blossomed into a small community of 650 dotted with galleries, restaurants and of course, hot springs.
Visit Hot Springs Resort and Spa
For literally hundreds of years, people have visited Hot Springs to sit in the mineral waters that sit right at the confluence of the French Broad River and Spring Creek. Managed by The Hot Springs Resort Spa, the hot springs are the only natural mineral hot springs in North Carolina.
At the resort, there are 12 outdoor mineral baths in modern Jacuzzi-type pools, each offering some privacy. The facility is clean, and baths range in temperature from 100F to 104F. Every pool is drained, sanitized and refilled after each use. Mineral baths are open Monday through Thursday from noon to 10 p.m. and Friday through Sunday 10 a.m. to midnight. Hours do vary depending on demand, so check with the resort to verify. Massage therapy also is offered there.
Across the road the resort runs the Hot Springs Campground that features 100-plus tent sites, eight primitive cabins and sites for partial and full RV hook-ups. There are seasonal hot showers and bathrooms.
Warm Springs to Hot Springs
The town of Hot Springs has an interesting history. It was originally named “Warm Springs,” and as early as 1831, there was a hotel at the springs to serve tourists who wanted to soak in the mineral waters. In 1884 a fire burned down the 350-room hotel, one that had been there for 46 years. A new hotel was built, but that later burned down as well.
Two years later, the town’s name changed in 1886 when a hotter spring was discovered. The resort-like atmosphere changed tremendously during World War I when the U.S. government leased the hotel and grounds to use as an internment camp for Germans living in the country. In 1920 the hotel burned and a new one was rebuilt.
An Appalachian Trail Stop
Today, the town’s small-town rustic feel attracts those who want to soak as well as those interested in outdoor water sports, especially rafters and kayakers since the town sits at the river confluence. The Appalachian Trail runs along downtown’s Bridge Street, and you’ll see hikers taking a break.
Getting to Hot Springs
- From the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Catalooche entrance, drive 45 miles on Cove Creek Road and scenic Highway 209 to Hot Springs. Although the trip is only 45-miles long, it can take up to one and a half hours because of the winding mountain roads.
- From Cherokee, N.C. (south entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park) drive about 72 miles northeast to Hot Springs.
- From Gatlinburg, Tenn. (north entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park) drive about an hour and 20-minutes east to Hot Springs.
- From the Knoxville, Tenn., airport, drive about 77 miles east to reach Hot Springs.
- From the Asheville, N.C., airport, drive about 48 miles north to Hot Springs.
For more information:
Hot Springs North Carolina Tourism Association
Hot Springs Resort and Spa
315 Bridge St.