I have said it once and I will keep screaming it from all the mountain tops, Arkansas is the one of the most underrated states. The vibes and the views are perfect for any elopement. It is also a central state and close to us Okies who don’t have a lot of hiking or outdoor opportunities. Arkansas has it all: from backroad trails, to hikes, magestic waterfalls, amazing caverns, etc. Petit Jean State Park is by far one of my favorite locations. Now let me tell you why.
Best Time to Visit
The ideal time to visit for the perfect backdrop is mid October – mid November. This will get the fall foliage and hopefully the waterfall will be flowing more so than other months of the year.
Oklahoma and Arkansas summers are HOT, so plan accordingly if you want a summer wedding. Sweat will be happening on hikes which could make changing hard but we have done a summer elopement and we made it! And the photos were beautiful.
Arkansas winters get cold and the leaves will begin to fall off. There is also risk of ice, particularly in the earlier months of the year (January and February).
Spring is beautiful and the streams and waterfalls should be flowing. Spring is hard to judge because it could still be cold, it could be very rainy, or it could be hot.
This is an ideal spot for a ceremony, especially if you get that fall foliage as a backdrop. Keep in mind if shooting at this spot during the summer there is no barrier to the sun. So sunrise or sunset would be ideal. Cloudy days, obviously but you can’t plan for those. Every time we have shot there, there has been minimal people and they will usually continue driving/come back at a later time if they see a ceremony going on.
Cedar Falls Trail
This is ideal for an intimate vow ceremony, especially if the waterfall is flowing because it helps create more privacy. If you want a waterfall backdrop, I recommend going during wetter seasons. Also be prepared if you do go and it is not flowing. We have seen it flowing really well in November, mediocre in summer, and not at all at the beginning of October. So, it can be hard to predict.
The hike itself is two miles roundtrip and considered moderate. It has a clear path but is rocky with some declines, inclines, and switchbacks. We have hiked it with beginning hikers and once with a bride in a dress (shorter for the hike). So, IT IS doable.
This is a good location because the “cave” portion is at the beginning of the trail to the right. If you continue around the loop you will find a “mini slot canyon”, as I would call it. It makes for some majestic photos. It could be used as a vow reading or just for some badass photos to add to your wedding album.
Seven Hollows Trailhead
We have not personally done this for an elopement, but it is an option. It is marked moderate and is a 4.3 mile loop. There are some neat little “caves” and an arch that could make for some good photos! We have hiked it ourselves and enjoyed it! It just depends on what you have time for on your day and what backdrop you are looking for.
Rock House Cave
This is one of the largest bluff shelters in the state. Rock Cave was used for shelter and contains pictographs still visible inside the cave today. The cave is considered an archeological historical site and is heavily monitored to prevent destruction. The trail to reach the cave is about a quarter mile and crosses over “turtle rocks”.
This could potentially be a ceremony location but again it depends on time, amount of people, and what the bride and groom are wanting for their day. Our couples have mainly stuck with the overlooks, bear cave, and waterfall.
Cedar Falls Overlook – paved, railing, and often crowded. This would not be somewhere I recommend for photos but definitely a view to see!
Stouts Overlook – again not something I would recommend for a ceremony but neat to visit and also could make for some cool photos! It is the gravesite of Petit Jean and also has some old ruins of a former building. The stone still stands with some doorways which could make for some unique bride and groom portraits.
Overlook behind Mather’s Lodge – this could potentially be a ceremony spot with your reception at the lodge. It is also the trail head to Cedar Falls. The overlooks show offs the rolls hills of Arkansas. Another idea is to snag some sunset photos here after you finish your hike from Cedar Falls.
You do not currently need a permit to photograph or have an elopement in Petit Jean State Park.
If you are from out of state, your officiant will need to register in the State of Arkansas to receive a chapter and page number. They will do this by showing their marriage officiant license to county clerk’s office. It can be any county clerk within the state of Arkansas. They will need to do this the day before (they could possibly do it day of) your ceremony. Remember this for scheduling/timeline. That goes for returning your marriage license too. If you get married on Saturday and you are from out of state, you will need to stay until Monday to turn your license in.
What to Wear
What to wear depends on what you are planning to do while in Petit Jean. The good thing is that most hikes, you are able to carry a bag with an additional outfit, wedding gear, etc. There are plenty of little nooks to change in and bathrooms at the head of the trails that you can change in. I would recommend a hiking outfit and your “ceremony” attire. I would also recommend a change of clothes if you plan on walking behind the water fall, because you are likely to get wet. Think about this too when hiking bag up, maybe bring a wet bag.
My favorite hiking dress is from Wear Your Love Wedding Dresses.
We have also had multiple brides purchase hiking dresses from Etsy.
For some ideas on hiking bags, wedding bags, etc. visit our amazon shop at:
Museum of Automobiles
Lake Bailey – fishing, kayaking, and paddle boats
Tent – 125 campsites for traditional camping that should be booked in advance
Camper – RV sites and hookups available
Cabins – 33 cabins
Yurts – yurts can sleep up to 6 people
Mather Lodge – 24 rooms
There are also plenty of Airbnbs near by! We had one of our couples stay at the cutest A-Frame cabin.
The most popular place to eat is Mather Lodge Restaurant. This restaurant not only has good food but also an amazing overlook. It would be a good spot to have a celebratory dinner or reception. We have also had couples have their ceremony first thing in the morning and then a celebratory breakfast/brunch at the lodge.
For a coffee/breakfast items, Petit Jean Coffee House is the place. Cute little A-Frame building that serves coffee, some breakfast items, bagged lunches, and mercantile. I mean, come on! You can’t beat it.
For other options, Morrilton is about 25 minutes away and has a handful of restaurants with some being local and some chain.
For more recommendations on where to elope in Arkansas, read our blog “Arkansas Elopement Guide“.