If you’ve driven through North Carolina near Winston-Salem, you may have seen a strange looking knob atop a mountain from the highway. Meet Pilot Mountain!
I’ve had the pleasure of hiking Pilot Mountain every year for the past nine years and it never gets old. It was one of my first dates with my now husband and it’s turned into an annual tradition for us!
Whether you’re a professional hiker or just looking for a scenic view and a stroll, this North Carolina spot is a must-see. From parking to packing, here is the ultimate guide to hiking Pilot Mountain.
Where to Park on Pilot Mountain
Pilot Mountain State Park has not one but three parking areas situated on different levels of the mountain. The brand new visitor center is located at the very bottom near the entrance with plenty of parking, restrooms, and a shuttle service to take you to the top.
About half a mile further up, you’ll find another, much smaller parking lot limited to about 20 cars. You can easily catch the trails here.
If you’re short on time or not in the mood for a lengthy hike, skip the workout and head straight to the views with the parking lot available at the very top. Come early as this lot has a limited number of spots.
What to Bring
I’m not a seasoned hiker, but in my experience, less is more when packing to hike a mountain. Translation? Carry a backpack-style bag that will be out of your way or wear a fanny pack that will stay in place. Unless you’re camping overnight or rock climbing, here is a simple list of backpack items to remember.
-Reusable water bottle
-Snacks (granola bars, apple, etc.)
Trails to Hike
With at least 9 different hiking trails, there’s a Pilot Mountain route available for every level ranging from easy to moderate to strenuous.
The Grindstone Trail begins at the base and takes you up what I like to call a strenuous-but-not-impossible route that’s completely doable for non-hikers. It’s definitely the long, scenic route – 3.5 miles up and 3.5 miles down for a total of 7 miles (that’s not counting the hike around the base of the knob). Be prepared for a few stretches of long, steep hills and watch your footing on roots and stones.
This is the shortest but arguably most beautiful trail situated at the base of the knob itself. Not only can you can see for miles (try to spot Winston-Salem’s skyline!) but you get up close and personal to some seriously cool rock formations. The Jomeokee Trail is a .8 mile-loop and relatively flat minus a few big stone steps. Full of shaded areas to sit and enjoy a snack!
If you’re passing through on a road trip, your best bet is to park at the summit and take the Jomeokee Trail for a brief walking break coupled with gorgeous views.
For the best view of Pilot Mountain itself, check out the view at Little Pinnacle Overlook. You can’t miss it. Once you arrive at the top parking lot, you’ll see several overlook areas perfect for your next Instagram photo. Follow the signs for the Little Pinnacle Overlook and enjoy!
Pilot Mountain State Park has some of the nicest public restrooms I’ve seen on a state park property. Indoor restrooms and water fountains are available at the visitor center at the base of the mountain as well as the summit.
Picnic tables underneath pavilions are available for your lunch break or to duck under in case it rains (this happened to me!) There are plenty of benches at the summit for resting as well as on the Jomeokee Trail loop.
One of the most iconic looking mountains in the Southeast, Pilot Mountain is fun to spot from the highway and even more fun to hike. Whether you stop through for a quick photo opp or make a day of it, I hope this guide helps on your adventure to Pilot Mountain!
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