Pilot Mountain State Park’s newest trail – a 4.5-mile loop near the base of the mountain – was inspired by a firebreak hastily constructed with a bulldozer in 2012 and recently completed by park staff and volunteers from Friends of Sauratown Mountains.
The Mountain Trail rambles around the slopes at about 1,500 feet elevation, at one point connecting with the Grindstone Trail near the park’s campground and also accessible from near the visitor center and from a remote parking area on Pinnacle Hotel Road (aka Surry Line Road) that serves as a trailhead for the Corridor Trail. Park Superintendent Matt Windsor said that remote trailhead is the best way to get onto the trail when the park is crowded.
Windsor said the composition of the surrounding forest subtly changes as a hiker makes the circuit, and in winter, the trail offers impressive views of the summit knob.
Windsor estimated the contribution of the Friends of Sauratown Mountains, which cleared the route, and park staff that cut larger trees at about $23,000. Benchmark Trails Inc. built the trail tread that averages a mild five percent grade.
A 2012 prescribed burn that briefly escaped control prompted the N.C. Forest Service to construct a firebreak around the mountain’s base. Although the firebreak was never really tested by the blaze, parks system officials considered it as a potential trail. Though much of the bulldozed route was found to be too rocky and unstable for a trail, the idea persisted. Most of the new Mountain Trail was routed slightly farther uphill, though a few sections of the bulldozed path were used.