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Parks in Central Arkansas guide 

click to enlarge Burns Park pic

Central Arkansas is the urban heart of Arkansas, but that doesn't mean it's all concrete and office buildings. In Little Rock, the Parks and Recreation Department has promoted the moniker "City in a Park," and North Little Rock can lay claim to one of the largest urban greenspaces in the United States, the 1,575-acre Burns Park. The parks offer places to hike, bike, play ball, lie around with a book, get a view of the city, climb on monkey bars, dash through water sprays, look at birds and other respites from the workday world.

Pinnacle Mountain State Park
11901 Pinnacle Valley Road
Roland
501-868-5806

No. 1: Hike to top of Pinnacle Mountain for a view of the Arkansas River Valley. 2. Stay at the bottom of Pinnacle Mountain and picnic, play, walk through the cypress-lined Little Maumelle for peace and birding or launch a canoe. 3. Check out the arboretum for a leafy illustration of Arkansas's vegetation. 4. Go to the Visitors Center and let the kids wallow in the animal skins and tour other educational exhibits. 5. Take any number or routes through the 2,100 park on a multitude of trails, including the entrance to the Ouachita Trail and a renovated trail up to the west summit of Pinnacle. And, once a year, there's a Rendezvous for folks who like to dress up like the olden days and fire off muskets and stuff. One of the state's great parks.

Two Rivers Park
County Farm Road, off state Hwy. 10
Pulaski County/Little Rock
371-4770 (Little Rock Parks and Recreation)
Map at www.littlerock.org/ParksRecreation

Until last year, to get to Two Rivers Park meant a long drive out Hwy. 10 and looping back to a 489-acre spit of land just a few hundred feet from I-430 bridge. Now, thanks to the new Two Rivers Bridge, an extension of the River Trail, you can get to the park from the city on foot or bike faster than in a car. This riverside peninsula, bordered by the Little Maumelle and the Arkansas River, is a relaxing combination of wide open grassland where hawks hunt and sparrows feed, marsh and piney woods, fields planted in all kinds of species of tree, still in their baby years, all crisscrossed with trails (maps at littlerock.org). Some go for the annual Mud Run, a costumed 5K with a sloppy ending; canoers and kayakers like to put in on the Little Maumelle and float over to Pinnacle State Park, and vice versa.

Allsopp Park
Cantrell and Cedar Hill roads
Little Rock
371-4770 (Little Rock Parks and Recreation)
Map at www.littlerock.org/ParksRecreation

Here's what you can take to Allsopp Park: A ball and a bat, for practice at the softball field, where the Hillcrest Girls Softball League has played for eons. Hot dogs, to cook in the grills. String with bacon tied to it, to catch the crawdads in the creek. Marshmallows, Hershey's bars and Graham crackers, to cook in the rock fireplace in the pavilion. Your tennis racket and a basketball. Your kids, to play on the bouncy-rubber-surfaced playground. The creek has big rocks for stepping on and pools for the dog to cool off in. That's the developed part of this hilly, forested 150-acre retreat in the middle of Little Rock, where mountain bikers become airborne and the keen of a bagpipe sometimes fills the air, coming from the direction of a rock garden mysteriously built within the park.

Burns Park
Interstate 40 at Exit 150
501-791-8538 (North Little Rock Parks Department)

Burns Park, at 1,575 acres, is to parks as New York is culture: It offers every outdoor activity imaginable, and a river runs by it. There's not a soccer player in Arkansas who hasn't booted the ball across the turf on one of its 17 fine fields. You can play 36 holes of golf here (on a links-style course whose goose-control method — hot lead injection — has caused quite a controversy in North Little Rock). There's a tennis center and a seven-field baseball complex and a fishing pier and equestrian trails and RV camping and archery and two dog parks and if you want to get there on a bike instead of the interstate you can, since a portion of the River Trail runs alongside it. A gem.

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