Pilot Mountain State Park is home to one of the most iconic summits in North Carolina with its Big Pinnacle rising to an elevation of 2,421 feet. The bare rock walls climb upward to a vegetation-topped summit giving this quartzite monadnock mountain its distinctively unique appearance.
Things to Do at Pilot Mountain State Park NC
For the average visitor looking to take in the best views of Pilot Mountain while doing some casual hiking, I recommend driving to the summit parking lot to access the Little Pinnacle Overlook and the Pilot Knob Trail. (More on that in a moment.)
You can stop at the visitor center before or after your Pilot Mountain hiking adventure. There are educational exhibits, a gift shop with snacks, drinks, and souvenirs, and public restrooms available there.
Pro Tip: If the summit lot is full, you may park at the visitor center and take a shuttle ($5 round trip) to the top. They will often close the upper parking lot by mid to late morning to reduce congestion, so the earlier you arrive in the day, the more likely it will be that you can drive there yourself and avoid the shuttle fee.
Pilot Mountain Overlook (at Summit Parking Lot)
Don’t miss the scenic overlook in the upper parking lot area for an expansive south-facing panorama of the Yadkin Valley’s rolling plains on out to Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem.
Little Pinnacle Overlook
To reach the Little Pinnacle Overlook, take the short 0.1-mile trail near the southeast side of the upper parking lot.
You’ll climb stone steps and a moderate grade to reach the overlook with a fabulous view of the Big Pinnacle, Sauratown Mountains, and Hanging Rock State Park.
Pilot Mountain Hiking – Pilot Knob Trail
The Pilot Knob Trail (formerly called the Jomeokee Trail) is a 0.8-mile round trip loop around the base of the Big Pinnacle and provides stunning views of the towering cliff walls, the valley below, and interesting plants along the way.
The trailhead is located to the north of the Little Pinnacle Overlook trailhead, and it starts with a descent down stone steps.
This first section of the trail is considered moderate. After that, it alternately descends and ascends until you come to the point where the trail splits to go around the mountain.
You can go clockwise or counter-clockwise, your choice. Either way, you’ll head up toward the granite cliff walls.
Once you’re on the loop around the massive knob, the trail levels out and is quite easy to traverse most of the time, with just a few steps and rocks to climb. The trail hugs the rock cliffs and the views are simply stunning.
There are many examples of crossbedding on Big Pinnacle. Look for thin dark lines that run parallel to the rock and dark lines that form near right angles to one another.
The layered and sculpted rocks are magnificent. Watch where you’re walking at all times, but be sure to stop and look up A LOT!
There are interesting plants all along the way, and you may encounter a critter or two if you’re lucky. We spotted a chunky salamander sunning itself on a rock.
Once you’ve completed the loop, you’ll return the way you came in, climbing the stone steps at the trail’s end.
The Pilot Knob Trail is the most popular Pilot Mountain trail for good reason. No matter which direction you look, the scenery will take your breath away.
Pilot Mountain State Park Information
1792 Pilot Knob Park Road, Pinnacle, NC 27043
Park Hours for Mountain Section
December-February 8 am – 6 pm
March-April 7 am – 8 pm
May-September 7 am – 9 pm
October 7 am – 8 pm
November 7 am – 6 pm
Closed Christmas Day
For more ideas on things to do in the area, connect with www.YadkinValleyNC.com and check out some of my other North Carolina articles.
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