Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Hot Springs, South Dakota, has an abundance of fun activities but the first thing we recommend doing is hitting the Fall River Freedom Trail. Formerly known as the 'River Walk', this 1.3 mile paved walking path follows the lovely Fall River through a beautiful stretch of the small town. Winding through parks and past historic points of interest, this is great way to dip your toes into the waters of Hot Springs.
There are two information centers in Hot Springs. The northern visitor's center is in the historic Union Depot building, which was rumored to have been the "Smallest Union Depot in the World" at one time. This building is only open during the summer months. The Union Depot is hard to miss and quite striking to look at. An old train car sits outback, forever stranded at its station.
The southern information center is located in the Mueller Center building, found on South Sixth Street. This building is open year round and had a wealth of informational booklets and maps when we visited. The Fall River Freedom Trail begins and ends at either visitor's center, depending on which end you start at (parking lots are available at both locations).
We parked at and started from the lot behind the Mueller Center, near the beginning of the path itself. It was free to park here. We followed the trail north through the city.
This beautiful path passes through several parks along the way and provides plenty of opportunities to play in the river (which is really more of a wide creek). Fall River is fed by a natural hot spring. The water is never very cold, but it does have an odor of minerals and sulfur. My dogs were suspicious of the water -it was unlike the cold, different-smelling water in the creeks they're used to. Maggie dared to dip her toes in here and there (mostly out of curiosity), but Ursa was not interested in getting her paws wet on this occasion.
We walked past playgrounds along the way and crossed bridges over the river. We passed by interesting buildings and beautiful murals on our walk. A giant one was painted in honor of our war veterans. We all stopped to take it in; it was a fantastic piece of art.
We continued on through Centennial Park. It had several picnic tables and other spots to take a break. It also had a large rock garden -that is to say, it had a garden made out of huge rocks.
The trail goes right by (and almost under) the Hot Springs Waterfall. It's tall and skinny, cascading down imperfectly from the cliff above. The girls weren't too interested in the falls. They didn't want to stop under it, and it was too near to the path for them to enjoy it up close (they did not appreciate the spray of water raining on the walkway). It was, however, a really interesting and unique waterfall to take in.
We came upon the Kidney Springs Gazebo which houses the Kidney Springs Mineral Fountain. A plaque above it details its high mineral content. Maggie was the only one curious enough to try it. Several other people came and went, filling up their water bottles from the fountain.
Next to the gazebo is an old bandstand, originally built in 1936. The girls had fun climbing up and down it before continuing on down the trail.
Near the end of the path was the Union Depot building and the historic 1888 Hot Springs Jail. After checking out the interesting buildings it was time to head back. The girls took their time on the walk both ways; there was a lot to sniff and explore.
This was a gorgeous walk through a lovely town. Along the way we took in the stunning historic brick architecture of numerous Hot Springs buildings.
The dogs seemed to really enjoy the walk. The stroll along the river was just delightful, and we all had a nice time.
This was a very dog-friendly trail. The paved path was well maintained, as were the parks and historical sites. The trail even has lights that come on at night for added safety. There were plenty of benches and tables for treat and water breaks, and lots of doggy waste stations along the way.
Even though the trail was popular, it didn't feel congested. The wide path and grassy areas along the way made for a wonderful place to take a walk. This trail is easy to use and perfect for all dogs. The Fall River Freedom Trail is a fantastic way for everyone to experience Hot Springs.