A Destination for Generations…Hot Springs, NC, a resort destination for almost 200 years, has long been renowned for its healing hot mineral springs, scenic mountain setting, and abundance of natural resources. Recently voted the Best Small Mountain Town from Georgia to West Virginia by readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, you will find we have a welcoming small town feeling. Hot Springs, NC is just 40 minutes north of Asheville. We are located at the junction of the Appalachian Trail and the French Broad River in a valley surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Pisgah National Forest. Hot Springs is the only North Carolina town where the Appalachian Trail runs directly down the main street.
LocationThe Hot Springs Welcome Center of Madison County is located at 106 Bridge Street, which is the main street in Hot Springs, North Carolina. It is located directly on the Appalachian Trail, across the street from the Post Office and next door to Gentry Hardware Store.
HoursOur goal is for the Center to be open from 10:00 am–5:00 pm daily. We have a manager and friendly staff at the Center.
FacilityThe Welcome Center is a new facility with approximately 1600 square feet. It is handsomely decorated and has comfortable furnishings and informative exhibits. There are bathrooms and free wireless internet and landline.
Travel InformationYou will find a wealth of information in the Welcome Center about:
- Activities, Lodging and Dining in Hot Springs, NC
- Attractions, Barn Tours, Small Towns and Activities throughout Madison County, NC
- Local and Regional Historical Exhibits
History and Nature ExhibitsThe Welcome Center has excellent exhibits which will inform you about our fascinating history and the natural world. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has an informative display, including footprints of local animals. The displays about area history include the following: the Buncombe Turnpike, which ran through town in the early 1800’s; a series of fabulous hotels which were built here; the German Internment during WW1; Cecil Sharp’s Collection of folk songs; and much more.
Temperate ClimateThe Hot Springs, NC climate is very moderate, making for pleasant year-round living and comfort. The town is nestled in a mountain valley created by the French Broad River. Surrounding town are the peaks and ridges of the Pisgah National Forest, with elevations ranging from 1,300 feet in town to over 4,600 feet in the mountains. In the summer, the elevation and surrounding mountains tend to keep the area cooler than other locations in North Carolina. Likewise, in winter the mountains protect the town from the harsh winter weather you might find in higher elevations.
Distinctive Seasons of Hot SpringsA wonderful aspect of the Hot Springs weather is the distinctive seasons. Each season is marked with its own wonderful characteristics that punctuate the year and add spice to the different holidays and and associated activities. When the topic of weather and seasons comes up with a group of Hot Springs residents or frequent visitors, there is a wide range of opinion about which season is the favorite and why.
A Resort Destination Since the 1800’sHot Springs, North Carolina, a resort destination since the early 1800’s, has long been renowned for its healing mineral springs and scenic mountain setting. Native Americans were the first to discover the 100-plus degree mineral water from which the Town of Hot Springs received its name. They often held spiritual ceremonies about five miles down the French Broad River at Paint Rock where some of North Carolina’s best known example of an American Indian pictograph can still be seen today. Traders from the colonies came next and, by 1778, the lame and the sick were traveling over the mountains to the hot springs for the healing waters. On March 19, 1791, William Nelson bought the hot springs property for “two hundred pounds in Virginia currency” and began catering to the visitors.
The I-40 of the 1800’sBuncombe Turnpike was completed along the French Broad River through Hot Springs (called Warm Springs at the time) in 1828, connecting Tennessee and Kentucky to the east coast. It was the superhighway of the South at the time. Farmers drove thousands of horses, cattle, hogs, and other livestock to markets in Charleston and Augusta on the Turnpike and stopped in Hot Springs to take the waters along the way.
A Series of Three Hotels & The Railroad ArrivesRecognizing the potential for tourism, James Patton of Asheville, bought the springs in 1831 and by 1837 had built the 350-room Warm Springs Hotel with thirteen tall columns commemorating the first colonies. Because of it size and grandeur, it was called Patton’s White House. Its dining room could seat 600. The next owner was James H. Rumbough, a stage coach operator, who bought the springs in 1862. In the hotel’s ballroom, second largest in the state, Frank Johnson, son of President Andrew Johnson, met his bride, Bessie Rumbough, daughter of the hotel owner. The railroad reached the village in 1882, and it was necessary for Rumbough to enlarge his hotel. Two years later the hotel burned, and the springs and much of the town were sold to the Southern Improvement Company, a northern syndicate. The Mountain Park Hotel was built in 1886, and a higher-temperature spring was discovered, prompting the company to change the town’s name from Warm Springs to Hot Springs. The Mountain Park was one of the most elegant resorts in the country during its heyday. It consisted of the 200-room hotel, a barn and stables, a spring house, and a bath house of sixteen marble pools, surrounded by landscaped lawns with croquet and tennis courts. The Mountain Park Hotel established the first organized golf club in the Southeast with a nine-hole course.
The German InternmentBy May 1917, however, fewer and fewer people were taking the waters, and the Mountain Park Hotel and grounds were leased to the federal government as an internment camp for hundreds of German merchant sailors captured in U.S. harbors when war was declared. The internees were treated well by the townspeople, and several returned to visit after the war. When the war ended, the Mountain Park Hotel never regained its former glory. The hotel burned in 1920, never to be rebuilt. Two other hotels were built on the grounds of the springs during the next forty years, but neither were as grand as the Warm Springs Hotel or the Mountain Park. Both of these smaller hotels also succumbed to fire, and the Town of Hot Springs was nearly forgotten as a tourist destination.
TodayHot Springs is again a haven for those seeking a relaxing and healthful mountain retreat. Outdoor recreation abounds. Hikers can explore some of the scenic stretches of the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which runs down the main street of Town before crossing the French Broad River and climbing back onto the ridgetops. Rafters can shoot the rapids on the French Broad River. Mountain bikers can wind along wooded paths to open meadows with commanding views of the surrounding peaks. Those seeking time for relaxation can simply savor the area’s breathtaking scenery while soaking in hot mineral baths in secluded outdoor tubs at the reopened Hot Springs Spa. Reference: “The German Invasion of Western North Carolina,” written by historian Jacqueline Burgin Painter (Biltmore Press, Asheville, NC 1992).
The majesty of our natural surroundings combines with the heritage of our three small towns, our timeless mountain music and delicious food offerings to make Madison County a most desirable destination. We offer outdoor activities for enthusiasts of all ages that include hiking, whitewater river rafting, tubing, cycling and horseback riding. Also available are soaks in the natural hot springs that are among only a few such springs found east of the Mississippi River.
Come to Madison County and you will experience life as it can be… easy living with a song in the air.