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ARKANSAS SIGHTSEEING: Park's new Monument Trails for hikers, bicyclists

by Jack Schnedler | March 16, 2021 at 1:50 a.m.
Hikers are welcome to use most Monument Trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler)

PINNACLE MOUNTAIN STATE PARK — A trademark of Pinnacle Mountain State Park, only 15 miles northwest of downtown Little Rock, is its two steep trails leading to the 1,011-foot summit. Now the popular park has opened a new Monument Trails network designed for bicyclists but also partly open to hikers and runners.

With the calendar turning to spring on Saturday, prime time is at hand for enjoying the pleasures and challenges of these 13 new trails. They complement the 10 older marked routes that help make Pinnacle Mountain a magnet for outdoor recreation.

Pinnacle Mountain is the third state park involved in the Monument Trails project, following Hobbs and Mount Nebo, with Devil's Den soon to be added. Funding comes from the Arkansas Parks and Recreation Foundation, a nonprofit entity. The Walton Family Foundation is an important contributor.

"Monument Trails are a collection of world-class, mountain biking destinations," in the enthusiastic phrasing of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. "These shared use trails are professionally crafted by some of the world's best trail builders to showcase natural iconic beauty through innovative and sustainable design and build.

"Monument Trails are seamlessly woven into the beautiful landscape of Arkansas state parks to highlight unique terrain, historic landmarks and scenic vistas. On these trails, users will connect to a sense of extraordinary place and history while building lasting memories from each visit. They will also take you to places never before accessible."

Signs at some trailheads explain Pinnacle Mountain State Park’s new Monument Trails. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler)
Signs at some trailheads explain Pinnacle Mountain State Park’s new Monument Trails. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler)

The new trails measure between one-seventh of a mile and 4.6 miles. The longest, Jackfork Trail, "has a bit of everything: fast, flowing downhills, well-built climbs, alternate lines with jumps, gaps, and drops." Its access points are at the Visitor Center parking lot or the Lower Mountain trailhead.

Across from Jackfork Trail, the 1.4-mile Dynamite Trail is described as "a mountain bike playground with various features including jumps, challenging rock sections, big views and fast flow."

Coachwhip Trail, extending 2.2 miles, "was designed as a beginner ride with a few alternate rock features and berms to help riders improve their skills. A loop is completed by crossing the road at the two trailheads and using the Lower Stick Trail to return to where you started."

Coachwhip is one of the new trails temporarily closed while work continues on trailhead parking lots. The others are Centipede, Middle Mountain Run, Armadillo Run and Carnasas.

Bicyclists are the prime audience for Pinnacle Mountain’s Monument Trails. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler)
Bicyclists are the prime audience for Pinnacle Mountain’s Monument Trails. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler)

As Pinnacle Mountain State Park expands its trails system, the two hikes to the top remain signature offerings. Spring months, before hotter weather arrives, are a welcoming time to make the ascent. It's wise to take along water, as well as a head covering on sunny days.

The less rugged West Summit Trail begins at the picnic area and playground off Arkansas 300. It is still rated as "strenuous," with a round-trip distance of 1.5 miles and a typical hiking time of 1.5 hours. The park brochure promises that "from the top is a spectacular view of Lake Maumelle, the Arkansas River Valley, the Ouachita Mountains and West Little Rock."

East Summit Trail, entered farther into the park off Pinnacle Valley Road, starts at the East Summit parking lot. About the same length as the West Summit route, it "is the more rugged ascent and requires crossing several boulder fields."

Or you could take a longer but much easier hike and circle the mountain on the 3-mile Base Trail. This is "a gently rolling to flat trail through upland forest and floodplain hardwoods. From the boat launch in the West Summit picnic area to the East Summit trailhead, the path leads from the edge of the Little Maumelle River through the boulder-strewn eastern base of Pinnacle Mountain."

For information on the Monument Trails and other features of Pinnacle Mountain State Park, visit arkansasstateparks.com or call (501) 868-5806.

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