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There's Nothing "Little" About Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas' Mountain Oasis


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Nestled near the shores of the Arkansas River between the Ozark Mountains and Ouachita National Forest, you'll find Petit Jean Mountain, one of the 25th state's most majestic outdoor areas. At the top sight of Petit Jean State Park, the mountaintop overflows with the natural beauty of breathtaking rock formations, not to mention picnic areas and excellent opportunities for boating, hiking, and more.

Petit Jean is full of resort-like facilities that put it on par with popular national parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone. Features that both overnighters and day-trippers will appreciate include attractions like a basketball court, tennis courts, and a boathouse, to name a few. However you intend to enjoy the park's many offerings, we hope the following tips help guide your excursion!

The History and Legend of Petit Jean

Petit Jean State Park by zrfphoto via Getty Images

Petit John is French for "Little John," but we're not talking about Robin Hood's burly sidekick here. The Petit John the park is named after is buried on top of the mountain. She was a Frenchwoman who posed as a boy to follow her fiancé into the Louisiana Territory. Sadly, she fell sick and passed away during her travails. Few who visit the park know the legend, let alone the fact that Petit Jean is, in fact, Arkansas's first state park. The Civilian Conservation Corps began construction of the park's facilities in 1933. Many of these CCC buildings still stand today and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Petit Jean State Park Map

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If you're looking for a map of the park, the best place to go is the Arkansas State Park website. There you'll find several excellent hiking trail maps, as well as brochures that cover a range of information. Visitors can also procure the same pamphlets at the park's visitor center, which has a great gift shop you should drop in on.

Petit Jean State Park Trails

Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas by jbrizendine via Getty Images

While there are many things to do at the park, its fantastic nature trails are primary draws. Here are some you should consider hiking during your visit:

  • Bear Cave Trail: At a mere quarter of a mile, this easy trail takes hikers past a pseudo-cave area made up of narrow gaps and rocky overhangs.
  • Cedar Creek Trail: This one is considered "moderate" difficulty. A little over a mile in length, the Cedar Creek Trail leads to a scenic overlook of Cedar Falls.
  • Cedar Falls Trail: Starting at Mather Lodge, this 2-mile loop leads to what the state park's website bills as a "photographer's paradise."
  • Seven Hollows Trail: Although Seven Hollows is 4 1/2 miles long, it is still considered moderate. It passes evidence of prehistoric peoples.
  • Canyon Trail: This easy path runs beside deep pools and small waterfalls, better known as the Cedar Creek Canyon Trail.

Petit Jean Accommodations

A view of the Arkansas River Valley from Stouts Point on Petit Jean Mountain by Derrick Rose via Getty Images

Petit Jean State Park Cabins

A lot of folks heading to Petit Jean to overnight are interested in its cabin rentals. The park has 39 cabins, 6 of which are duplexes, making 45 rental options. Of the 33 that aren't duplexes, 21 of the cabins have kitchens. Those interested in renting a place, as well as the campgrounds and yurts listed below, should visit the Arkansas State Parks website.

Petit Jean State Park Campgrounds & Yurts

Petit Jean has quite a few camping areas to choose from. The majority are intended for tent campers and have standard features like picnic tables and grills. A handful of sites are outfitted with full hookups, as well as other RV and trailer-camping conveniences. There is also a dump station on site. In addition to campgrounds and the cabins above, Petit Jean also offers several Rent-A-Yurts furnished with a smattering of modern trappings. And, as wild as it might sound, the park even has an airstrip and fly-in campground for aviators.

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Petit Jean Hotels

There are some fantastic modern accommodations to be enjoyed in and around the park, the foremost of which is Mather Lodge. At nearly 100 years old, the lodge is charming to stay as close to the park as possible while experiencing a resort-like environment.

What's more, Mather Lodge has a load of features, like dog-friendly rooms, a swimming pool, a restaurant with a beautiful dining area, and a couple of small meeting rooms for those planning work getaways. Outside of the park itself, the nearest less-than-rustic place to overnight at is the Cedar Falls Motel. It is located just down Petit Jean Mountain Rd from the nearby Museum of Automobiles. The closest modern accommodations are located in the neighboring town of Morrilton.

What's your favorite way to overnight in the Petit Jean State Park area? Let everyone know what's good on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!

READ MORE: When Does Camping Season Start Anyway?

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