In normal times, "go take a hike" can be a snarky way to end a quarrel. With the coronavirus peril having shut down so many activities and attractions, it's now a smart suggestion for a fret-free getaway to herald spring's arrival.
Two-thirds of Arkansas' 52 state parks offer marked hiking trails, varying from short and level to long and rugged. They provide fresh-air settings to savor nature in privacy or with the trusted company of family and friends. Some parks also allow bicycling, another noncontact pleasure.
The Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism has posted this notice: "Our parks remain free to enter and enjoy. Park visitor centers will only be accessible for camping/lodging check-in and trail access. ... One of the benefits of the outdoors is the opportunity to find solitude and relaxation while hiking, running, paddling, biking, fishing, boating or wildlife watching."
Eight trails of widely ranging difficulty can be explored at Pinnacle Mountain State Park, located in Little Rock's backyard 20 miles or so west of our state capital's downtown.
The two most challenging Pinnacle routes take hikers to the summit, 1,011 feet above sea level. West Summit Trail is the easier of the two paths, both measuring three-quarters of a mile to the top. It is divided into 10 equal sections designated by metal markers. The more rugged East Summit Trail crosses several boulder fields. It's highly advisable to take along drinking water for either climb.
As easy as the summit trails are rigorous, the half-mile Kingfisher Trail "is paved and is excellent for baby strollers, guests with mobility limitations and for exercise walking." Starting from the West Summit's picnic area, it passes by huge bald cypress trees along the Little Maumelle River.
There's an educational twist to one of Pinnacle Mountain's other five routes. The Arkansas Trail extends three-quarters of a mostly flat mile through the park's 80-acre Arkansas Arboretum aimed at helping visitors understand and value the variety of the state's trees and forests.
Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, 20 miles southeast of Little Rock, maintains only two trails. Both are as flat as the park itself, nestled next to Mound Lake.
The paved Knapp Trail measures eight-tenths of a mile past the park's three surviving prehistoric mounds and along the oxbow lake. The turf Plum Bayou Trail extends 1.6 miles for further exploration of the prehistoric site. Signs along the way tell about the so-called Plum Bayou people who lived here from about A.D. 650 to 1050.
Recently opened at Woolly Hollow State Park, 55 miles north of Little Rock, is Enders Fault Mountain Bike Trail. Its 9 miles feature views of 40-acre Lake Bennett and crossings of creeks. Hikers can circle the lake on 3.5-mile Huckleberry Nature Trail, branching off on a half-mile path leading to Woolly Cabin, dating back to 1882.
Petit Jean State Park, the oldest in Arkansas and one of the most visited, boasts more than 20 miles of hiking trails. They lead to such sights as Cedar Falls, Seven Hollows, Rock House Cave and Bear Cave. Visitors to the mountain-top park, 65 miles northwest of Little Rock, can also view the mythical site of the legendary maiden Petit Jean's grave.
A recent New York Times story noted that hiking or biking "can provide a sense of solace and calm during anxious times." With solace and calm now much in demand, state-park trails qualify as a no-cost form of therapy.
For more information on trails, or to check that a park remains open, visit arkansasstateparks.com.
Style on 03/24/2020
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