Back to Nature at Petit Jean State Park

When we first started talking about our spring journey from Florida to the western side of the country, Arkansas was high on the list. For several years we’ve been hearing rumors of green valleys, soft rolling hills, lakes and rivers for kayaking, impressive waterfalls, and of course, Hot Springs NP. It seemed like if the weather cooperated (meaning if we could dodge the tornados) we could spend a good amount of time roaming around this new-to-us-state.

But then we added an additional month to our house rental in the Keys and our spring travel plans were suddenly shortened. Not because we have any specific place we need to be at a certain time — although we did recently make a reservation in Denver and plans with friends — but because our ultimate goal for the summer is to be in mountains and to do that we would like to get there sooner rather than later.

Petit Jean State Park
Arkansas views

So we breezed through Arkansas fairly quickly. Two weeks, two parks, and one additional stop for a special museum (blog post coming soon), and then we moved on. It was enough time to get a small taste, but not enough to feel like we truly explored Arkansas. I imagine that we’ll be back someday.

Petit Jean State Park
Cedar Falls

After our introductory stay in Hot Springs, we moved north to Petit Jean State Park. With lots of hiking trails, a really cool waterfall, and a private campsite surrounded by trees, it was the perfect place to enjoy some peaceful nature. The campground is fairly large, and during our stay at least, the section with only electric and water hook-ups was nearly deserted. Which meant for the first time in a really, really long time we had complete privacy. The last time that happened was probably sometime last spring while boondocking in the west.

Petit Jean State Park
Just us and the tall trees

The other side of the road, on the other hand, was a totally different story. The sites over there are all paved pull-thrus with full-hook ups. There were only one or two empty sites. We drove around the loop once and the sites were pretty nice looking with lots of space between and some great lake views. But there is zero privacy and it’s hard to justify $12/night more just for a sewer hook-up when we’re only staying 5-nights. We were more than happy in our wooded spot across the street. I intended to go back and take some photos, but then it rained for 24 hours and we left a day early so that didn’t happen. For some good photos of the full hook-ups area check out the reviews on Campendium.

Petit Jean State Park
Not much to see when it rains for 24 hours

It was one of those weeks when we didn’t leave the park once. Every day we got out after work to hike the trails. There are some good ones with interesting rock features, far reaching views, and of course, the famous Cedar Falls which was in rare form after a weekend of non-stop rain.

Petit Jean State Park
Cedar Falls from above
Petit Jean State Park
A geological phenomenon known as carpet rocks
Petit Jean State Park
Stone bridge
Petit Jean State Park
Wild iris on the trail
Petit Jean State Park
One of the original cabins built by the CCC
Petit Jean State Park
Across the river…

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16 Responses to “Back to Nature at Petit Jean State Park”

Comments

  1. Maryanne

    We loved Arkansas, especially Buffalo River. Looking forward to making it back soon. Now another park for our list. Woolly Hollow was awesome, we paddled the beautiful lake. Beaver Lake CCC ALSO . This summer its New England if the ticks don’t chase us away.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      I had to look up Woolly Hollow just because I like the name! Looked like a great place. Good luck with the ticks this summer!

      Reply
  2. Jeff

    Not expecting much from Arkansas we drove thru a couple years ago. We saw it offers a lot, including decent wine! Thanks for highlighting some areas for a return visit.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      I’ve always overlooked Arkansas thinking it was just another boring middle of the country drive through state. It’s nice to be surprised. We didn’t try any local wines but can confirm that they have some great beer :)

      Reply
  3. Jodee Gravel

    Spectacular photos, love the falls. Those carpet rocks are so unique, I’ll have to look for those :-)

    Reply
    • Amanda

      I guess the falls don’t always look like that, but all the spring rain made them very impressive!

      Reply
  4. Gerri & Mike

    Well I guess I feel the same as the others who commented….never thought much about Arkansas until looking at your pictures and reading your thoughts. Definitely a place to explore!

    http://www.freedom2roll.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Arkansas was honestly never on our radar until we talked with other travelers who had visited. Seems that most people are surprised by all the natural beauty.

      Reply
  5. Laurel

    What a great park—gorgeous waterfalls and trails, and the carpet rocks are so interesting! It looks like there’s plenty to do for a few days without having to leave the park. Even better that you were virtually alone in the water/electric sites.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      We always love a park that can keep us busy for a few days. There were even a few hikes we missed (one with some ancient cave art) because of the rain.

      Reply
  6. Debbie Mills

    Like others, we didn’t think much about visiting Arkansas until our route took us through there. What a treasure! We stayed at Catherine’s Landing in Hot Springs for a week, then Petit Jean SP near Morrillton for 10 days, then Tom Sawyer Park in West Memphis for a week. Petit Jean was our favorite and we stayed in the FHU loop with plenty of privacy and incredible views of the lake! The history, ecology, hiking, etc. was amazing! Could have stayed longer. We will definitely be back to explore more of Arkansas.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Those lake views were really nice at Petit Jean! I wish it hadn’t rained during our stay because there was so much more to explore.

      Reply
  7. Andrea Elkins

    Ditto everyone else. We enjoyed our 2 weeks outside of Hot Springs. The area is really lovely. Adding Petit Jean State Park to the list for our next trip through, based on your review. (We’ll be one of those with the FHU, though. lol.) Thanks!

    Reply
    • Amanda

      Be sure to reserve ahead for the FHU loop. It was nearly full all week and I imagine the waterfront sites go fast!

      Reply
  8. David and Sharon (Two Lanes of Freedom)

    There is nothing better than finding yourself alone in nature. Just you, the silence, the birds, the sweet smells of nature. How wonderful that you were able to wrap yourselves in it while being in campground too. That truly is rare. Was the section without full hookups suitable for a 35′ 5th wheel?

    Reply
  9. David B

    I am quite surprised, it does look interesting and scenic…..David B.

    Reply

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