Pinnacle Mountain Loop

Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Arkansas

Trip Date: Sunday, March 25th, 2018
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 25th, 2018
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★★(5/5)
Overall Difficulty Hard
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 3 miles roundtrip
Time 2 hours
Terrain Strenuous climbing
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly No
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

Only a short distance from Little Rock, Pinnacle Mountain towers over the surrounding landscape -- 756 feet above the surrounding area to an elevation of 1,011 feet above sea level -- providing fantastic views of Lake Maumelle and a glimpse of the tall buildings in downtown rising subtly above the horizon. Although the climb itself is quite a challenge, the overall trail length is short and the views are rewarding. Unlike climbing tall peaks in the west, there isn't much of a time commitment involved here, making it possible to do this hike after work on a weekday or leaving you plenty of time to relax the rest of your weekend.

Before describing my hike, I want to discuss the merits of the different trails involved. I hiked this loop starting from the West Summit Trail, then descended the East Summit Trail and went around the north side of the mountain on the Base Trail to return to the parking area. After this experience I will say that the Base Trail is rather boring, though maybe my opinion was skewed by the brownness of the early spring landscape. You're not really missing anything if you go up and down the same trail instead of doing this loop. If you do decide to do the entire loop, I suggest ascending via the East Summit Trail since descending the West Summit Trail is much easier.

The West Summit Trail is the more popular route up, with stair-like rocks and a couple rest areas with benches to catch your breath. The East Summit Trail is much more rugged than the West Summit Trail, starting out with a relatively gentle uphill grade leading to a steep, rocky climb where you will definitely have to use your hands to assist you up on more than one occasion. Below I've summarized the differences between the two trails to help you decide which is best for you:

West Summit Trail

East Summit Trail Now that I've thoroughly explained the characteristics of both trails, I will walk you through the entire loop hike as I did it from the West Summit Trail. This hike is no-nonsense, and almost as soon as you walk under the wooden trail entrance (pictured below) you will start the ascent.
West Summit Trail entrance

The West Summit Trail entrance

The climb is more gradual at first, progressing from a gently graded uphill trail to occasional steps to constant stairs to a short section of rock hopping (see the two pictures below for a visual of the change in trail terrain). Along the trail you will see markers labeled 1-10 to track your progress -- you'll blow by the first couple but near the top it will seem like each succeeding marker takes longer and longer to reach despite the even spacing. Once you reach the rocky section at around marker #9, yellow paint will guide you the correct way to the top. Note that the trail splits at one point but either direction will take you to the top -- neither way is easier or shorter.
Rock stairs on the trail

The West Summit Trail soon turns to rock stairs

Rocky trail showing markers

The rock stairs turn to this rocky landscape at marker #9 -- notice the yellow paint marking the correct route

After a bit of leg burning and a few stops to catch your breath, you'll reach the top. Where the trail ends is at a lower point between two higher points; turn left to see the view of Lake Maumelle in the first picture below and turn right to see the other view in the second picture below and to continue down the East Summit Trail.
Lake Maumelle as viewed from the summit

Lake Maumelle as viewed from the summit

Summit view facing southwest

The view from the summit as you face southwest

It's important to mention that the East Summit Trail does not continue where the West Summit Trail ends and that it starts from the top of the peak after you turn right. I mistakenly assumed the trails connected away from the peak and traveled off trail like the lost tourist I was, but I eventually found the trail after consulting the map and looking for the steep rocks I read about online.

Going down the East Summit Trail is quite a slow process since it is so steep and rocky, requiring using your hands or sitting down on the rocks to safely reach the ground below. The route is marked with a red and white bullseye symbol painted on the rocks and trees, but it's up to you to determine the best rocks to climb on between each symbol. Once you reach the end of the rocks, the rest of the hike is only slightly downhill on a dirt trail, but it's still labeled with the bullseyes for navigation as pictured below.
Red and white paint marks the East Summit Trail

Red and white bullseyes mark the East Summit Trail

Eventually you'll reach reach a fork in the road where you can continue either direction on the Base Trail or head to the parking lot for the East Summit Trail. I chose to take the north half of the Base Trail which is slightly longer than taking the south half. After enjoying such great scenery on the way up and down the mountain, the rest of the hike is a bit of a boring slog through forest. The only thing interesting I saw on the trail was a young couple dressed in animal costumes (one was a giraffe, the other I don't remember). Whichever direction you choose on the Base Trail, you'll end up back where you started.

Overall, this hike was a great addition to my trip to Little Rock. With all that exercise, I didn't feel any guilt when I stuffed myself with fried chicken later. Whether you're a local or just in town for the weekend, I recommend you do this hike. When you go, be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram, and let me know about your experience with this hike in the comments below!

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. The hike is too difficult to be family friendly, although I did see some families with older children at the summit; for a family friendly option, do the Kingfisher Trail or Rocky Valley Trail. This trail is extremely popular, so if you want to avoid the crowds climb as early in the morning as possible. You can hike this trail all year round, but given the strenuous nature of the climb it is best to avoid this hike in the heat of summer.

Directions

From Little Rock, take Interstate 630 westbound to Interstate 430 northbound. Exit at Arkansas Highway 10/Cantrell Road and turn left. Continue straight, then turn right onto Chenal Parkway which eventually merges onto Arkansas Highway 300. On the right side of the road, you will have an excellent view of Pinnacle Mountain across an open field, as pictured below. Shortly after crossing over the Little Maumelle River, turn right to reach the parking area for the West Summit Trail.

Pinnacle Mountain from across a field

Don't miss this shot of Pinnacle Mountain on your drive to the trailhead!

If you wish to start at the East Summit Trail, continue straight on Arkansas Highway 300 and turn right on Arkansas River Trail. Turn right again to reach the parking area for the East Summit Trail.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! The West Summit Trail parking area is more developed, with bathrooms, a playground, picnic area, pavilion, and boat launch while the East Summit Trail parking area does not have facilities.

External Links

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