Are you looking for a fall mountain destination, yet don’t want to spend several hours of your day driving in the car? Then look no further than Pilot Mountain State Park. Just 24 miles north of Winston-Salem, the mountain, a geologic marvel comprised of quartzite monadnock, is 2,421 feet above sea level and rises 1,400 feet above the surrounding countryside.
The state park is divided into two sections: The Pilot Mountain section, which includes the mountain, and the Yadkin River section. Together, the park is 3,703 acres and is the perfect destination for sightseers, hikers and campers.
It’s also a great family destination, and I spent a recent October morning with my husband, Darrell, and our kids, Carson and Morgan, exploring the park. Our day began at the Pilot Mountain section of the park, where we hiked two of the seven trails. Our first stop was the Little Pinnacle Overlook Trail, only 100 yards up a moderate grade to the Little Pinnacle bluff and an amazing view of the Big Pinnacle. It was a clear, cool morning, and we were also able to spot Sauratown Mountain and Hanging Rock State Park to the east. We took several photos here, and the kids were amazed by how far they could see.
Up next was the Jomeokee Trail, a .8-mile-long hike with a moderate slope. It took us about an hour to complete, but we walked slowly and carefully and held the kids’ hands as we navigated around the base of the Big Pinnacle. Along the way, we talked a lot about the magnificent rock with its unusual patterns and crevices. The path was clearly marked, and Carson had no trouble at all, but Morgan ran out of steam the last 10 minutes of the hike and rode on her dad’s back the rest of the way.
After more sightseeing in the Pilot Mountain section, we hopped in the car for a short drive to the Yadkin River section, where we hiked the Bean Shoals Canal Trail, one of six trails in this section of the park. This .5-mile trail follows the Yadkin River, a railroad trestle (still active) and ruins of the unfinished Bean Shoals Canal, a project undertaken between 1820 and 1825. The company building the canal had originally hoped to build a 3-mile-long canal, but the cost was considerable. The company filed for bankruptcy, and the canal was never completed.
The Yadkin River section of the park also has camping sites for youth groups, and the truly adventurous can go canoe camping. Simply canoe over to a 45-acre island on the Yadkin River and spend the night surrounded by water. The campsites are primitive, and water and toilets are not provided.
We spotted several horseback riders in this section of the park as there are two bridle paths: the Woodland Corridor Trail, a 6-mile path that connects the river and mountain section of the park, and the Yadkin Islands Trail, which is 5 miles long and crosses the river.
We stayed out the water, but Carson and Morgan loved fishing from the river bank. They didn’t have much luck catching fish, however. Carson had one small bite, but he wasn’t able to reel it in quickly enough, and Morgan was more interested in playing with leaves and rocks than fishing. Nevertheless, we fished for about an hour before packing up and heading home. On our hike back to the car, we talked about our fun day and how we hoped to return in the spring for tent camping!
IF YOU GO
In addition to several hiking trails, the Pilot Mountain section of the park has 49 campsites for tent and trailer campers. Each campsite has a tent pad, table and grill. The campground, which is open from March 15-Nov. 30, also has two modern washhouses with hot showers. Hookups aren’t available, but firewood is available from park staff. The mountain section also offers rock climbing and rappelling for experienced climbers. Climbing is permitted only in designated areas, and all climbers must register with park staff. Rangers also conduct regular educational programs about the park. Contact the park’s office for more information.
Pilot Mountain State Park
1792 Pilot Knob Park Road
Pinnacle, NC 27043
Pilot Mountain Section
Open daily at 8 a.m. Closing hours vary with season.
Yadkin River Section
Nov.-Feb. opens at 9 a.m. Rest of year opens at 8:30 a.m. Closing hours vary with season.
Pilot Mountain State Park is 24 miles north of Winston-Salem. From U.S. 52, take the Pilot Mountain State Park exit and travel west into the mountain section of the park.
The north River Section (Surry County) is 10 miles from the mountain section of the park. From U.S. 52, take the Pinnacle exit and follow the signs to Horne Creek Farm. The park entrance is about .4 miles past the farm.