When people come together to protect nature, everyone wins. And that’s exactly what happened with Rattlesnake Ridge, near Little Rock. Just west of Pinnacle Mountain State Park, you’ll find this unique place, which I have always thought looked like the back scales of a dragon.
A part of the Arkansas Natural Areas System, Rattlesnake Ridge was created to conserve the habitats of three species: the southeastern bat, the western diamondback rattlesnake, and the Wright’s cliffbrake, a western desert fern.
The Arkansas System of Natural Areas protects rare plants and animals by conserving their natural habitat. Rattlesnake Ridge also helps protect Lake Maumelle. The lake is a source of drinking water for many Central Arkansans. It protects the forested floodplain of Nowlin Creek. This reduces flood impacts downstream and helps improve water quality by keeping sediment out.
One thing about the Ouachita Mountains that I have always loved is they have rocky outcroppings and rock glaciers making them feel more like mountains out west. The barren rocky outcroppings along the ridges of the Ouachitas are home to plants and animals typically found in hotter and drier climates. This is another reason, the Ouachitas feel more like western mountains.
And the ridge on the northern boundary of Rattlesnake Ridge is one of the most prominent in the eastern Ouachitas. That’s the one I said looks like a dragon’s back from Pinnacle Mountains. It is thin, spiny and undulates up and down along the terrain. It’s three-quarters of a mile wide and 920 feet above sea level at the summit.
From its summit, along the Cliffbrake Trail, you get a great view of Pinnacle Mountain. You can really see how Pinnacle Mountain and Rattlesnake Ridge were probably a part of the same mountain millions of years ago. You also see amazing views of Lake Maumelle and the Arkansas River Valley in the distance.
Finding Rattlesnake Ridge
To find Rattlesnake Ridge from Pinnacle Mountain State Park’s visitor center, head west on Arkansas River Trail/Pinnacle Valley Road toward Arkansas 300. Turn left on Arkansas 300 and drive for 0.9 miles. Then turn right onto Barrett Road, where you find the entrance to the park after 1.6 miles.
Open for public fun
Protected by the Nature Conservancy and Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, this 373-acre area not only conserves rare plants and animals, it’s open for the public’s enjoyment. The park is open from dawn until dusk. You can view a trail map and park brochure here.
It has six miles of mountain biking and hiking trails, however, trails are limited to foot and bike traffic only. Hunting is also not allowed. Dogs are allowed, but there’s at least one place that requires some rock scrambling. This was hard on my geriatric dog. Most of the trails are easy to walk but can be steep in places.
In some places, they have some optional ramps and bridges to make mountain biking more challenging. The mountain biking trails range in difficulty from moderate to moderate and difficult. Climbing is another fun activity you can do at Rattlesnake Ridge. There are two climbing routes in the natural area.
One thing to note is that the park does not have a very large parking area. A sign asks visitors to choose another day to visit if the parking lot is full.
Exploring Rattlesnake Ridge is a great way to see some unique and beautiful areas of the Ouachita Mountains. It’s also a great place to get a different view of Pinnacle Mountain. The area is made possible by the Lee Bodenamer family.