Pilot Mountain State Park, NC


East view of Big Pinnacle from Little Pinnacle

Pilot Mountain is truly one of the iconic summits in North Carolina. The mountain, a monadnock and the westernmost peak of the ancient Sauratown Mountains, dominates the surrounding Piedmont and can be seen from many landmarks. Due to its ease of access directly off freeway U.S. 52 north of Winston-Salem, this state park is popular and is overcrowded during the summer months. Avoid the crowds and hike this park in the offseason when the leaves are down and the temperatures are milder than the Blue Ridge Mountains. A full loop of the mountain can be achieved using the newly extended Mountain Trail, with the addition a result of a fire break during a forest fire in November 2012. From there use the Grindstone Trail, the only trail leading from the base to the summit area. Once you attain the crest you are in cliff heaven as the trails hug the top and bottom of 100+ foot cliffs crawling with rock climbers. The highlights may be the Ledge Spring Trail, Little Pinnacle, or the Jomeokee Trail, it all depends on your preference. For those in a rush or wanting a shorter hike, you can do the shorter 2.7-mile loop from the upper parking lot. This is a great day hike for anyone who lives in the Triad or Triangle metropolitan areas.    

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Grindstone Trail to Pilot Mountain – Pilot Mountain State Park, NC


Sauratown Mountains in one view
Sauratown Mountains in one view

Pilot Mountain – an iconic peak, wildly popular, and easily accessible. Yet I’ve never been there. So I thought this would be a good hike to kickstart my blog. I have driven by it and peered at it from various viewpoints all over northwestern North Carolina. I saved Pilot Mountain State Park as one of those areas I’ll visit eventually because it is close and I need to cross it off my list. It doesn’t feature any significant streams, and the hikes seemed limited especially since there are no hikes to the summit (it is a restricted bird habitat). My original plan was to wake up early and hike a 13 or 17 mile loop at Doughton Park. Per usual, I woke up around noon and instead of lounging around I decided to make the quick drive (1.5 hours) to Pilot Mountain to try to cover 2-3 hours of hiking on a beautiful afternoon. Fortunately, Pilot Mountain was much more scenic than I anticipated.

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