Little Rock’s first professionally built urban mountain bike park is nearing completion. Mid-June is the target for Rock Solid Trail Contracting to finish work on approximately 11 miles of new trails in River Mountain Park, above the Little Maumelle River Boat Launch and the Little Rock side of the Two Rivers Park Bridge. The project is a joint effort between the city of Little Rock and the Arkansas Parks & Recreation Foundation. The foundation was launched in 2017 with a $310,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation, and it has already funded the development of multi-use trails designed specifically for mountain biking, known as Monument Trails, at Hobbs, Mount Nebo, Pinnacle and (newly opened) Devil’s Den state parks.
The Little Rock project also includes roughly three-quarters of a mile of introductory trail at Two Rivers Park. It’ll feature a hard surface gateway trail made of chip seal with undulations and a small loop for kids on strider bikes. The Arkansas Parks & Recreation Foundation contributed $638,000 to the River Mountain and Two Rivers trails, which the city of Little Rock matched with $200,000.
Green-, blue- and black-rated downhill flow trails snake across the north side of River Mountain. The trails are wide “to maximize fun,” Rock Solid trail foreman Mike Rogan said. He likened them to dirt roller coasters. The black downhills have “big, big jumps,” Rogan said, along with plenty of the rock features for which Rock Solid is known. Downhill riders will likely see riders on other trails as they descend. “Typically, you don’t have trails so close,” said Leland Couch, Little Rock parks design manager. But with 300 feet of elevation change on the north side of River Mountain, it was important to take full advantage of the terrain, Couch said.
Advanced riders will be able to do a quick climb up the north side of the mountain. For those who want a more gradual ascent, a green trail will take riders up the mountain and along the south side of the mountain to cross country blue and green trails that lead back to the downhill trails.
Suzanne Grobmyer, executive director of the Parks & Recreation Foundation, likened the design to a ski hill. In the wintertime, when trees don’t have leaves, a trail hub atop the mountain affords unique vistas of Little Rock landmarks, including the Two Rivers Park Bridge, the Big Dam Bridge, the Arkansas River, Big Rock Quarry in North Little Rock and Interstate I-430. Moreover, because of the new trails’ proximity to Two Rivers Park, Grobmyer envisions families coming for a full day of park play, picnics and riding, perhaps with parents taking turns riding the River Mountain trails while younger kids play in the strider area.
The new trails don’t come near the existing 2.9-mile hiking trail in the park, but there are plans to improve the entrance to the trail off Southridge Drive. The city is building a new parking lot below River Mountain that will accommodate 15-20 vehicles. Even with the existing Two Rivers parking, Couch and Grobmyer don’t expect that to be enough to meet demand; they hope cyclists will also come to the trail from the Arkansas River Trail or from parking on the Pulaski County side of Two Rivers Park.
More Little Rock plans
Four years ago, mountain biking wasn’t on the Little Rock Parks Department’s radar. But it’s all in now, according Couch. On the horizon: The city is finalizing bids on adding wood and steel features on trails in Boyle Park. It’s seeking bids to improve the mountain bike trails in Allsop Park North. In Western Hills Park, the Little Rock parks department is finalizing a master plan, which includes a small soft surface trail component. The biggest project is the Tri-Creek Greenway, which will eventually connect seven city parks (War Memorial, Kanis, Boyle, First Tee, Western Hills, Hindman and Brodie Creek) with off-street paved trails. The city contributed $750,000 to match a $3 million grant from Metroplan, which in 2020 committed to devoting half of its federal funding over the next 10 years to multi-use trails, to design and build the greenway. Couch said the long-term vision is for every park in the greenway to also have soft surface trails and water trails through Brodie, Rock and Fourche creeks.
Another vision for mountain bikers to pine over: extending the River Mountain trails westward all the way to Rattlesnake Ridge. It’s not as crazy as it sounds, Couch said. The city owns several small parks in the area.