Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Local Rides: BDB To Pinnacle Mountain State Park Visitor Center

Most of us settle into a bit of a routine when it comes to local road rides, choosing a "route o' the day" based on the time available, training needs, degree of ambition, or group dynamics. The more experienced riders among us have likely explored many of the established rides surrounding the City and have a menu of courses from which to choose, while many folks stick mostly to the River Trail rather than take to the open road. If that describes you, check out this little ride to expand your horizons. 
Here is a ride that combines some River Trail miles with some open road within the Arkansas River Trail System. The distance makes it just right for an after-work summer ride, being an 18 mile loop from the parking lot on the Little Rock side of the Big Dam Bridge and 25 miles from the parking lot near Victory Lake in North Little Rock's Burns Park. From my house in Park Hill, it is a 40 mile loop, making for a nice mid-distance winter ride. There is enough climbing to remind off-season legs of their job, but not so much as to seriously intimidate novice riders.
The Pinnacle Mountain State Park Visitor Center is located off of Pinnacle Valley Road, just over 5 miles from the Two Rivers Park gate on County Farm Road, or about 9 miles from the Big Dam Bridge.

Cycling supermodels David Williams and Diane Barton leaving the park for the open road.
Beyond the park gate, County Farm Road has bike lanes to its junction with Pinnacle Valley Road. It is 1.5 miles from the park gate to the right turn on to Pinnacle Valley. Though Pulaski County built "bike paths" along Pinnacle Valley Road to the 90 degree left turn near the entry to Maumelle Park, the quotation marks above are employed for a reason. The paths are seldom used by road riders, as they are narrow and often interrupted by driveways and sharp jinks around trees and other obstacles.
The entrance to the state park is marked by a sign and a half-mile climb.
The hill east of the VC entrance is the sketchiest point of the ride as far as traffic is concerned. There is no shoulder and very limited sight distance, so both drivers and riders need to exercise caution here. When traffic is present, it is imperative that cyclists ride single-file, especially when approaching the crest of the hill.
After cresting the hill, the fast descent takes riders to the well-marked turn to the visitor center. This entire area is popular with road riders, so expect to see other cyclists.
After turning into the visitor center entrance, riders face a 3/4 mile climb to facility.
Halfway up the climb to the center, riders can choose to add a little spice by descending 1/2 mile to the launch ramp on Big Maumelle River. What goes down, must come up!
The Visitor Center offers a shop, exhibits, spectacular views, restrooms, information, and refreshments.
The ice cream case is looking sadly empty in late December, but is a big attraction for me on hot days. Well, OK, it doesn't have to be hot. A buddy and I split the last Fat Boy ice cream sandwich on a ride last weekend.
The summit of park namesake Pinnacle Mountain as seen from the Visitor Center.
 I had passed by the VC entrance many times before I ever ventured up to check it out but it has since become a regular desitination for short rides.
From the BDB, go west over the Two Rivers Park Bridge and through the park.
Turn right on Pinnacle Valley Road and follow it until you see the signs marking the right turn to the visitors center. From the BDB to the VC and back is 18 miles and includes about 800 feet of climbing with some fun descents as a reward for your efforts.
There has been friction between riders and local drivers in the area, so please be alert to traffic and ride single file as appropriate.


Anonymous said...

There is an offroad R/C car group that are fun to watch and nice to talk too that go there.

JBar said...

Bryan Signorelli correctly pointed out that I had referred to the Big Maumelle River as "Little Maumelle Creek". Embarrassingly, I debated his facts before actually listening to what he was saying.
Big Maumelle enters the Arkansas River near the visitor center while Little Maumelle enters just below Two Rivers Park Bridge. I've always referred to both of them as creeks owing to my Perry County heritage, having been dragged willingly around both by my grandmother who used that term. Thanks, Bryan.