Sometimes you’re so busy gawking and taking pictures you don’t have time to hike a great distance. When you’re exploring the top of Pilot Mountain State Park, for instance.
Like Hanging Rock, Pilot Mountain is a part of the ancient Sauratown range, which once rose high if not far but today tops out below 3,000 feet. Hanging Rock, Sauratown Mountain and Pilot Mountain are the remaining hints of this once mountainous mountain range. While the park has miles of trail snaking down the mountain’s flanks, it’s the 2.8 miles up top that command the most attention.
From the west end of the mountaintop parking area, head west on the Ledge Spring Trail. There’s a long, mostly gentle descent down the ridge, a descent that ends before the trail gets too far down the mountain. Here, it does a U-turn and heads east along the base of the mountain’s exposed wall. The wall, about 100 feet high, is a visual delight for hikers and a popular playground for the region’s rock climbing community. Take a seat and watch as climbers tackle such popular areas as Three Bears, Little Amphitheater and Pool Hall.
It’s here where you’ll start to figure out why a 2.8-mile hike could take 3 hours. Or more.
Ledge Spring Trail brings you back to the main parking area, just past which you’ll pick up Jomeokee Trail. Jomeokee circumnavigates Pilot Mountain, also known as the Big Pinnacle. More big walls (but no climbers), lots of birds of prey circling overhead. A relatively flat trail that’s easily accessible.
Pilot Mountain is the ideal pressure-release valve for the stressed Winston-Salemite: a big-mountain escape within 25 minutes of downtown.
More info: Pilot Mountain State Park
Maps: Downloadable here, also available at the park.
Getting there from downtown Winston-Salem
Distance: 25 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem
Time to complete: 2-3 hours
Address: 1792 Pilot Knob Park Road