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HIKE SEVEN HOLLOWS TRAIL TO THE NATURAL BRIDGE IN PETIT JEAN STATE PARK
Hike part of Seven Hollows Trail to the Natural Bridge at Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas. A moderate hike with caves, rocks, and beautiful scenery.
On a recent trip camping at Petit Jean State Park, we hiked several trails, including Cedar Falls Trail, Bear Cave Trail, and part of Seven Hollows Trail. While we didn’t have time to hike the entire trail, we had just enough time to hike to the Natural Bridge.
And what a wondrous hike it was! I think Seven Hollows won our hearts and became our favorite trail in all of Petit Jean State Park.
We fell in love with it because it was such a quiet, peaceful trail without crowds of people. We even had the Natural Bridge all to ourselves.
It was a really beautiful trail. The trees were gorgeous as they were starting to lighten up for fall; and the rock formations, caves, and bubbling stream were just spectacular.
If I had one day to spend in Petit Jean, I’d spend it on Seven Hollows Trail; that’s how much I loved this trail.
HOW TO GET TO SEVEN HOLLOWS TRAIL IN PETIT JEAN STATE PARK
Petit Jean State Park is close to both Morrilton, Arkansas, and Dardanelle, Arkansas, pretty much in the heart of the Natural State.
Seven Hollows Trail is just past Bear Cave on Highway 154, the main route that runs through Petit Jean Mountain.
A parking lot provides ample parking, as well as signs with information about the trail.
Walk past the signs right onto the trail, following the light blue trail markers as you make your way down the trail. You’ll also see occasional mile markers, letting you know how far you’ve gone.
WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE HIKING TO THE NATURAL BRIDGE
The Seven Hollows area is originally what inspired the creation of Petit Jean State Park as one of the Arkansas State Parks, and I can definitely see why.
As you make your way down the trail, you’ll pretty quickly come to a fork in the trail. You can choose to go left toward the Natural Bridge, or you can go right toward the Grotto.
We chose to go left, since we only had time to go to the Natural Bridge this trip; though we plan to go back and hike the entire trail in the near future.
FEATURES OF SEVEN HOLLOWS TRAIL TO THE NATURAL BRIDGE
The trek to the Natural Bridge is close to 1 1/2 miles, making it right around 3 miles roundtrip. If you hike the entire Seven Hollows Trail, it’s about a 4 1/2 mile loop and takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.
There are sections of the trail where you’re making a slight descent and other parts where you’re climbing back up. The trail has a lot of rocks and tree roots, signature features of many an Arkansas hiking trail.
Don’t just rush to the Natural Bridge, because there is so much to see as you saunter along through the forest.
Trees with canopies of leaves overhead, massive boulders and sandstone bluffs, the stream… Give this trail the time and attention it deserves all along the way; drink it all in.
We followed the stream, crossing it here and there, all the way through the first hollow. We could hear it bubbling and flowing as we stopped to admire sandstone bluffs and take in scenic views of the forest.
The boys couldn’t resist walking up the trails to a cave or two, stepping just inside to let out an echoing call.
At one point, we passed a tree that had seemingly grown into a boulder that looked as if it’d come to rest on the tree. The tree had a huge knot that had grown into the side of the rock.
DON’T MISS THE NATURAL BRIDGE
We didn’t even know we were at the Natural Bridge until we actually rounded the corner and saw the sign that pointed up to our left. We thought what we were seeing was just a huge tower of rocks.
Then we rounded the corner, saw the sign, and looked up to our left. And there it was…
The Natural Bridge is quite the majestic sight. And it’s a natural stopping point for a break on the trail, as well as a beautiful photo opp.
Sit a spell and just take it all in; maybe grab a little fuel for the hike back up the trail.
You can hear the creek flowing below as you climb up and around the huge rock formation. Just be careful; the rocks can be slick.
According to the Seven Hollows brochure, the large sandstone arch is thought to have once spanned this entire first hollow, but parts of it have worn away or collapsed. In fact, if you look down through the hollow, you can see the collapsed portions of the bridge.
Kinda the way I felt while hiking Hawksbill Crag, I didn’t really want to leave such a peaceful spot.
WILDLIFE YOU MAY ENCOUNTER HIKING SEVEN HOLLOWS TRAIL
Again, we didn’t see a lot of wildlife on this trail. But that doesn’t mean they’re not there.
That said, you may see a few birds and animals in Petit Jean State Park, including the following:
- Black Bears, etc.
Anytime you get out into nature, especially in the Natural State, you’re sure to see some sort of wildlife if you just take the time to look and observe.
WHAT TO PACK FOR HIKING TO THE NATURAL BRIDGE
Especially if you’re hiking with kids, you’ll want to pack a few things for your trip down Seven Hollows Trail.
- Water – Pack plenty of water for everyone to stay well hydrated.
- Backpacks with snacks and other necessary items – Snacks and water can make all the difference in fueling your body back up before heading back out onto the trail.
- Hiking Carrier – This is hands down the BEST thing we could have ever gotten for our baby/now toddler. We’ve used it so many times. Read our review of our favorite baby carrier backpack.
- Shoes – While you’ll be wearing these and not necessarily packing them, I still think it’s worth mentioning wearing the proper footwear for this hike. You need good shoes for this trail, especially with all the rocks and tree roots.
- A copy of Arkansas Hiking Trails and/or Arkansas Waterfalls by Tim Ernst, especially if you plan to hike to the Grotto. These books give you all the ins and outs of hiking trails and waterfalls in Arkansas; Arkansas Waterfalls even mentions other falls in the area you may want to see on each journey you take.
SAFETY TIPS AND THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE HIKING SEVEN HOLLOWS TO THE NATURAL BRIDGE
Seven Hollows Trail is a 4 1/2 mile loop trail; if you hike to the Natural Bridge and back, it’s between 2 1/2 to 3 miles roundtrip. While it’s not a long hike, per sé, it’s still a moderate hike, and the last part of the trail is the more strenuous part of the trail.
In fact, when we go back, we plan to hike to the Grotto first and then loop around to the Natural Bridge, mainly because we know what to expect on the uphill sections in this part of the trail.
It’s always a good idea to let someone know when and where you are going.
The trail is not accessible for wheelchairs.
There are no bathrooms and no water along the trail. Mather Lodge is just up the road and does have restrooms, along with a restaurant. Be sure to plan accordingly and pack plenty of water, so everyone will stay well hydrated.
If you happen to get turned around, look for the small light blue trail markers or paint marks here and there on trees along the trail. This trail is really well traveled, though, and pretty easy to navigate.
Watch your step and wear good shoes. Especially watch for rocks sticking up out of the ground, and watch your step as you cross muddy, rocky areas with water or climb around on boulders.
If you’re making the hike with kids, watch your kids closely because there are bluffs and steep areas on this trail. Keep little ones closer, maybe even using a hiking carrier like the one we mentioned above.
Check the weather before you head out hiking in Arkansas. Avoid hiking in thunderstorms and other inclement weather. If you decide to hike in rainy or drizzly conditions, be very careful as parts of the trail could be very slippery.
LEAVE NO TRACE
Finally, our motto: Leave no trace. Pack out what you pack in. The more you practice this, the safer and more enjoyable hiking will be for everyone, including hikers who come after you.
The hike to Natural Bridge is a gorgeous hike and totally worth every step. It’s Arkansas hiking at its best and truly a Natural State treasure you’ll never forget.