Petit Jean State Park is located in central Arkansas, an hour northwest of Little Rock. The park covers almost 3,500 acres, and offers a lodge, cabins, a boathouse, and 21 hiking trails.
Recently, for our 8th anniversary, my other half and I decided to shake it up and visit a new place. And when I say decided, I mean it was about 36 hours before d-day and we had no idea where to go.
We knew we wanted close, nature, and inexpensive. We got all three! Petit Jean is a hiker’s (or photo buff’s) paradise, and lodge rentals start at $78/night. Here are some of my favorite spots from the trip.
1. The Canyon: The lodge and cabins are on a series of cliffs, giving visitors a fantastic view for miles. Several trails lead down into the valley, including the Cedar Falls hike.
2. Geological Wonders: This area was once submerged, and it left behind rocky outcrops and eroded stone. You can see all kinds of formations and deposits in the cliffs.
3. For The Daredevils: There are many areas where you can just walk up to the edge of a hundred foot drop. Now I’m not saying you should try this, but if you’re using precautions or have a hiking buddy, then you should be fine.
4. Formations: There are tons of boulders and rock chunks laying on the trails and creeks, many left over from when it was underwater. However, while it’s pretty fun to clamber all over these on your journey, watch out for loose or rickety stones.
5. Creeks: Just on our trail alone, there were at least 3 or 4 creeks and waterways. They’re full of little fish, and add a bit of relaxing sound to your hike.
6. Decisions, Decisions: I mentioned before, Petit Jean has 21 featured trails. Just after this teetery bridge, there’s a 3-way trail intersection, where you can choose the Canyon trail or the Cedar Falls Trail. We chose Cedar Falls, because I’ve never seen a real waterfall in person before. We only had one day for hiking, so someday, if we go back, I’d love to see what the other trails have to offer.
7. Cedar Falls: Honestly, you have to stand there in person to really grasp how big these falls are. They stand at 95ft, and the whole area is like a bowl because the top of the falls curve around the lake and lean inwards at the top. It’s extremely cool.
8. Channel Your Inner Mountain Goat: The hike there is pretty easy. It wasn’t until we got to the Falls that I got nervous. The dirt is loose and dry, and there are big rock fragments everywhere. You have to tread lightly around the outer edge against the wall to keep your footing, or you risk sliding or falling down the slope.
We had to rely on each other a lot. In some cases, we had mere inches for our feet, or one of us had to leap 3 feet up onto a ledge. That meant the person in front had to flip around and pull the other up. The view from behind the Falls is worth it, though!
9. The View: As with a lot of things in life, it’s pretty relaxing on the other side. We sat behind the waterfall for about 2o minutes before moving on. (Which is when I finally fell. Lesson learned: Don’t film while climbing through a tunnel.)
10. The Overlook: On our way out of town, I found a little road that leads to the Overlook, an outcrop at the peak of the mountain where you can see for miles and miles. There are wooden decks and railings for the cautious, but also several places where you can step right out to the edge of the rocks. I’m glad we did this last, because it was the perfect finale to the trip.
Whether you’re looking to hike, or have a special occasion, Petit Jean is an awesome place to go. Just be prepared for a lot of climbing and a lot of mud.