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story.lead_photo.caption During Green Friday at Pinnacle Mountain and other state parks, visitors can walk on their own as well as join guided hikes.

Instead of shopping till you drop on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism is touting its Green Friday program as a less frenetic option. It does figure to be a less expensive one.

At least 20 state parks have free special events on their Friday outdoor schedules. A spokesman notes that all 52 parks will be open. Park interpreters will offer "guided hikes, lake tours and nature activities. Or, if your family prefers a looser schedule, we simply encourage you to come out and play, hike, fish, bird, geocache, bike -- and relax -- together."

The virtue of joining a guided hike is the chance to expand your knowledge of the natural world via the expertise of a park expert. On the other hand, hiking without an escort leaves you and your companions free to go at whatever pace is comfortable -- and whenever you feel like starting or finishing.

Many state parks offer free brochures at their visitor center, mapping out trails while describing their attractions and degree of difficulty. Pinnacle Mountain, the closest state park to Little Rock and practically a western suburb, has a dozen marked trails ranging from easy to strenuous, with trailheads at several locations. Here are some of the choices, with descriptions from the brochure:

West Summit Trail. The easier of the two .75-mile paths to the top of Pinnacle Mountain (1,011 feet above sea level), this climb from the West Summit's picnic area is divided into 10 equal sections designated by metal trail markers. Hikers are recommended to allow about 45 minutes each for the trip up and the downward return.

East Summit Trail. This route from the East Summit's parking lot "is the more rugged .75-mile ascent to the summit of Pinnacle Mountain and requires crossing several boulder fields." Depending on weather, hikers should plan as much as two hours for the round trip. As with the West Summit Trail, it's smart to take along drinking water, especially in warmer weather.

Kingfisher Trail. As easy as the summit trails are challenging, "this gentle .5-mile, 30-minute loop is paved and is excellent for baby strollers, guests with mobility limitations and for exercise walking." The walk from the West Summit's picnic area is highlighted by huge bald cypress trees along the banks of the Little Maumelle River.

Base Trail. This 3-mile trail from the West Summit's picnic area circles the base of the mountain and connects the trailheads of the two summit routes. It is fairly level, but with several moderate slopes. While enjoying views of the Little Maumelle River, hikers will pass a variety of plant communities and have a good chance of seeing wildlife.

Scenic Overlook. A 225-foot walk from the Visitor Center parking lot ascends a flight of stairs for scenic vistas of the Arkansas River Valley and Lake Maumelle. In the fall, this is a good location to spot migrating hawks.

The Arkansas Trail. Extending three-quarters of a mile on mostly flat terrain off Pinnacle Valley Road, this trail runs through the park's 80-acre Arkansas Arboretum. The path "is dedicated to helping students, visitors and Arkansas citizens understand the variety and many values" of the state's trees and forests.

Pinnacle Mountain and most other park visitor centers sell souvenirs and gifts. Given Black Friday's focus on buying, it figures that shopping would be touted in some Parks & Tourism material about Green Friday, as in this pitch from Davidsonville Historic State Park:

"Why go to the big box stores when you can take a hike and get discounted prices on amazing items in the park store. State Park apparel? Got it! Locally crafted items? Got those too! Special door prizes available for the first 10 park visitors who make purchases at the park store." Just bring along your greenbacks.

For information on Green Friday events and other activities at state parks, visit Admission to state parks is generally free.

Weekend on 11/23/2017

Print Headline: Green Friday an alternative to shopping frenzy

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