Thursday, January 31, 2008


Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park Ark.

I arrived at Mather Lodge, in Petit Jean State Park, in the pitch black of night, and had no idea of the vista that would greet me the next morning. Upon exiting the lodge I realized it was situated on the lip of a cliff overlooking a ‘T’ shaped valley. The panoramic view was awe-inspiring as the morning sun, cutting through the cloud cover, cast shadows over the cliffs onto the valley below.

The temperature was cool, 43-degrees, and the skies were overcast. A little more sunshine and the conditions would be ideal for hiking. Cedar Falls, the parks primary attraction, was to be my objective.

Leaving the lodge the trail to the falls drops abruptly over a series of switchbacks, as you descend the canyon wall to the river bottom. After crossing a narrow pedestrian bridge, that spans Cedar Creek, the trail parallels the rolling stream for a ways before reaching the waterfall.

You hear the falls well before they come into sight. The steady roar of the rushing water grows until you round a rock formation and there sits the 95-foot Cedar Falls.

The falls form a bowl shaped canyon, with sheer walls of several hundred feet, that is better appreciated from one of the overlooks situated at the top of the falls. These overlooks are reachable via numerous other trail systems at the park.

Boulders in the steam allow you to maneuver out into the water and get great angles on the cascading water shooting over the spill well.

Backtracking down the riverbank, I passed the little bridge and continued west along Cedar Creek. The trail on the canyon floor is flat and makes for easy hiking, allowing you to enjoy the surrounding beauty without worrying where you are placing your feet. About 2-miles down the trail the creek widens and becomes calm at a spot named Blue Hole. Here stepping-stones have been positioned, bridging the stream.

A steep climb out of the river bottom brings you back to the summit of the ridge, and Hwy 154. I crossed the highway and followed the trail through landscape dotted with striated sandstone boulders, cliffs, and a new growth forest. That area is recovering from a recent fire and the cedar saplings stand 8 to 9-feet tall at most. Here the rock surfaces are perfect for some low risk free climbing.

Crossing Hwy 154 again, I entered an area called Bear Cave, which is a complex of large sandstone boulders maybe 30-feet high, that have been chiseled by wind and water into many unique shapes. Here again, the area makes for some fun climbing through crevices, cracks, and chimneys, to get onto outcroppings and the top of the rocks. From Bear Cave there is a superb vista of the rear of Mather Lodge across the valley.

A short hike down a winding trail brought be back to the lodge in time for a late lunch. Estimate 6 ½ miles in 3-hours.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?