Before we went camping at Petit Jean State Park, we went hiking. Our CouchSurfing host took us to Petit Jean State Park to hike to Cedar Falls and Blue Hole. This is a beautiful, easy to moderately difficult hike on well-maintained, though rocky, trails. Watch out for the poison ivy just off the trail though.
Nearest City/Town: Morrilton, AR
Length: 2-4 miles (Out and back)
Elevation: ~200 ft
Time: 1-2 hours
The hike to Cedar Falls is 1 mile each way. The first half mile is a sharp 200ish foot descent into a rocky, tree-lined canyon. Once you make that descent, the trail is relatively flat with no noticeable elevation gain or loss. Parts of this trail have you crossing rock fields, so a little agility is good to have, but for the most part, getting to the falls is clear sailing.
Keeping in mind that all of our hiking to this point in 2012 has been in the western states, being around this much green and water was amazing for two kids from the eastern states. You don’t have to wait until you get to the falls; from the midway point where you cross a small foot bridge, you’re skirting Cedar Creek. And while we were there, it was flowing strongly!
Once you get to Cedar Falls, you’re greeted with a 95-ft waterfall into a small (about 50 ft in diameter) circular pool. You can actually walk around the sloped rock walls and get very close to the falls. You could probably cross behind it if you didn’t mind getting soaked and possibly falling into the pool and drowning. We wouldn’t advise getting too close and, as a side note, swimming in the pool is prohibited.
After crossing the foot bridge, you come to a T where you have two choices. To the right is Cedar Falls. To the left is Blue Hole. It’s another mile out to Blue Hole from that sign, making a trip from the top to the Falls to Blue Hole and back out about 4 miles round-trip.
The hike out to Blue Hole is also relatively flat, though there are a few small inclines and declines in the trail. Due to the lack of rock fields that you have to navigate, this is actually an easier hike than the hike to Cedar Falls. We were able to mark out a super fast pace to Blue Hole.
Blue Hole itself isn’t anything fascinating. It’s just a small water pool flowing past a series of stepping stones you can take to the other side. Nonetheless, it’s a great hike to add some distance and see more of Cedar Creek and the surrounding forest.
The real fun of the hike is when you have to ascend the switchbacks that you took to get to the canyon floor. It’s only a couple of hundred feet, but it’s packed into a relatively short distance. You can blitz this thing for a good workout or just take your time and make it with few problems.
Cedar Falls Overlook
East of Mather Lodge is a sign pointing you down another road to the Cedar Falls Overlook. A short way back on that road is a parking lot. From the parking lot, you can walk down a very nice boardwalk to an overlook of the Falls, allowing you to see them from the bottom (on the hike) and from the top. There is another overlook on the opposite side of this one, but we didn’t see how to get to that one.
Petit Jean State Park is located about an hour northwest of Little Rock, AR on Arkansas Hwy 154. To get to the hike, go past the Visitor’s Center (assuming you’re coming in from the east) to Mather Lodge. Near the Lodge, you’ll see signs for the Cedar Falls Trailhead. Find the parking lot, park, and start your descent into the canyon.
You knew it was coming! You’ve been waiting with baited breath! And now, we present the pictures from this hike.