Winter Weekend at Arkansas’s Petit Jean State Park

Mary Grace had a long Mardi Gras weekend, but we skipped the parades and the king cake and headed four and a half hours north to Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas. Petit Jean was the first of 52 state parks in Arkansas, aptly nicknamed “The Natural State.”

In winter, it’s particularly calm at Petit Jean. The bare trees expose the rocky bluffs and babbling brooks.  And, it’s much quieter. Sunday morning, we only passed four people on a two-mile roundtrip Cedar Falls Trail,  the park’s most popular. At the end, we had the 95-foot waterfall to ourselves.

Hiked down to Cedar Falls exactly one year after falling & breaking arm on the tennis court.
Hiked down to Cedar Falls exactly one year after falling & breaking arm on the tennis court.
Mather's Lodge at Dusk
Mather’s Lodge at Dusk
Arkansas Rock Formation
Arkansas Rock Formation

Petit Jean, pronounced “PET-ih-gene” by locals is named after a legendary French girl who smuggled onto a boat as a cabin boy in the early 1700s to follow her fiancee to the Louisiana Territory.

After hiking seven miles and watching the sunset, we headed to Mather’s Lodge for dinner Saturday night. I highly recommend doing that, not for the mostly average food, but for the gorgeous view over Cedar Creek Canyon. It’s also fun to explore the rustic lodge, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and recently renovated. The hearth room with crackling fire, jigsaw puzzles and games made for a pleasant wait on a cold February night.

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