The New Visitor Center
On November 18, 2023, Arkansas State Parks closed the visitor center which had served as the office for the park staff and was the focal point of interpretation throughout the park. The visitor center was in what had been a less visited part of the park until the Monument Trails opened up in 2020. The building served this function since the 1970s and was in need of new exhibits, a better gift shop layout, and more office space. The new Visitor Center is located on State Highway 300, 1/4 mile north of the West Summit Day-use area.
On November 28, 2023, the staff, with the assistance of Governor Sanders, inaugurated the new visitor center. The ceremony began at 10 am with Secretary of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, Shea Lewis making the first remarks.
“If you saw what it looked like before, it was a state park, where it is today. A lot of change. So it’s great to even celebrate that anniversary as well. But overall, mostly I’m proud to be here as an Arkansan and proud of what we do in the state park system and all of the efforts of Pinnacle Mountain State Park. You know, everything that we do out here is related to the mission of the park. The work of Josh Jeffers, park superintendent, and staff exemplifies our state park system. I know that our Governor and First Gentleman Sanders share that sentiment, that being the importance of the state parks and the role that they play exceeds the value of investments that are made here. Pinnacle Mountain State Park is our most visited day-use park with over 500,000 visitors each year. This new visitor center will be a hub for visitors who are about to embark on adventures throughout the park, such as hiking to the summits, taking a leisurely stroll through the Arkansas Arboretum, or biking more than 18 miles of the monument trail system rated earlier this year as some of the best in the nation by Outside Magazine,” said Secretary Lewis.
Secretary Lewis introduced Governor Sanders who spoke of good and bad memories at Pinnacle Mountain State Park.
“One of the things that I love about the Natural State, and particularly in this state park, is that standing out here, you feel like you’re hundreds of miles away from any type of population. And in reality, you are just a short drive from our busiest downtown, our state’s most populated city. This is a place filled with incredible memories, both from childhood and now as a parent sharing with my own kids. I’m pretty excited about the fact that we will now have Loblolly as a great motivator for our kids back to the mountain as well, but we are certainly not above bribing our kids with special treats to keep them moving,” said Governor Sanders.
The Governor mentioned Loblolly Creamery which will be opening a location in the visitor center with plans to sell not only ice cream but other food and possibly beer and wine. a patio area among various park exhibits is available for enjoying both the architecture of the building and the beauty of the mountain woods. First Gentleman Bryan Sanders, Chair of the Natural State Initiative spoke next mentioning that Loblolly will be taking advantage of the opportunity zone that was created at four Arkansas State Parks during the last legislative session.
Katherine Andrews, Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation spoke next about the Maumelle Pinnacles project.
“I’m excited to be here to celebrate the opening of the new visitor center but also to officially announce. The launch of the Maumelle Pinnacles Conservation Area and Recreational Master Plan. The Maumelle Pinnacles Conservation Area includes Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Rattlesnake Ridge, and Blue Mountain but the long-range study area plan includes almost 55,000 acres from the Big Dam Bridge to Lake Sylvia in Perry County. The development of this master plan is a collective effort of multiple agencies with the overall goal of providing a unified vision and direction for balancing conservation or recreation for the residents of central Arkansas. The new visitor center here at Pinnacle Mountain State Park will serve as an important central hub for this interconnected system of recreation through hiking, pedaling, or paddling between parks and natural areas. It will foster a deeper sense of appreciation and connection with the environment.”
The building is 11,672 square feet with an additional 1,950 square feet covered outside. Total construction costs for the building were $10,111,360 with another $1,241,548 in furnishings and exhibits. It was funded through Amendment 75 – 1/8 Cent Conservation Revenue and Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council Grant Funding. The building architect was Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, landscape architecture was created by the Environmental Design Group, the exhibits were by Taylor Studios, Inc., and the contractors were CDI Contractors and Frank Sharum Landscape.
The New Trails
The mountain bike trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park are part of the Monument Trail System that can also be found at four other state parks, Devil’s Den, Mount Nebo, and Hobbs. The new visitor center is the first with exhibits not only referencing the Monument Trails but also going into some depth on what they are and how they were built. Besides the video and exhibits in the building, there is also an exhibit at the bike rack in front of the building.
A new trail has been completed connecting the visitor center to an old section of the base trail near the Little Maumelle boat ramp. This trail, named Lichen Link, goes from the parking lot just to the north of the visitor center and up behind the visitor center. It is designated for bicycle traffic only. The trail was built by Rogue Trails, the same company that built the Monument Trails at Hobbs and sections of the Monument Trails at Devil’s Den and Pinnacle Mountain state parks. Lichen Link is approximately 0.4 miles long. The trail meets a trail that is known by some as the fishing trail as it follows the Little Maumelle River. A portion of this trail has been used as a maintenance trail for park staff to move equipment between the two sides of the park.
This trail is now official and is called Owl Pass. The trail goes through a beautiful lowlands area and passes under the Little Rock and Western train tracks eventually bringing the user to the Arboretum parking lot. From here, mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners can be connected to the rest of the Monument Trail system. Word from the parks is that Owl Pass will eventually be a paved path creating a safer way for users of the Arkansas River Trail to get to the West Summit day-use area and the new Visitor Center.
The map below is available at the new visitor center. We apologize for the bad stitching. It is not yet available online but you can stop by the visitor center and pick one up.