Distance: 2.7 miles (4.3 km)
Elevation: 300-1011 feet (91 - 308 m)
Difficulty: Strenuous (yet our not quite 3 year old did the whole thing)
Time of Year: Any Time
So, when have I ever rated a 2.6 mile loop trail as strenuous? Well, I haven't rated a hike before that is nearly vertical and climbing directly up a talus slope before! But, Pinnacle Mountain just outside of Little Rock offers one of the most panoramic views in all of Arkansas and is well worth the effort.
|The initial trail is pretty easy|
I highly recommend you do the East Summit Trail up (the steeper side) and do the West Summit Trail down. But, we did the reverse, not knowing any better, so that is how I will describe it here. The trail starts out as a gradual climb through a pine/oak/hickory forest with well placed rocky steps guiding the way. It really is no problem for the first nearly 1/2 mile as it climbs up.
|The beginning of the talus section|
But, about 1/4 of a mile from the summit, things get a lot rockier and steeper. The rocks are still well placed as stairs through the talus slope. But, it is here that you start to see many people starting to huff and puff as it steepens, even if you have only come 1/2 mile at this point. Many of these folks though are not regular hikers, as is obvious from their footwear and body form.
|The view of the Arkansas River through the trees at the talus slope|
At the first major talus slope on the west side, there is a lovely view through the trees and down to the Arkansas River below. The trail then starts up a steep section in every increasing exposure until arriving at the summit. It is this stretch that most people struggled with the most. It was steep enough that Hilina had to get on all fours to climb up the rocky steps because her little legs were not long enough to walk them. But, she made it all the way to the top on her own and faster than some of the people.
|View to the northeast of the Arkansas River and flat Deltalands beyond|
The summit is relatively flat and a great place to relax, eat lunch, and enjoy expansive views across much of Arkansas. You can see Little Rock, the Arkansas River, the eastern ridges of the Ouachita Mountains, and the flattening landscape of the Delta Rivers region of eastern Arkansas. There were dozens of vultures circling around, but I just couldn't get a good picture of one against the dark green backdrop of the forest below.
|Looking northwest toward the Ouachita Mountains and the Arkansas River|
|The view 700 feet down to the valley below|
Now for the descent. This is where the word strenuous really comes in. We were surprised at first to see so many people climb up and return the same way. Why not make a loop out of it? Were they really so lazy that they would make it a 1.5 mile trip instead of a 2.7 mile loop?
Yet, for some reason we pressed on. Hilina was actually having a ball coming down, despite our stress. I would go ahead to pick the route and Linda would hold Hilina's hands to prevent her from going off into a rocky hole. I'd come back and help lift Hilina up and over some of the trickier spots.
|You have got to be kidding me?!?|
It may only be 1/2 mile in total distance down the 500 feet of talus. But, I highly recommend you do it in reverse and start at the East Summit Parking Area. It is always easier to climb up this kind of slope and descend it. Anyways, we survived the ordeal and have some great photos to show for it. This became Hilina's first successful summit ascent and descent on her own 2 feet. So, all is well that ends well.
|We need a rest!|
Once you arrive at the bottom, there is a bench to rest at and reflect on your journey down. Then, you will continue to follow the red/white blazes for a short ways more until reaching the East Summit Trailhead and the Base Trail. The Base Trail is a 3.5 mile loop all the way around Pinnacle Mountain and it is marked with green blazes. You can go either way. We chose to go to the right (the shorter way) and followed it 1.2 miles back to the West Summit Trailhead where we were parked.
|A view of Pinnacle Mountain from below|
The Base Trail basically just heads through pine and hickory forest and is really easy getting back.