Saturday, March 9, 2013

Petit Jean State Park

I've mentioned that Petit Jean is one of my favorite places to go in Arkansas, but since I haven't been there since starting this blog, I haven't done a proper post on it.  Lucky for you, I went last weekend with some friends and we got in a couple hikes and with evening temperatures around freezing, had a camping area almost entirely to ourselves.

Before I get into the hiking trails, if you haven't been in awhile, the expanded and remodeled Mather Lodge is great and the new CCC Trail spans much of the park, allowing visitors to get around on foot or bike on a nice paved alternative to the highway.  I liked the old one quite a bit, but the restaurant is much larger and nicer now and offers improved views of the incredible Petit Jean Valley.

Now for the trails complete with maps and photos:

The biggest attractions at Petit Jean State Park are Cedar Falls and the view from Mather Lodge.  Don't visit the park without seeing those two things.  Luckily, you can see both within a short stroll from your vehicle.

If, like me, you love hiking and enjoy getting away from parking lots and crowds, then the Seven Hollows Trail, Canyon Trail, and Boy Scout Trail are the ones for you.  My personal favorite is the Seven Hollows Trail so I will start with that.

Seven Hollows:
Located in the SW corner of the park, the 4.5 mi. Seven Hollows Trail takes you past lots of interesting rock features that are fun to scramble around on including rock walls, a natural bridge, turtle rocks, and a small hollow with a waterfall called "The Grotto".  Due to a fire (some time ago now) this area doesn't feel like the rest of the park and is more open, rockier, and has more pine trees.  For a few years after the fire it was so open and rocky that parts of the trail felt more like Utah than Arkansas.

Cedar Falls
My second favorite is probably the most popular trail in the park (I'm not sure if the overlooks in the park count).  Starting at the lodge, with an incredible view of the valley, the trail follows switchbacks downhill to Cedar Creek.  After crossing a bridge, the trail to falls heads upstream along the creek and ends at the sometimes spectacular, but always interesting, Cedar Falls.  Taking a left instead at the bridge would put you on the Canyon Trail.

Canyon Trail
This one-mile trail connects the Cedar Falls Trail to the Boy Scout Trail and Rock House Cave Trail.  It is quite scenic and much less busy than the Cedar Fall Trail and is a nice addition if you are looking to add a little length to your hike to the falls.  If you are continuing on to the Boy Scout Trail or Rock House Cave Trail, be aware that the trail crosses the creek and you will have a hard time keeping your feet dry if you attempt this when there is much water flowing

There are lots of other great trails in the park and I hope to add descriptions someday.  For now you can read about them here.
Interesting Rocks Along Cedar Falls Overlook Trail

Stepping Stones Near Blue Hole Area

Cedar Falls

View From Petit Jean Gravesite Overlook

Riding the Turtle Rocks 
Arch on Seven Hollows Trail

Looking Down into The Grotto - Seven Hollows

Icy Falls

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