All you need to know about Pilot mountain state park

7 mins read
pilot mountain
Photo by Amy medireth / flickr

Pilot Mountain, a rocky outlier that looks to have lost its way when the Appalachians came into existence, rises proudly out of the softly sloping North Carolina hills. The pilot has guided millennia of travelers, from nomadic Native American tribes trying to seek food and housing along the meandering Yadkin River to Moravianim, a new home in the Carolina backcountry. It is a popular tourist destination for visitors traveling from the Midwest to Myrtle Beach and coastal points south.

Pilot Mountain State Park is a trip through the Piedmont Triad’s rich geology and cultural heritage. The 3,700-acre park looks like a jump rope from above, with mountain and river portions separated by a short corridor route. The 113-acre Horne Creek Farm, next to the park, is a historical monument that transports visitors back to 1910 when family farms ruled the region.

The more rustic river segment is centered on the Yadkin River section, which meanders across the area.

Pilot, one of four peaks in the Saura Mountain group, stands 1,400 feet above the valley level thanks to its pure quartzite capstone, which resists erosion from wind and water. Its granite knob rises 200 feet above a wooded base. There are typically vultures flying on the updrafts from Pilot Mountain state park, and they may be joined by the rare common raven, which is not common east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Nearby state parks include the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Horne Creek Farm works to maintain the area’s agricultural legacy by offering hands-on tours and interactive exhibits.

In addition, bridle routes are available throughout the trail corridor that connects the mountain and river sections of the park.

This monadnock, or mountain between mountains, is located 20 miles south of the Blue Ridge and resembles the mountains of southwest Virginia more than the terrain around it.

mountain
photo by Amy Meredith / flickr

The areas nature

Rangers provide educational and informative programs about Pilot Mountain State Park regularly.

Contact the park office to schedule a customized Pilot Mountain State Park tour for your group or class.

Pilot Mountain State Park educational resources have been prepared for grades 9-12 and are aligned with North Carolina’s competency-based science, social studies, mathematics, and English/language arts curriculum.

Students learn about the mountains away from the mountains and the geological events that generated them in the Pilot Mountain state park curriculum. A teacher’s manual and workshop are included free of charge with the software.

area
Photo by Amy Meredith / flickr

European Settlement in  Pilot mountain state park

The first systematic attempt to chart the area was made in 1751 by none other than Thomas Jefferson’s father, Peter, who was also the first president of the United States. Following that, a large wave of European immigrants arrived in quest of rich and readily accessible land. Moravians from Germany journeyed via the Great Wagon Road, a historic Native American trade route that stretched from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas.

Pilot Mountain’s unique knob, which marks the entrance to the Carolina wilderness, is documented in Moravian records. A historic park in adjacent Winston-Salem has the ruins of Bethabara, the world’s first Moravian colony, which was founded in 1610.

As the nineteenth century progressed, the valleys around Pilot mountain state park saw considerable expansion, with maize, tobacco, and orchard crops serving as the region’s primary crops. Horne Creek Farmworks maintains the area’s agricultural legacy by offering hands-on tours and live demonstrations.

When German immigrant John Hauser acquired the first 100 acres of farmland in 1830, the farm grew to 450 acres, producing grain, tobacco, a cannery, and orchards of apples, pears, peaches, plums, and cherries. The property was passed down to subsequent generations as the farm expanded to 450 acres.

The area’s history

Pilot Mountain is a relic of the old Sauratown Mountains, as the steep escarpments of adjacent Hanging Rock State Park. This rugged mountain rock, a quartzite monadnock, has persisted for millions of years while nearby summits have crumbled to a rolling plain.

Two impressive pinnacles crown Pilot Mountain. Big Pinnacle stands 1,400 feet above the valley level, with bare rock walls and a rounded top covered in flora, with a knob sticking upwards more than 200 feet from its base. A thin saddle connects Big Pinnacle and Little Pinnacle. Visitors have easy access to the summit of Little Pinnacle, which offers a panoramic view of Piedmont and the adjacent North Carolina division and Virginia mountains.

Pilot Mountain was known as Jomeokee, the “Great Guide” or “Pilot” to the Saura Indians, the region’s first known residents. It led Native Americans and early European hunters across the region on a north-south route. The Cherokees drove the Sauras south and subsequently conquered the region. Moravians led further colonization in the region, but owing to border unrest caused by a Cherokee-British alliance, the population remained low throughout colonial times.

Camping at Pilot mountain state park

camping
photo by Mark Doliner / flickr

Camping with family:

The family camping area is located on the lower slopes of Pilot Mountain state park, where 49 spots for tents and trailers are spread amid oaks and hickories. A tent pad, table, and grill are provided at each site. There is drinking water throughout the campsite, and there are two contemporary washrooms with hot showers nearby. There are no hookups available.

Pilot mountain state Park employees may provide firewood; collecting wood in the park is prohibited. Horne Creek Farmworks maintains the area’s agricultural legacy by offering hands-on tours and interactive exhibits. Campsites are offered for a small cost on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tent camping for kids:

A camping facility for youth groups on the Yadkin River’s north shore features tables, a fire circle, drinking water, and pit toilets. In this natural location, organized youth groups may enjoy camaraderie. High water levels in the region may create floods, so campers should be cautious. Reservations must be made.

Camping by canoe:

Get out of your canoe and onto the Yadkin Islands, where you’ll be encircled by water for the night. There are two wilderness campsites on the bigger of the two islands for canoeists. There is no running water or toilets. The locations are open all year.

Rock climbing at Pilot mountain state park

climbing
Photo by Amy Meredith / flickr

With its easy access, diverse terrain, and plenty of climbing routes, Pilot Mountain is one of the greatest classrooms for novices and a great training ground for anyone wishing to pick up new abilities in a safe environment.

The park’s cliffs allow for rock climbing and rappelling. The cliffs situated around the pilot mountain peak provide almost limitless vistas of the piedmont, Sauratown Mountains, and the Blue Ridge Mountains, among other things.

The Walls of Pilot Mountain Were Designed to Be Climbed

Pilot Mountain is an excellent learning environment for novices and newer leaders wishing to enhance their rock climbing skills. As a native North Carolinian, Pilot Mountain is a nice respite from the profusion of multi-pitch climbing routes at sites like Seneca Rocks, and the scarcity of sport climbs below 5.10 common across the state.

With its proximity to other climbing areas and good grades, this area is one of the single-pitch possible areas for single-pitch sport climbing.

Boating at Pilot mountain state park

You may canoe the Yadkin River Canoe Trail that runs through the park on a portion of the Yadkin River Trail. After crossing past five reservoirs and arriving at the junction of the Yadkin and Uwharrie rivers, the 165-mile route follows the River’s flow for its whole length.

According to park officials, the two-mile length of the surry and Yadkin counties River that runs through the park is considered one of the most picturesque sections of the River’s whole course. The River is wide and shallow here, and there are several ripples on the surface. Massive river birches loom above the water, and sycamores line the sides of the River as well.

In the River are two tiny islands, each measuring 45 and 15 acres in size. The islands may be accessed by wading across the water, riding horses, or using a boat.

The River passes by the Bean Shoals Canal Wall, constructed between 1820 and 1825 as part of an ambitious attempt to create a three-mile canal around Bean Shoals, completed in 1825. The project was shelved before it could be completed. Along the Canal Trail, you may see these old walls. Canoe or kayak along the Yadkin River Canoe Trail runs along the park’s 2.5-mile riverbank.

Along the path, there are 38 canoe access points to choose from. It is about half a mile upstream from the Yadkin Islands to reach the Shoals Access Site. At certain seasons of the year, sections of the River are also excellent for rafting. For additional information, please get in touch with the park office. There are no canoe rentals available.

A popular tourist destination

mountain
photo by Amy Meredith / flickr

Before the formation of Pilot Mountain State Park in 1968, the mountain served as a commercial tourist attraction, with private property owners charging visitors an entry fee to enter. You could drive the two miles for 50 cents, while a quarter would allow you to climb a wooden ladder to the peak for another quarter.

When the state park was established, it resulted from a grassroots movement driven by local citizens and conservation-minded property owners. The park’s 50th anniversary will be commemorated with the groundbreaking of a new visitor center at the mountain’s foot, which will be dedicated the following year.

The new facility will provide more parking and a shuttle service to the summit, which will help to alleviate traffic congestion on the park’s lone access road on weekends and holidays.

The Friends of Sauratown Mountains, a non-profit organization with more than 200 members, assists in preservation efforts via trail maintenance, local and state advocacy, habitat restoration, fundraising, special events, and public awareness campaigns.

Hike the 6.6-mile Pilot Creek Trail to get a true sense of the group’s accomplishments and sacrifices. Volunteers took just a few hours to construct the park’s newest route, which saved $75,000 in equipment and labor costs.

Fees for Admission

The park is free to enter, and there is no entry fee. A variety of fees are levied in connection with camping.

Picnic shelters are available for free on a first-come, first-served basis, but they may also be rented for a charge in advance.

The hours of operation and fees are subject to change without prior notice.

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