Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pilot Mountain State Park


Ride north on Highway 52 and you will see looming on the horizon what Cherokee Indians knew as "Jomeokee"....and to Andy Griffith fans..... as."Mt. Pilot".   Long used as a guidepost of Native Americans and early settlers, Pilot  Mountain is preserved as a State Park.  Exiting Highway 52 at the park's entrance, you travel a narrow winding road to a parking lot at the summit of the lower pinnacle.  

The park is very popular, so be prepared to wait for a parking spot. There is one main trail that circles the base of the Knob and winds along the base of climbing cliffs before leading back to the parking lot.  Before you embark on the journey venture out to the lower pinnacle for a magnificent view of the famous Knob.   

From this overlook to the north you can see two sister mountains.  The most distant is Moores Knob, the pinnacle of nearby Hanging Rock State Park.  Between Pilot Mountain and Moores Knob is Sauratown Mountain recognizable by the many communications towers located on its summit.  

There are two approaches to hiking the loop trail.  If you want a short hike (Jomeokee Trail), take the trail located near the lower pinnacle access.  It will loop around the Big Knob and return you to the parking lot no worse for the wear for a 3/4 mile easy walk.   If you choose to take the entire 3.5 mile loop(Ledge Spring Trail) you can leave the Big Knob trail by taking a less traveled trail to the left.    You will proceed down this trail along a pretty rugged rocky path taking you below the cliffs upon which the parking lot is located.  This is a heavily used climbing area.

Once you leave the cliffs the path becomes wider and very well maintained.  But it is a long switchback trail that takes you 3/4 of a mile out from the base of the cliffs and then returns on a long steep climb back to the parking lot.  Along the way there are many overlook trails that take you to the edge of the cliffs giving a stunning view of the surrounding countryside.

One of the things that will frustrate you is that as you struggle to walk along the path on the edge of the cliff, you will encounter many of the same climbers you have seen at the base of the cliff. It does not seem fair that they have taken a shortcut!

Upon returning to the parking lot there is a wonderful overlook providing a view to the east and on a clear day you can make out the skyline of Winston-Salem in the distance.

I suspect that when I return I will reverse my original path and begin the hike along the wide switchback trail and end it with a climb up the rocky path beneath the cliffs ending with the loop around the Knob.  I think it will make the trek more enjoyable.   This is not an easy hike.  It is rugged in places and contains a long steep climb back to your car.  But the views are incredible and worthwhile. 

Pilot Mountain State Park is a gem....a scenic wonder!   It is an easily accessible thirty minute drive from Winston-Salem and is quickly located off Highway 52.  It combines a challenging afternoon hiking trip with an comfortable locale for a family picnic.  More adventurous can camp and spend a weekend exploring the mountain or climbing the cliffs.

The Fat Bald White Guy says:   Pack a picnic....lace up the hiking kicks....take the family and enjoy!   I rate this Pilot Mountain:  8
                                                       Access:           10
                                                       Scenery:           8
                                                        Jomeokee        3
                                                        Ledge Spring   5

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