First, let me start by saying that Arkansas, originally part of the Louisiana Purchase, is as beautiful a place as any in the country. Made up of two distinct mountain ranges, the Ozarks and the Ouachita. The Ozarks are a series of peaks and plateaus. Where the Ouachita run east to west as opposed to most ranges that run north to south.
Just outside Little Rock, you have Pinnacle, Wye and Shinall Mountains, which are located in the foothills of the Ouachita. These are just over 1,000 feet each but successive, creating a large roller coaster of rolling hills with a few long climbs. While in Little Rock for two weeks on a work project, I had the opportunity to explore this vast, beautiful wonder, nicknamed the Natural State.
When I was able to get outside, after 3 days of intense rain, followed by extreme humidity, I left my hotel at 6am and drove over to Two Rivers Park. From there I took Country Farm Road to Pinnacle Valley Road all the way to Rt. 300. I turned around and on the way back, climbed Pinnacle Mountain to the park headquarters then dropped down the the boat launch for a climb back to Pinnacle Valley Road before heading back.
Another interesting ride was more urban. From the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, I pedaled over the Clinton Bridge to North Little Rock and hopped on the Arkansas Trail. North Little Rock is a separate city, separated by the Arkansas River from Little Rock. The Arkansas Trail runs on both sides of the river. I rode over the Big Dam Bridge, back into Little Rock for a flat, fast cruise back to the car.
Then, I found paradise in Arkansas. On Tuesday, I started over at Pinnacle Mountain Park on Rt. 300. Leaving the parking area, I made a left on Barrett Road, a quiet enclave of large country homes. I made a right on Rt. 10 and followed Little Maumelle Lake to Rt. 113. This is where the Wye Mountain climb begins. Never getting too steep, 113 winds up and over Wye Mountain. At the peak, it drops quickly through a few sharp turns, making the descent a tricky but doable venture. At the bottom, 113 runs into Rt. 300. Here, there are signs for Little Italy and an Italian museum. It was closed, but would have been a nice rest stop. The rolling hills never really let up until a few miles from the park. Wye Mountain was so nice, I went out and rode it again on Saturday.
Northwest Arkansas gets a lot of attention, because of all the trails and bike lanes in and around Bentonville. However, if you want beauty, hills, and a little of everything, Central Arkansas should be on your short list of cycling destinations.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding) today – Kenny Loggins (with Michael McDonald) – This Is It