We asked several local Little Rock residents where is THE place to go hiking. In each case, the response was pretty much the same: a wide grin would break out on their faces, their eyes would get that blissed-out look and they would reverently say, "Petit Jean. You have to go to Petit Jean State Park." So off we went, in search of the spectacular views, trees, waterfalls, and hiking trails ........ of Petit Jean.
"I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees,
and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite,
which is yes."
~e. e. cummings
Petit Jean State Park is about 1 1/2 hours driving distance from Little Rock, Arkansas. We stopped by the Visitor’s Center and Gift Shop. Bought some souvenirs and grabbed a Trail Map. Petit Jean is considered by some to be the crown jewel of the Arkansas State Parks. It is a diverse park with about 20 miles of scenic hiking trails passing through natural areas filled with old growth forest, diverse wildlife, colorful flowers and plant life, fossils and ancient Indian pictographs. Petit Jean State Park is also a favorite spot among butterfly enthusiasts who look forward to the annual butterfly migration that begins in March and winds down late October.
We chose the Cedar Falls Trail, a moderate to strenuous 2 mile trail that follows the Cedar Creek down to a natural rock basin at the base of a 95 ft. waterfall. The trail head is just to the left of the Mather Lodge’s back porch with its panoramic view overlooking the ruggedly spectacular Cedar Creek Canyon.
Apparently Cedar Falls Trail is a very popular trail. Fortunately, we hiked the trail on a Thursday afternoon and met very few hikers.
Although Cedar Falls trail is approximately 2 miles, allow for 2ish hours to complete the hike down to the falls and to return on the path up, up and up back to the trail head (this was the strenuous part of the hike for sure).
Suggestions for this hike: Definitely wear hiking boots or very sturdy shoes as the trail does require some scrambling over steep rock stairs and hiking on a rocky single path switch back trail. Bug Spray is a must as the gnats can get nasty. Bring water and hydrate. Safety first: Step lively and be aware of your surroundings as we saw a copperhead snake slither off the trail. Please do a little research and get to know the residents of the area before you go. Here is a helpful link on the snakes of Arkansas.
Coming from California, we are very aware of the effects of drought, which unfortunately, has also impacted the water sources here in Arkansas. Although they had an extremely wet summer, we were told it had been about a month since the last rain in Arkansas. The diminished water flow from the once rushing Cedar Falls is an indicator of how dry we are everywhere!