North Carolinian residents know that the state has a genuinely unique landscape that can be divided into three main regions: The Mountains, The Piedmont and The Coast. All of these regions have their own attractions, lifestyles and position in the states geological elevation that attract people from all over.
If you’ve ever wanted to go to the mountains, but don’t want to partake in long distance commute, there is a not-so-hidden gem in the Piedmont known as Pilot Mountain, that’s just one hour away from campus.
My girlfriend and I decided a trip to Pilot Mountain State Park would be great excuse to get out and clear our heads after a stressful week, as well as a great way to stay active. So we packed up our bags with snacks and water, and made our way down Highway 74 and 52.
After arriving, we parked at the Pilot Mountain State Park Office to get maps and more information about the mountain.
An older gentleman by the name of Pat informed me that he was camping at the parks Family Campgrounds with his wife and that they love the park. “It’s very serene here. The trails are all unique in their own way, and the view from the top is absolutely incredible!” Pat wasn’t wrong; for those who enjoy hiking and rock climbing, Pilot Mountain is the place to visit.
There are a slew of trails that allow for both inexperienced and seasoned hikers to embrace nature. The hiking trails can be divided into two categories as indicated by maps found at the Park Office: the Mountain Section and the Yadkin River Section.
The Mountain Section allows you to hike through the woodsy base of Pilot Mountain. The mountain section is home to a variety of fauna including oaks, pines, budding flowers and wild berries. There are also a ton of woodland creatures and critters on the lower trails including deer, fox, squirrels, snakes and spiders that nest in nearly every tree.
When hiking the trails near the base we were able to remain cool as the tall thin pines gather to provide perpetual shade even at high noon. The same can’t be said for the trails closer to the top of the mountain, which allow you to traverse the rocky surfaces near the mountains most notable feature called Big Pinnacle or “the Knob” by the locals.
The sun will be perpetually in your face and the elevation definitely exposes you to more sunlight than you may be used to, so be sure to bring sunscreen and lots of water. Despite the heat, the views from the top are amazing, and even allow you to see the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The trails that my girlfriend and I travelled included the Grassy Ridge Trail and a portion of the Corridor Trail, which leads over to the River Section and allows you to take in the Yadkin River and its surrounding forests.
A really cool thing about the lower level trails is that you can pay extra to explore them on horseback, however, if you want to ride the horses all the way to the Yadkin River, you will need to arrive early, since the River Section operates on different hours from the rest of the park.
If you’re a very experienced hiker and the Mountains lengthy six mile Corridor Trail is not enough for you, you may want to look into hiking the privately owned Mountain: “To Sea Trail,” which runs from The Smoky Mountains all the way to the Outer Banks. A portion of this mountain runs through Pilot Mountain, and it is a 26 mile trail that takes you to the Smoky Mountains.
Aside from the nature appreciation aspect of our trip, we also went for the many health benefits that hiking has to offer. According to a publication from the American Hiking Society, hiking can help relieve or reduce conditions including heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even anxiety.
If you’re looking to explore more of the state, get away from the busy city, bond with a close person or your life or get active – go take a hike!
Pilot Mountain State Park is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., while the River Section has varied hours of operation throughout the year.
There is also a ton of course and group hikes that are led by the park rangers free of charge. To find out the park’s varied hours of operation or other information about Pilot Mountain State Park, visit their website at https://www.ncparks.gov/pilot-mountain-state-park.