August 25, 2014

A Trail of Two Cities

The Arkansas River Trail holds a host of distinctive features just waiting to be discovered. Within the trail system’s original 15.6 mile loop cyclists can take in two cities with personalities all their own, the longest pedestrian/bike bridge in the country, one of America’s largest municipal parks, as well as a bevy of natural vistas and urban activities. Bring the kids, make it a date, or just break up your boring workout routine.

Since the entire loop lies in the river valley, it’s an easy, flat 15.6 miles. Whether you’ve got your own bike or not, a great place to start is the parking lot next to River Trail Station on the North Little Rock Side of the River. You’ll find plenty of free parking here and easy access to the trail.

bike trail Fikes, Trail of Two Cities

If you’re in need of a bike to start your adventures, David Fike is your man. He has owned and operated Fike’s Bikes for seven years. David rents any type of bike you might want, including relaxed cruisers ($16 for a four hour rental), plus kids bikes and trailers (Free with an adult bike rental). Before you head off, David will also outfit you with water and a bike lock if you plan to make stops for sightseeing (and you should).

bike trail Little Rock, Trail of Two Cities

Once you are geared up, you have a choice to make – which direction to go! On either side of the river, you’ll find two very different experiences. The Little Rock side of the Arkansas River Trail is much more urban and a bit trickier to navigate. On the North Little Rock Side, there is very little road riding to be done, and the panoramas are much more pastoral. Here, I’ve broken the trail up into four sections to help you plan.

South – Downtown Little Rock

Leaving from Fike’s Bikes and traveling east to the Clinton Bridge, you will cross over into Little Rock. You’ll be able to navigate through bustling downtown Little Rock without ever entering street traffic. If you are biking with children, you may want to consider turning around once you reach the end of the Medical Mile portion of the trail, on the west side of the Ramada. This is the point at which the trail joins with Little Rock City Streets. You’ll follow trail signs through the streets for about 3 miles before returning to a paved trail format at the Rebsamen Park Golf Course.

bike trail South Little Rock, Trail of Two Cities

Things to see and do in this section of the trail (mile marks are approximate):
• Stop for pictures on the Clinton Bridge (the prettiest of the pedestrian bridges, in my opinion)
• Visit the Clinton Presidential Center (mile mark .25)
• Explore Heifer Village and grab a bite at Café @ Heifer (mile mark .25)
• Meander through the boardwalk at The William E. “Bill” Clark Presidential Park Wetlands (mile mark .25)
• Meet some fishy friends at the The Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center (mile mark .75)
• Discover some amazing science at the Museum of Discovery (mile mark .75)
• Hunt for a snack of gather picnic supplies at the Little Rock Farmers’ Market or get it ready made in the River Market Hall (mile mark .85)
• Climb the boulder wall, explore the tunnels, cool off at the spray ground, and see the rock outcropping that Little Rock was named for in the Riverfront Park (mile mark .85).
• Ride along the Medical Mile (mile mark .85).
• Stop and make some music in the small park to the west of the Ramada (mile mark .95)
• Enjoy lunch or dinner at the award-winning Brave New Restaurant (mile mark 3)

bike trail playground, Trail of Two Cities

South – Rebsamen Park to Big Dam Bridge

Once you’re back on the trail at the golf course, you’ll ride along the edge of Rebsamen Park. There’s a dog park and some playground equipment dotted through the park, as well as several pavilions with views of the river that are great for a picnic. As the landscape becomes greener, you’ll catch sight of the Big Dam Bridge towering ahead. If the 15.6 miles aren’t enough for you, you can follow the trail under the bridge to visit Two Rivers Park.

bike trail Little Rock, Trail of Two Cities

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The Big Dam Bridge is the longest pedestrian bridge in the country, and your ticket to get to the north side of the river. Pedal hard up the largest “hill” you’ll experience on the trail to get to the top of the bridge, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Arkansas River and Pinnacle Mountain. You may also get a chance to see a boat pass through the Murray Lock and Dam system, which is located directly under the bridge.

bike trail 14e, Trail of Two Cities

bike trail 15e, Trail of Two Cities

North – Big Dam Bridge to Riverview Park

What goes up must come down, so enjoy the breeze as you coast down off of the Big Dam Bridge and head into Burns Park. You’ll skirt the soccer fields of this 1,700 acre park, one of the largest municipal parks in the country, before turning to follow the river into Riverview Park. The trail here feels like you are out in the middle of nowhere – enjoy the nature and views of the river. At the end of Riverview Park you’ll find a playground, restrooms, and a skatepark. If you’re feeling confident on your bike, you can try a few stunts before heading on into North Little Rock.

bike trail 9e, Trail of Two Cities

North – Riverwalk Park and the Argenta District

Once you leave Riverview Park, you will ride on the road for a short stretch before getting back onto dedicated trail. You’re headed into town now, and soon you’ll find yourself passing blue fitness stations as you enjoy the views of the Little Rock skyline across the river. Keep following the trail and you’ll find yourself in Riverwalk Park. From here, you can catch a few interesting things to do, and also take a side trip into the downtown area known as Argenta.

bike trail playground, Trail of Two Cities

Things to see and do in this section of the trail (mile marks are approximate):
• Get some exercise on the North Little Rock Fitness Trail (begins at the center of Riverwalk Park)
• Board a Submarine at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum
• Visit the Argenta Drug Company – the oldest continuously operating pharmacy west of the Mississippi (324 Main Street)
• Refuel at Mugs Café (515 Main Street)

bike trail with friends, Trail of Two Cities

At the end of Riverwalk Park, you’ll find yourself back at your car and Fike’s Bikes. No doubt you’ll be ready for one of David Fikes’s complimentary post-ride popsicles. Don’t forget to take a photo or two of yourself in your post-ride bliss with the Arkansas River and the Little Rock Skyline behind you.

Fawn Rechkemmer

Arkansas Women Blogger member and former editor Fawn Rechkemmer spent four years living in Central Arkansas and still makes frequent visits to the Natural State. She lives in Ozark, Missouri with her husband and two young children. She is a freelance writer, editor, and social media consultant. She loves tree hugging, activities for kids, gardening, travel, saving money, and life hacks.You can find more of her adventures at insteadofthedishes.com.

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