Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas is among my favorite state parks we have experienced to date. Located in the Ouachita mountains, south of I-40 near Conway, Petit Jean (pronounced “Petty Jean” by locals) is a sprawling expanse of goodness consisting of great campgrounds, endless hiking trails and unforgettable scenery.
We camped at Petit Jean last January at the tail end of our Christmas/New Year’s road trip that spanned four states (see related blog post here and our video below). Here are our impressions:
- Lush well kept landscape. Hilly and green, thick with forest and a beautiful lake.
- Plentiful hiking trails made challenging by elevation change and distance.
- Perfect pull through campsites with full hook-ups. We arrived after dark and had no problem setting up.
- Fairly accurate trail maps. Well marked trails.
- Park roads are scaled for larger rigs so entry and exit is easy.
- Well, there is no way to change the park’s geography but the drive up and down the mountain to the state park made Tempo very nervous! I loved it!
- Again, no way to change this but add three miles to every hike (unless you have a TOAD – I have a mountain bike but Tempo does not so…) because our campsite was 1.5 miles from the closest trail head. So you’d better have your hiking legs acclimated.
- While these mountains are not the Rockies, the elevation change can be challenging for the novice hiker. Some of the trails are steep with loose rocks and dirt. I did go down once, but, luckily I was not injured. Do your ankles and feet a favor by wearing good hiking. I had surgery last year for a torn ligament so I also wear a lace up ankle brace.
- This part of Arkansas gets very cold in the winter. The temperature got down into the mid 20’s while we were there so have your rig prepared. We used small space heaters in our water manifold bin and our tanks have heaters. To preserve propane we used a small space heater inside which kept us comfortable while we slept.
We LOVE the state parks in Arkansas and this is one of the best. The weather can be tricky here at any time of the year so keep a close eye on that as well as for road closings due to flooding.
We will be back!
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