There are many trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park; most are relatively short and easy. However even though the summit trails are short they are not “easy.”
Pinnacle Mountain State Park is located a little west of Little Rock along the Arkansas River. It rises high above the Arkansas River Valley in an area almost by itself. For more information on the park, click here. For a brochure and map of all the trails, click here.
I wouldn’t say the summit trails on Pinnacle Mountain are the hardest trails in Arkansas because they are short hikes, but they are definitely among the steepest. There are two trails that summit Pinnacle Mountain, one from the east side and one from the west side.
One aspect that makes both the West Summit Trail and East Summit Trail hard is you have to climb up and over several boulder fields. It doesn’t matter what side I climb, I find myself using my hands for stability or to pull myself up on a rock.
The East Summit Trail is harder. Climbing up that side I not only had to use my hands, but had to look for places to place my feet in order to keep from sliding down the rocks.
Both trails are 0.75 miles long and climb about 750 feet, so you are roughly climbing 100 feet per mile.
Recently I hiked a loop by including the West Summit Trail, East Summit Trail, and the north half of the Base Trail at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. I began at the West Summit Trail trailhead and turned to the left at the intersection with the Base Trail. From there I hiked around the base of the mountain to the intersection with the East Summit Trail. I then climbed Pinnacle Mountain (not easily!) to the summit, and hiked down back to my car via the West Summit Trail.
I have also hiked up the West Summit Trail numerous times.
Be sure to bring plenty of water. And don’t forget some for your pup, if you are hiking with a dog. There are no water crossings for you dog to drink from, and at the top there is little shade.
When you begin the trail from the west side you will soon come to the intersection with the Base Trail – about 50 yards. It doesn’t matter if you go to the right or the left, both directions take you to the East Summit Trail. I chose to go to the left.
Along the Base Trail, which is marked by light green blazes, there is little elevation gain. The woods are nice and open, and the trail takes you through a wonderful stand typical of the Ouachita Mountains.
A little more than halfway around, the Base Trail merges with the Ouachita Trail. The Ouachita Trail is a National Recreation Backpacking Trail. It is more than 200 miles long, beginning in Oklahoma and ending at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Its blazes are blue.
You will follow the Base Trail for little ways longer, before you come to the intersection with the East Summit Trail. This trail is marked with red and white blazes. The trail climbs steadily before you get to the boulder fields. From there it is steep – very steep.
You can follow the blazes for the easiest route up the rocks. But I found myself going a different path in some places. In those areas the blazes were where the rocks were too tall or I couldn’t find a good foot hold. I believe they are suggestions. You just have to survey the rocks and see which way is best for you body type to climb.
Once you get to the top, you can rest and take in 360-degree views. The summit is rocky, but it’s mostly level so your thighs get a rest. You can walk the ridge line to the north and south. Be sure to take in the views of Lake Maumelle, the Arkansas River, and downtown Little Rock.
The West Summit Trail is marked with yellow blazes. Going down these boulder fields is almost just as hard as climbing up them for me. And for some it’s harder.
When I first began hiking up Pinnacle via the West Summit Trail, it used to follow the edge of the ridgeline, which was not good for those scared of heights. I’m not sure if the park created another trail farther from the ledge or just that so many people with a fear of heights walked there and created a trail, but you have options.
If you chose to go through the trees, farther from the ledge, be careful as it is still steep and the path has loose rocks that can roll under your feet. About one-third of the way down you leave the boulder field to a nice wide path. There it is fairly easy walking back down to the parking lot.
The West Summit Trail is the more popular of the two summits. And with it being so close to Little Rock, it can get crowded.
The summit trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park are definitely challenging. But if you are physically able, the view from the top is unique and more than worth it.