Petit Jean State Park is the oldest state park in Arkansas and arguably the best.
Situated just over an hour’s drive from Little Rock, this park is bursting with natural beauty and historical significance. It is also unique in that it is the only state park in the system that has its own airport.
While its name might imply otherwise, the park is actually quite big. Sprawling for over 3,000 acres across a landscape that includes forests, mountainsides, lakes and streams.
This makes it a haven for those who enjoy a range of outdoor recreational activities like boating, swimming, fishing, caving, hiking and picnicking. For those who like to drive, there are several miles of scenic roads you can explore too.
While the park is a popular day trip destination for people who want to escape the pressures of city life, there are also several different types of accommodation options available to those who really want to spend some time connecting with nature.
The park offers visitors many different opportunities to engage in a wide range of outdoor recreational pursuits.
Showcased below are just some of the various activities you can do during your time there.
Boating at Petit Jean State Park
Attracting people from all over the state, the 100-acre Bailey Lake is a popular spot for boating and paddling.
By the lake you will find a boathouse that is open seasonally. As well as a snack bar it has a games room and boat rentals. For those wanting kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, water bikes or fishing boats you can also hire those as well.
If you want to take your boat out onto the water be aware there is a motor limit of ten horsepower in operation.
Swimming at Petit Jean State Park
During the summer months the temperatures in the park can exceed 90 degrees Celsius. So it is worth bringing your swimming costume with you in case you want to go for a dip.
At the park there is a fabulous swimming pool you can use. It is situated just to the south of the lake and within easy reach of tennis courts, a playground, a ball field and a picnic area. So you can spend quite a bit of time here over the course of the day.
Fishing at Petit Jean State Park
As well as boating, Lake Bailey is also a renowned spot for fishing.
You can do this either on its shoreline, its ADA-accessible fishing pier or in a boat out in the middle of the water.
Wherever you choose to cast a line, you should expect to catch red ear sunfish and bluegills at the main lake. At the smaller, nearby Lake Roosevelt, there are usually plenty of largemouth bass, channel catfish and crappie biting.
Hiking at Petit Jean State Park
With more than 20 miles of trails meandering through its landscape, hikers are well and truly in their element at Petit Jean State Park.
Overall there are eight trails to explore. Each of them vary in length and degrees of difficulty. They also take you across unique terrain that showcases various features of the park.
The most popular trail within the park is the two mile long Cedar Falls Trail. Despite appearing to be a short distance this course is very challenging and takes most people around two hours to complete. However, it will lead you to a lookout that showcases sensational views of the 90 foot cascade of Cedar Falls.
For a shorter trek, many people head out to the Canyon Trail. During it you will see several falls, towering pine and sycamore trees and huge boulders.
Several of the trails will also lead you to fascinating rock shelters. One of them includes those on the Rock House Cave Trail, which features incredible pictographs on its ceiling that date back hundreds of years.
Pets are welcome at the park, however certain conditions on their presence have been put in place.
This includes them being well behaved at all times and restrained on a handheld leash of no more than six feet in length.
For a full rundown of the park’s pet policy it might be worth contacting their main office to clarify what you can and can’t do there.
For those who want to stay overnight at the park there are several accommodation options available to you.
This includes 125 camping sites that are spread across four different areas. Of these, 26 are pull-through sites and 99 back-in sites. Overall 35 sites have been designated as Triple A, which means they come with connections for water, sewer and 50-amp electricity. The remaining 90 sites are Class B and have hookups for water and 30-amp electricity.
Each of these campsite areas comes with their own bathhouses that include flush toilets and hot showers. There is also a dump station available for guests to use too.
To support these campsites, the park’s airport also has a fly-in campground with five tent sites. These feature electric and water hookups, as well as tent pads, grills, picnic tables and lantern holders.
If you don’t have your own camping equipment, the park has 4 yurts available to rent all year round. These tents are high walled and come with screened windows, doors that lock and electricity. They are also furnished with beds, a stove, lighting and an ice chest.
In addition to these options, there are also 33 cabins available (21 of which have kitchens) as well as a 24-room Mather Lodge, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Petit Jean State Park
1285 Petit Jean Mountain Rd
Morrilton, AR 72110
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Petit Jean State Park:
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