Did you know that there is a great mountain for hiking right outside Little Rock, Arkansas? If you are crossing the Interstate 430 bridge going into town, you might see what looks like a volcano to your right. Though people often mistake it for a volcano, it is actually an old and very popular mountain: Pinnacle Mountain. Despite its low elevation of 1,011 feet, Pinnacle Mountain boasts the steepest hiking trail in great state of Arkansas!
Pinnacle Mountain is a popular mountain with three main hiking trails to choose from on the mountain itself. Pinnacle Mountain State Park has several other trails, but for the sake of this blog post, I will focus on the three mountain trails.
The popularity of the mountain is likely due to its easy accessibility from the Little Rock area as well as offering a variety of difficulty levels for all kinds of hikers. You can find people climbing the mountain at any time of day and any day of the week when the park is open. If you are hiking in the evening (especially either of the summit trails), be aware when the sun sets. The park closes an hour after sunset, and you want to give yourself plenty of time to make it down the mountain while there is plenty of light left in the sky.
Hiking Pinnacle Mountain in Central Arkansas
Pinnacle Mountain Base Trail
Distance: 3 miles
Time: 1 to 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
The first and longest trail is the Base Trail. As you can probably gather from its name, it circles the base of the mountain. The trail is marked with green blazes. While being the longest trail, it is easiest in difficulty level. There is minor variation in elevation. There are some rocky parts of the trail, but it is well maintained. I personally would rate this trail as easy. If you hike this trail in the early morning or evening, you might see some wildlife. I myself have come across deer on this trail. You can access the Base Trail from either of the summit trailheads.
Pinnacle Mountain West Summit Trail
Distance: 1.2 miles
Time: 1 to 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
The next trail going up in difficulty is the West Summit Trail. This is the more popular of the two summit trails. You can access the West Summit trailhead off of Highway 300. There is a large parking area with a playground, picnic tables, and restrooms. The trail is marked with yellow blazes. The West Summit takes you gradually up the mountain at first before beginning the steeper climb over a boulder field. There are benches at various points on the trail, which provide nice views of the surrounding area. The trail is well marked and has signs to guide the way. There is a fork in the trail at marker 7; right is longer but more gradual, left is shorter but more strenuous. The paths later connect back up and lead you to the west summit.
The west summit has the best views of the Arkansas River. Spend some time here relaxing and taking pictures before heading back down the way you came.
Pinnacle Mountain East Summit Trail
Distance: 1.5 miles
Time: 1 to 2 hours
The East Summit Trail is the most daunting of the trails. You can access the trailhead from Pinnacle Valley Road. It will be on your left if you came from the visitor center. This trail is marked with red and white blazes. It starts off gradually like the West Summit. However, it quickly turns into a steep vertical climb over boulders. I am not a very balanced person, so I have to use my hands to climb up and down parts of this trail. There is a point about halfway up, if you go off trail to your right (you can see where people have walked before), you will be rewarded with a great view. I like to stop here and drink some water before finishing the ascent up the mountain.
Once you reach the east summit, you can see the surrounding forest for miles around. You will find yourself among several other people sitting and enjoying the view, just like the west summit.
There is a trail connecting the two summits. So, if you climb one but want to see the view from the other side of the mountain, it is a short walk to the other side. After you are done enjoying the view, you can head back down the East Summit trail back to your car. If climbing down the East Summit Trail seems too daunting for you (climbing down can be trickier than climbing up, especially for those with bad knees), you can take the West Summit Trail to get down the mountain. However, you will then need to take the Base Trail another 1.3 miles to get back to the East Summit trailhead and where your car is parked. To some, going the extra distance on flatter ground is easier than climbing down the East Summit.
As you can see, Pinnacle Mountain has a trail for everyone. Which trail is your favorite? What do you look for in a trail? We’d love for you to add your thoughts and recommendations. Have any questions? Please ask by commenting below! Keep up with all of our travel, camping, and cycling tips by following us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Leave us your email (blue box at the bottom of the post) to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and never miss a post!