Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cedar Falls, Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas

6/11/2014 Cedar Falls

GPS coordinates:  (Latitude,  Longitude,  Elevation)
  Parking location: 35.11733, -92.93817,  869 feet
  Cedar Falls:  35.12148,  92.93410,  675 feet
  Blue Hole:  35.11580,  92.95896, 428 feet

Pet friendly: Yes.  Easy, well marked trail.  There is a sign at the trailhead that says all pets must be on a leash.  Boomer hypnotized me and convinced me I saw nothing and he should be off leash.  He was fine.  The only other dog we saw on the trail was also off leash.  You can expect to see other hikers on this trail, however.  If your dog doesn't play well with strangers, keep it on a leash.

Motorcycle friendly: Yes.  As a bonus, Highway 154 is a great riding road with lots of twisties.  Park in the parking area for Mather Lodge at Petit Jean State Park.

Cedar Falls (95')
Cedar Falls has to be the most photographed waterfall in Arkansas.  Located in Petit Jean State Park, there are lots of other trails and attractions nearby to draw in lots of visitors.  Since it is a fairly easy hike, with an easy to get to trailhead, there is a lot of visitors.  

Today we had the first clear day after four days of heavy rain, so Boomer (our German Shepard) and I were ready to go chase some waterfalls.  It was opening day for my wife Bethany's new business, so she opted out.  But our daughter Heather wanted to go hike the Cedar Falls trail, so off we went.

Cedar Falls - from overlook
Getting there is easy.  Take Hwy 7 to Centerville, then turn east on Hwy 154 for 15.1 miles to Mather Lodge.  Or, from Morrilton, take Hwy 9 to Oppelo and turn west on Hwy 154 for 12.9 miles to Mather Lodge.  Park in the par
king lot at the lodge and walk around the lodge to the trailhead.  Just east of the lodge is a short road to scenic overlook on the bluff high above Cedar Falls.  Either before or after hiking the Cedar Falls trail, this is a must-see stop to get this completely different perspective of the waterfall.

Waterfall near top of trail
Starting down the from the trailhead, the trail immediately starts the descent down into Cedar Creek's canyon.  The trail was built by the CCC back in the 1930's, but it has held up to the constant traffic well.  It zig-zags down the canyon wall so that there really is not any real steep areas.  At one of the early 'zigs', there is a nice series of waterfalls on the on a feeder creek off to the left of the trail.  If there is plenty of water, as there was today, this is well worth the stop.  Besides, when you climb back up the canyon on the way out, this is a great excuse for stopping and resting.  

There is a warning sign at the start of the trail with words to the effect that this trail can be strenuous on the climb back up.  Don't let that deter you from going, as it is somewhat overstated, at least in my opinion.  The whole elevation change from trailhead to the waterfall is only about 200 feet.  I see lots of children on the trail, some very young, and they seem to manage the hike back out just fine.  

Cedar Creek Bridge
We proceeded down the trail to the creek level.  On the way, there is a side trail to Bear Cave.  There are many other trails all over Petit Jean state park, and you could spend a few days here doing nothing but hiking in this beautiful park.  The Bear Cave trail is only an additional half mile each way. 

At the bottom of the canyon, there is a metal one-lane bridge over Cedar Creek.  On the other side, turn right to go upstream and to the base of Cedar Falls.  It is about a half mile down to the creek, then another half mile from the bridge to the falls.  Cedar Falls is a spectacular 95 foot waterfall, especially awesome when there is a lot of water flow as there was today.  From the end of the trail, you can climb up and around the rocks on the north side of the creek to get to the base of the waterfall.

We relaxed at the waterfall for a while, just soaking up the natural beauty of the place.  As we headed back downstream, we paused at some cascades we had passed on the way in.  This little side creek falls steeply down the north canyon wall, making a series of waterfalls and cascades as it tumbles down.  At least when it's wet like this, anyway.  In the dryer months this creek will be dry, but it was really pretty today.  

Cascades between bridge and Cedar Falls
We decided to hike down to the Blue Hole area, and additional one mile each way from where this trail branches off at the bridge.  The trail follows Cedar Creek downstream to where it intersects another trail they call the Boy Scout Trail.  I'm still not sure exactly what the Blue Hole is, but I think they are just referring to the pool at that point in Cedar Creek.  So the 'Blue Hole' may not be much to look at, but the hike is still nice, going right next to the creek.  Today there were several areas with rapids and cascades going strong.

Cedar Falls - with Heather and Boomer
All in all, a great day of hiking and a great day to catch the falls at their best and most powerful.  Most of the venues we hike in are fairly isolated, and we rarely ever see another human being while out hiking.  The Cedar Falls trail is definitely not like that.  Even though it was a weekday, there were a lot of other folks on the trail.  This is a must see trail if you do any hiking in Arkansas, and obviously a lot of folks have read that memo.  While I do like some solitude while out in the wilderness, this is also good.  The kind of people that get out and hike in areas like this are going to be some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

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