If Salem Lake Trail (see Salem Lake Trail entry) is your easy day, Sauratown Trail is where you go to pay your dues. It’s not so much the elevation: despite taking in three peaks of the ancient Sauratown Range — Pilot Mountain, Sauratown and Hanging Rock — it largely runs along the base of the first two and officially ends below the last. Rather, it’s the challenge of running a path designed primarily for use by horses.

To be sure, the trail is open to runners and hikers. But it was built by an equestrian group, the Sauratown Trails Association, for the primary purpose of giving horseback riders a place to ride in the Piedmont. Foot traffic is welcome, just be advised that this trail was built for the less-sensitive sensibilities of a horse.

What’s that mean? For one, horses don’t need no stinkin’ bridges when it comes to crossing a creek. Thus, you may find yourself ankle deep on occasion. Horses also aren’t so picky about downed branches and limbs, so you may find a steeplechase challenge in places. And, of course, horses aren’t particular about where they do their business.

On the plus side, the trail is now part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail and receives TLC from that hiker-oriented group.

All that said, the Sauratown Trail is a great challenge, both for the ultramarathoner who needs a 30-mile (or 60-mile, out-and-back) training run, or the more casual trail runner who just wants a section or three (the trail is divided into 16 sections, ranging in length from less than a mile to nearly three. See “Maps” for access info.

Note: Much of the trail is on private land. Sometimes a private landowner decides he doesn’t want the trail on his land any more. Thus, the trail is frequently being re-routed. Check SauratownTrails.org for current closings and reroutings before heading out.

More info

Maps: A detailed map of the Sauratown Trail is available from the Sauratown Trail Association; find out how to get one here. A detailed description of each of the 16 sections is available here.

Getting there from downtown Winston-Salem: To get to both the western trailhead at Pilot Mountain State Park and the eastern trailhead at Hanging Rock State Park, go here.

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
Distance: 40 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem to eastern trailhead in Hanging Rock State Park, 30 minutes to the western trailhead in Pilot Mountain State Park.
Length: 30 miles (approximate; the trail is constantly in flux)
Time to complete: Depends, can be run in sections (there are 16)
Address: 1792 Pilot Knob Park Road (for Pilot Mountain State Park)
City: Pinnacle
State: N.C.
Zip: 27043
Latitude: 36.342056
Longitude: 80.463347