Any day spent in the Petit Jean State Park, the first state park established in Arkansas, will be special. The park is the site of many Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) buildings from the 1920s and 1930s, offers several options for lodging, and has numerous trails for you and your pup to enjoy. The most scenic and memorable is the Cedar Falls Trail. This short out-and-back trail is only two miles round-trip, giving you time to hike other trails if you want to spend an entire day at the park. It's worth it, though, to come here just for this hike. You could easily pass a day splashing in the creek and relaxing by the falls.
Even before you start your hike, you're treated to a gorgeous view of the bluffs beyond the trailhead. The trail immediately descends along steps built by the CCC that some locals have nicknamed the "Stairway to Heaven." A packed dirt trail under deep forest cover runs parallel to the creek and passes by many interesting boulders and rock formations, eventually bringing you to the 90-foot-high Cedar Falls. This majestic waterfall gushes from a chiseled rock face into a circular pool below. There are shady grottoes where you can explore behind and under the waterfall.
Cedar Falls is popular, and you're likely to encounter many other hikers and their dogs along the way. Many people like to bring picnic lunches and swim in the pool under the falls. For this reason, it's a favorite summer spot, though it's equally beautiful in the fall when the trees are ablaze with color.
The trailhead is very close to the Mather Lodge, a unique hotel within the park. There's an on-site restaurant, and dog-friendly rooms are available. The majestic stone-and-timber building offers unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains and is a great place to end a day spent hiking. After enjoying a hearty Southern meal (don't miss the cornbread!), you're sure to let out a contented sigh as you curl up against your dog's soft fur and settle in for a night of dreaming about a beautiful waterfall.