As the oldest state park in the Arkansas park system, Petit Jean State Park is full of both historical and natural significance. Don't let the name fool you -- Petit Jean State Park is anything but small, with over 3,000 acres of mountainside, lakes, streams, and hearty forests to explore after you've parked the rig and set up camp.
Some of the area's first explorers were prehistoric Native American tribes. Since then, the park has seen many a passerby, as it was once a part of the famous Trail of Tears -- components of the trail still exists in the park to this day. Eventually, the land was used for many purposes, including a farm, a hotel, a YMCA, and finally, the state park we know today. With the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Petit Jean State Park first opened its gates to guests in the mid-1930s and has been a favorite spot for outdoor recreation and relaxation since.
The man-made Lake Baily is a favorite summer hangout, and the boathouse offers snacks, a game room, and boat rentals during the peak season. Anglers can enjoy the barrier-free fishing pier, and if you've got the whole family along on this RV vacation, the kids will love the on-site swimming pools and playgrounds. A large network of trails traverse the park and will lead you to towering bluffs, magnificent waterfalls, and secret cave systems.
Once you visit Petit Jean State Park, you'll want to stay awhile. The park has over 100 RV- and trailer-friendly sites, along with dozens of cabins, a lodge, a group camping area, and even a few yurts. No matter where you rest your head at night, you'll be glad you chose to stay at Petit Jean State Park.
Located in northwest Arkansas in the foothills of the stunning Petit Jean Mountain, Petit Jean State Park is surrounded by unspoiled nature without being too far from civilization. Nature lovers could spend weeks in this corner of Arkansas, as the park is situated between two massive national forests -- the Ozark National Forest and the Ouachita National Forest. Big city slickers won't have to journey far to make a day visit or enjoy a weekend camping trip, as the park is located just an hour from the state capital, Little Rock.
I-40 runs near the park, so even big rigs can navigate the mountainous landscape with ease. The park has several entrances, but those with RVs and trailers should enter from the east side of the park via Petit Jean Mountain Road to access the campgrounds and Visitor Center with ease. Once inside the park, wide, paved roads will take you anywhere you need to go, including trailheads, Lake Bailey, the Visitor Center, or the campgrounds.
Parking lots and overflow parking are plentiful and can be found near the lake, group camping area, and certain trailheads and overlooks.
RVers love Petit Jean State Campground, and with over 100 sites available, its no wonder why. The campground consists of four different areas. Area A is situated on the bank of Bailey Lake and offers campers scenic views along with full hookups, a fire ring, a picnic table, and a lantern hook. Nearby amenities include a dump station and a bathhouse with hot showers.
The remaining sites are located across the road and offer guests water and electric hookups, a fire ring, a picnic table, and a lantern hook. Nearby facilities include a bathhouse with hot showers and a dump station. Site lengths vary with the maximum allowance being 55 feet, so be sure to check the details before booking your site. Pets are allowed so long as they are kept leashed. Reservations are recommended and can be made up to a year in advance.
If you're camping with a large group, Petit Jean State Park offers a group camping area. The campground allows for tents only and is equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, charcoal grills, lantern posts, and a heated bathhouse. The area is heavily wooded, providing plenty of shade for campers. The campground is open year-round and can be reserved for up to a year in advance.
For the glampers in the group, Petit Jean State Park offers the perfect accommodation. Yurt camping is the ideal combination of tent camping and cabin dwelling. A yurt is a large, round structure, originally used by nomadic groups of days past. Today, the park's yurts offer guests a chance to reconnect with nature without leaving behind their creature comforts. The yurts can sleep up to six people, and are equipped with electricity, screened windows, and a door that locks. Inside the yurt, guests will find all the supplies they need for a successful camping trip, including cots, a camp stove, a lantern, and an ice chest. The yurts are available from March to November, and reservations are available up to a year in advance.
If you prefer the ritz over the rugged, then consider booking a room in the Mather Lodge. Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Mather Lodge has been a part of Petit Jean State Park since its beginnings. The lodge has been modernized and updated over the years and is complete with 24 rooms, a swimming pool, an on-site restaurant, a gift shop, and a conference room. You'll also be treated to stunning views of the Arkansas River Valley. The Mather Lodge is open year-round, and reservations can be made up to a year in advance.
If you're looking to get out of the motorhome for a night or two during your stay at Petit Jean State Park, consider renting one of the park's cabins. Twenty-one cabins are sprinkled throughout the wooded area near the Mather Lodge and range in size and amenities. There are nine rustic cabins, ten duplex cabins, and two honeymoon cabins available. Each cabin includes basic comforts like fully equipped kitchens, televisions, seasonal fireplaces, and centralized heat and air. Some cabins are even pet-friendly and ADA-compliant. Cabin guests can also enjoy access to the Mather Lodge swimming pool. The cabins are available year-round and reservations can be made up to a year in advance.
During the warm summer months, the 100-acre Bailey Lake becomes a popular outdoor recreation area. The boathouse is open seasonally and includes a game room, a snack bar, and boat rentals. Those looking to spend a day on the water can rent canoes, kayaks, fishing boats, pedal boats, or water bikes. If you decide to tow your own watercraft behind the Sprinter, note that the lake has a ten horsepower motor limit. Additional parking lots and restrooms can be found near the boathouse.
An RV trip to Petit Jean State Park would not be complete without a stop at the Visitor Center. The whole family will find something of interest inside, from Arkansas state souvenirs to books about the park, and of course camping supplies. The Visitor Center is also a great place to learn more about the history, geology, and natural resources of the park at the exhibits located inside. Park rangers also offer guided hikes, nature talks, and various workshops throughout the summer months. Located near the park entrance, the Visitor Center is a short walk away from the campground.
Summer temperatures in northern Arkansas can reach up to 90 degrees. Luckily, there is a swimming pool inside of Petit Jean State Park, so don't forget to pack the bathing suit along in the Class A. The pool is located just south of Lake Bailey and is a great place to spend a hot summer afternoon. If you get tired of splashing around in the pool, there is also a playground, ball field, tennis courts, and a picnicking area located nearby.
There's no better way to enjoy the great outdoors than by having a picnic. There are many places throughout the park where you can enjoy an outdoor meal. Two picnic pavilions are located along the shores of Lake Roosevelt and can be reserved in advance if you are planning a large event or party with family and friends. These pavilions include a shelter for the tables, grills, water, and restrooms located nearby. Non-sheltered picnic tables can also be found near the swimming pool and at each campsite.
The eight trails that carve their way through the park covering over 20 miles are perhaps the main draw for guests visiting Petit Jean State Park, so don't forget to pack your hiking boots along in the motorhome. Each trail will lead you through unique landscapes and range in length and difficulty. The most frequented trail in the park is the Cedar Falls Trail. This two-mile trail is also the most difficult in the park system and will take around two hours to complete. Besides providing a heart-pounding workout, this trail also offers incredible views of Cedar Falls, a 90-foot waterfall that is known as one of Arkansas's most stunning vistas. For an easier treck, check out the Canyon Trail. You'll see lots of smaller falls, large boulders, and impressive sycamore and pine trees along the path.
As you explore the hiking trails, you may encounter some very old caves. Well, they're not true caves, but impressive rock shelters that date way back. Rock House Cave can be found at the end of its easy namesake trail. This shelter is known for the pictographs on the ceiling towards the back of the cave left by tribes that once called this area home. The Bear Cave is another misnomer but offers all the adventure of a true cave. Gigantic rocks have carved out a passageway that visitors can explore, along with sandstone monoliths created centuries ago by the elements.
Lake Bailey is known for more than just boating. Anglers can also take advantage of this 100-acre man-made lake, either from the ADA-accessible barrier-free fishing pier or on the water itself via boat. If you didn't tow your own boat behind the campervan, head to the boathouse to rent one for the day. Common catches from Lake Bailey include bluegills and redear sunfish. The smaller Lake Roosevelt also provides some good fishing opportunities inside the park, with channel catfish, largemouth bass, and crappie being especially copious.
For a unique perspective of Petit Jean State Park, consider putting the camper in drive and heading out for a scenic drive. Located inside of the park, the Red Bluff Drive showcases some of the park's main attractions, from Civilian Conservation Corps structures to scenic overlooks. If you're maneuvering a large vehicle, the drive may be a bit daunting due to the gravel road and some twists and inclines, but if you take it slow, you should have no problem completing the tour. Before setting out on your scenic drive, head to the Visitor Center for a brochure about all the stops along the way.