By: Katie Hall, Public Information Officer, N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation
How many people would you guess have marveled at Pilot Mountain from the highway or passed the signs for Pilot Mountain State Park without stopping? I’ve done it more times than I’d care to admit. Do we think because we’ve SEEN it that we’ve seen it?
For me, Pilot Mountain peeking over the horizon was a familiar sight. I’d seen it countless times traveling to and from other places in the beautiful mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. Time after time, it rose from the Piedmont on my way to somewhere else, and again on the way back. I always seemed to be in too much of a hurry to stop.
Each time I passed it, I kicked myself as I recalled all the times I never stopped. That losing streak came to an end this year, and I was not disappointed. I thought I knew Pilot Mountain because I could see it from the highway… but I had no idea. Rewards at Pilot Mountain State Park arrive early and often starting with Little Pinnacle Overlook—a rocky hop, skip, and jump from the parking area on top of Little Pinnacle that gives way to a stunning view of Big Pinnacle.
The first thing that stands out about the park is accessibility. From the main parking area on top of Little Pinnacle, I had so many options that I sat for 15 minutes staring at maps trying to decide where I’d spend my time. I could set off on the 3-mile Grindstone Trail for a strenuous hike around the mountain and enjoy the Ledge Spring Trail along the way. From Grindstone, I could also make a connection to the 4.3-mile Mountain Trail. I was lured instead by the short and challenging Jomeokee Trail that connects Little Pinnacle to Big Pinnacle.
The Jomeokee Trail is rugged and difficult, but it’s super satisfying to have just enjoyed the stunning view of Big Pinnacle and know that you’re on a short hike to get a much closer look. This trail is short enough to be quick, but difficult enough to go home with a sense of accomplishment.
The reward of being up close and personal with Big Pinnacle is unparalleled, and the Jomeokee Trail is the only one that takes you this close. I won’t spoil that view for you because I insist you see it for yourself. The pinnacle’s sheared stone walls tower nearly vertically for 200 feet above you here, and it is breathtaking. So, we’ll just pick up where I decided that I’d hurry back to the car and squeeze in the Yadkin River section of the park.
The Yadkin River section of Pilot Mountain State Park has two accesses. Bean Shoals Access in Surry County is 10 miles away and the closest to the mountain section of the park. One of my favorite parts of entering the park here was the dirt road drive to the parking area and its three creek crossings. This made me feel like I was in an Indiana Jones movie, but I guess in retrospect that was a bit of a stretch. 🙂
Upon arrival, I found that I enjoyed the sandy riverbank soil, the observable abundance of butterflies, and the sounds of the babbling Yadkin. I headed down the Bean Shoals Canal Trail to get a peek at the river.
The Bean Shoals Canal Trail is short but worthwhile. Crossing railroad tracks on the trail adds even more charm. The canal wall, built in the 1820s, is visible on this trail (better view from canoe, I hear.) If you turn left at the river onto Horne Creek Trail instead, you can hike down the river and then back north to Horne Creek Living Historical Farm. The Horne Creek Trail has about twice as much river frontage.
A scenic 2-mile section of the 165-mile Yadkin River Canoe Trail flows through the park. River birches, sycamores, and two small islands make this section of river special. I didn’t have a boat on my visit but look forward to revisiting this part of the park from the water.
I’m so glad I FINALLY dug in to Pilot Mountain State Park a bit, but I have to say I feel like I have SO much more to do there. I look forward to going back this fall with friends and boat in tow.
See you in our parks!
Katie Hall is the new Public Information Officer for North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation. A life-long North Carolinian, Katie is on a mission to explore all the State Parks she has missed or hasn’t seen in a decade or more. Her background is in environmental science, management and policy, communications and outreach.