Petit Jean State Park is a hiker’s playground. You can hike to the bottom of the largest waterfall in Arkansas, Cedar Falls, or take another trail to view it from above. On the Bear Creek Trail you can tunnel through boulders or climb to the top of them. But one beautiful trail you can hike to experience this park’s unique terrain is the Seven Hollows Trail.
Read more about Petit Jean State Park here.
The Seven Hollows Trail is a 4.5-mile hike that takes you through four hollows, or valleys. The other three hollows are on private property. It is really an interesting area. As you hike in the hollows it is like being in a canyon because the valleys are enclosed by rock walls.
The trailhead is about one mile west of Mather Lodge on Highway 154. The trail is a loop so you begin and end at the trailhead. The park labels the trail as moderate to strenuous, and it is marked with light blue blazes.
In edition to the hollows, there are several unique geological formations along the trail. These include caves, a natural bridge, and the Grotto, a interesting cave and waterfall.
Trailhead to Natural Bridge
Once you begin the trail you will soon come to a fork. This is where the trail splits for the loop. It doesn’t matter which way you hike it. There is a sign that directs hikers to the left for the Natural Bridge and the Grotto. Every time I hike the trail, I tend to follow the sign and go to the left. However either direction will get you there. Each half mile is marked for hikers in both directions.
A fire swept through the area in August of 2000. You can see the evidence of the fire in the young pine trees that cover the area.
As you hike on top of the hollows you walk along rock glades. I love the openness of rock glades as well as the vegetation that grows in these areas. I love seeing the green mosses coating black rocks with yellow grasses feathering throughout.
As you drop down into the first hollow the sandstone bluffs rise above you. There are a few cool caves you can explore, so you keep your eye open for them.
Shortly after your first mile, you come to the Natural Bridge. There is a sign to mark it. If you are heading the same direction that I did, you will need to pay attention. Once you see the sign to your right, turn and look behind you to your left.
Under the bridge is a great area to have a picnic. Continue walking through the bridge for the best view of it.
Natural Bridge to the Grotto
After you explore the Natural Bridge, you continue hiking south through the first hollow. Some parts of the trail take you through narrow passes of large boulders. I found this to be pretty cool.
In the hollow the trail follows a small stream. At some point the stream cuts right up against and into the large rock walls that make the hollow.
The trail makes a 180 degree turn back to the north. It’s a little steep here and you scurry up back to the top of the hollow. But the view is amazing. I love looking down into the hollow from above. You can also see the cliff on the other side. It’s a very cool perspective.
You’ll hike along the top of the hollow for a little before you drop down into the second hollow. At the bottom there is a sign at a spur trail showing you the way to the Grotto.
The spur trail to the Grotto is a little tricky because you have to climb over a few boulders. If you are up for the trek it is really worth it. I love hiking through this narrow valley.
The Grotto is pretty amazing too. It is a great illustration of the power water can have on rock. A small stream trickling over the rock has hollowed out a cave-like area. The water pools at the bottom but slowly makes it’s way down stream and out of the hollow.
This area would also be a great picnic spot.
After you explored the Grotto, you follow the spur trail back to the main trail.
The Grotto to the trailhead
Immediately after you get back to the Seven Hollows Trail, you climb up rocks (which can be slick in wet weather) to the top of the hollow.
This section of trail takes you through the pine forest again for a little bit. And then you drop back down into the third hollow. But the trail does not stay in this hollow long, and you soon climb back out of it.
You hike across the ridge for a little ways and then kind of skirt along the slope. At one point the trail crosses over another natural bridge, although not as big and impressive as the first. However, I think it’s impressive because it looks like it was put there when they built the trail.
The trail then drops into the fourth and final hollow. This hollow is similar to the first one – a narrow, canyon-like valley.
Not too far after the trail intersection with the Boy Scouts Trail, the Seven Hollows Trail turns and heads east back to the trailhead.
Seven Hollows Trail
Most people think of Cedar Falls when they think of Petit Jean State Park. But I have always loved the Seven Hollows Trail. The entire area is really neat in that it is full of boulders and valleys. This trail showcases some of the unique geology of the area.
- 4.5-mile loop
- Elevation gain 520 feet
- No backcountry is camping allowed