Well, despite a warm day, the family decided to embark on our first family hiking trip. We thought we’d go some place that was close and would have trails easy enough for our little girl to traverse. After a short drive up to Morrilton, we entered into Petit Jean State Park. We decided to make our first stop the overlook and grave site of Petit Jean herself. This place has breathtaking views out over the Arkansas River. There is a nice boardwalk and a few places where you can scurry out on the large boulders to take some beautiful photographs. Don’t miss the opportunity to read the legend of Petit Jean and see the grave site where she is believe to be buried. There were no restrooms here, so we didn’t stay long.
Next, we decided to pass up the Automobile History Museum this trip, and he headed to the visitor’s center in order to get information on the various trails. We needed the restroom break. I decided to purchase a walking stick. I mean, come on, I have to look like a seasoned hiker, right? The visitor center was nice and had a lot of information to peruse, but the family was eager to hit the trails. Since we only had the afternoon left, we decided to do two of the shorter trails; however, we made our next stop an overlook of Cedar Falls. We really plan to do this trail on our next visit, but given our time, we cheated and went to the overlook to spend a few minutes viewing it. The Falls are actually rain fed, so I’d imagine Spring and Fall to be the best viewing times here in Arkansas, although, due to some recent rain, the Falls did provide a small waterfall. Despite it being an overlook geared for Cedar Falls, the viewing here isn’t that grand. While one can see the bluffs surrounding the hollow, the trees in the summer block a good portion of the view of the Falls.
As I mentioned, we only spent a brief time at the Falls. We headed as quickly as we could to Bear Cave Trail. This trail is rated Easy, and it was designated to take approximately one half hour to complete. While the trail was indeed easy, be careful. Our kids wanted to increase the difficulty by climbing some huge boulders. While they were easy enough for the whole family to climb, getting down can prove to be a little trickier with extremely young ones. Still, the view is amazing from the top, so I do recommend scaling a few. Also, some of the rocks are positioned to facilitate traversing the grade. Be careful here, too, with small ones, as my little girl went splat when she decided to pick up her pace to catch one of her older brothers. As the name implies, there were some wonderful small “caves” for us to sit in for some excellent photo opps. I really liked the fact that the temperature seemed to drop about 10 degrees inside of them. Don’t get me wrong: While the mere thought of a bear being inside one never crossed my mind, I kept a sharp eye out for spiders and scorpions. Never saw either. There were plenty of webs, but I don’t recall seeing a single spider here.
After a brief picnic lunch at the tables down by Lake Bailey, we decided to complete one more trail. We headed over to Rock House Cave Trail. This one, too, was rated Easy and another one half hour course; however, to get here you will spend a little time off pavement driving down a good old fashioned southern gravel/dirt road. When we arrived, the first part of the trail opens wide into a flat rocky area, and to the left there are some really neat “Turtle Rocks” to scamper around on and view; however, the Rock House Cave is the main event of this trail. Take some time here to explore the rock shelter, as you can see some ancient pictographs left by the Native Americans hundreds of years ago. Our kids enjoyed this trail, but I really believe the preferred Bear Creek Trail over it.
In closing, we had eaten up the better part of the afternoon, and clouds along with sunset were telling us it was time to end the lovely day. As we were leaving, we wanted to see an area known as Tanyard Springs, which has cabins for rent. While I hear these cabins are very nice, there are other cabins that might be more affordable in addition to plenty of tent and RV camping areas should you decide to stay more than a day in the state park. There is also a swimming pool for folks camping as well as a playground, volleyball, basketball, and paddle boat rentals to keep the kids active. Oh, I almost, forgot! During various times, the kids and/or family can meet up with park rangers for various scheduled activities. While I would have loved to spend some time learning touching the various fur pelts, the kids begged us to stop and play in the softball game. We would have loved to, but it was 20 minutes into the game, and we really needed to head on back. On our way out, we did see a cottontail rabbit and a few deer. All-in-all, it was a beautiful weekend getaway, very cost effective mini-vacation, and my kids are already begging to return. You can’t really beat that can you.
Here’s the video slideshow of our trip. Enjoy!
Don Meyer, Winner of Jimmy V Award 2009
A great testimony from a coach that should inspire all of us!