Whew, September was a busy month! My boyfriend Tyler and I went to Colorado for a few days for my good friend Amy’s wedding, and of course we also squeezed in a hike at RMNP! You can check out some of those photos here. We also adopted a kitten that we named Scout, and have definitely had our hands full with her! Also, September might be my least favorite month to live in Arkansas — it’s usually still hot, buggy, and generally miserable. Not good hiking weather. Luckily, with the start of October, we’ve had a cold front move in, and with it some significant fall vibes. So this past weekend, Tyler and I decided to try Rattlesnake Ridge again.
I say try again, because we went once about a year ago when it first opened. There was little to no signage, and we soon became turned around– and I was frustrated because I was trying to get to the top for sunrise! This time we went on a pleasant Sunday around 10 a.m., in full daylight. Even with the nice weather, there was plenty of parking, and most folks seemed to be out enjoying the new mountain bike trails.
Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area is not far from Pinnacle Mountain State Park, west of Little Rock. The address is 9515 Barrett Road, Roland, AR 72135. It was private land until 2018, when local Lee Bodenhamer sold it to the Nature Conservancy of Arkansas. The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission now runs it. We didn’t see any snakes, but among the species the Commission hopes to protect here are Western diamondback rattlesnakes.
There are multiple mountain bike trails, but one main path leads straight up to the ridge itself. It’s an old roadbed, which winds steeply up through mixed forest. A few more signs are present, but not at every intersection– as long as you are heading up, you’re going the right way. It is about a mile from the parking lot to the eastern side of the ridge, where the rock scramble begins.
The bright summer greens of the forest foliage were just beginning to turn yellow and orange. We also saw plenty of Black-eyed Susans, an Arkansas native wildflower, and American beautyberry, lush bushes with distinct purple berries, a sure sign that fall is approaching.
Hiking the Ridge
After hiking steeply up the road a ways, it finally levels out below the rock scramble. If you get vertigo or don’t like heights, I suggest you end your hike here– there is a nice little overlook at this point. The rocky ridge looks a little scary from the bottom, but after doing it I think it’s easier than either side of Pinnacle. It is very narrow and uneven, so watch your step. At the top, you will be treated to panoramic views of Lake Maumelle, Pinnacle Mountain, and the undulating Ouachita Mountain foothills.
The ridge itself is about half a mile long. Apparently it is possible to get down on the west side, but we did not try that this time. After going out along the ridge as far as we wanted, we turned back the way we came.
Rattlesnake Ridge is a wonderful alternative to climbing Pinnacle Mountain. The ridge is jagged, narrow, and exposed, which doesn’t allow for a lot of dillydallying. While still challenging, it’s not the Stairmaster of Pinnacle’s west summit trail or the heart-pumping scramble of the east summit. But the views– they’re just as good, if not better. Rattlesnake Ridge Natural Area is still fairly new, and I think a lot of people just don’t know about it. Secret’s out, I guess!