Adventure Zone: A Great Hike at Pilot Mountain State Park!

Welcome to the ADVENTURE ZONE!

These posts highlight by favorite destinations, restaurants, and experiences all across the country as a travel histotechnologist.

This week in the Adventure Zone we will be highlighting: Pilot Mountain State Park in Pinnacle, NC

So, here’s the story of how I accidentally went on an 8 mile hike on New Year’s Eve…

I’m not even one for New Year’s resolutions, but I feel like I really set a precedent for myself here!

Driving into Pilot Mountain State Park I stopped at the first parking lot that I saw. There was what appeared to be a nice restroom and what looked like a trailhead opposite the building.

This had to be the spot to start… right? Well, for me it was!

If you want to check out the MAP BROCHURE you can follow along!

The Grindstone Trailhead

To my surprise I started at the Grindstone Trailhead!

This a 3.5 mile in and out trail that is rated strenuous. No big deal! When your expectations are low you can do more than you ever imagined!

The trail is actually pretty neat! Along the first part of the Grindstone Trail it meanders through burnt hardwood forest and I found it oddly beautiful.

Seeing partially burnt moss creeping up the side of a tree was so strange!

It was a leisurely hike with a bit of a slope and some stream crossings along the way. The trail crosses back and forth a handful of streams and approaches a small stone cabin.

I kept on trekking and made it to the little cabin and a road crossing to continue on the trail. There is a campground with bathrooms along this path. I did not need to take a pit stop at this point.

A Fork in the Road

And then a mysterious fork in the road!

This is when I realized I didn’t pick the trail I thought… And that I still had a long way to go!


I chose to continue on the Grindstone Trail which would lead me to the summit. The Grindstone Trail is marked with the blue dot!

The Mountain Trail is an alternative trail that brings you further west, looping around the south side of Pilot Mountain, and reconnecting with the Grindstone Trail on the east side of the mountain.

Continuing on the Grindstone Trail there is a mini zen rock display that I absolutely loved! It was super tempting to add to this adorable art display, but there were tons of other hikers and I didn’t want to hold anyone up. (I’m realizing now I should have just done it anyway.)

This little art piece was followed by a huge incline that got my calves burning by the time I reached the top. It is what appears to be an old forest road, and man they didn’t mess around with efficiency here. Strait up!

Keep left at the second fork to stay on the Grindstone Trail! Follow the blue dots.


Starting to ascend to the summit!

There are some switchbacks at this point, and some man-made wooden stairs. Some of the trail is washed out, but it isn’t too bad, and definitely still hike-able.

Three Bears Gulley

A few switchbacks, loads of stairs, and I made it to Three Bears Gulley overlook!

It was still early, quite cool, and the thick fog was rolling out of the gulley over top of us. I felt as though the sun was trying to peek through a few times, but the fog was just too thick.

This was the coolest part… It looked as though a big whitish gray blanket was being pulled over top of us as the fog was so, so intense. Quite a surreal experience!

Continuing on the trail you will eventually hike past a picnic area and a parking lot. Expect more stairs, and a continuous incline to the Upper Summit parking lot.

Oh, so that’s the parking lot I thought I was at 3 miles ago…

We took a snack break on a lovely park bench overlooking the parking lot. There were families, hikers, and even climbers pulling all of their gear out of their cars to go scale the face of Pilot Mountain!

There are bathroom facilities here and plenty of benches and picnic tables to rest at, or have a snack, or even a nice outdoor meal with the fam.

After hydrating and snacking it was time to tackle the easy trail!

The Jomeokee Trail

So, this is where I expected to start…

But honestly I don’t think I would have enjoyed the state park as much if I would have started here. It is totally worth the trek up the mountain from the park office to fully enjoy the landscape of this area!

The Jomeokee Trail is a loop trail that is less than a mile! It’s 0.8 miles to be exact. It is rated as moderate.

The trail itself crosses the gap to access the Big Pinnacle, and loops around the entire base of this large and unique rock. It crosses back across the gap to head towards the Upper Summit Parking Area.

The air was still a bit foggy but there were still some great views!

The rock face of Pilot Mountain is spectacular! It is overarching and almost dizzying to look up at, and the rock hues of gray stone, black shadows, coppery rust, and brown mosses is absolutely stunning.

Fun Fact: Jomeokee is what the Saura Native Americans, some of the areas earliest inhabitants, called Pilot Mountain meaning “great guide”.

After enjoying the views from Jomeokee Trail I trekked back along the Grindstone Trial to the parking lot at the visitors center… And that’s how I hiked 8 miles on New Year’s Eve!

Keeping with my unrealized New Year’s Resolution I went on a 3.5 mile hike the following day! Go me!

I will probably head back to Pilot Mountain State Park once more in the spring so I can experience the vegetation changes as I ascend the to the summit, but it is just as stunning in the fall, too!

For anyone staying in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, or Greensboro I highly recommend you check out this popular, for good reason, state park for a great hike, and some awe inspiring views!

Map it!

If you’re interested in visiting Hanging Rock State Park here’s a handy dandy map!

Have you visited Pilot Mountain State Park? Let me know your favorite trail in the comments below!

Want more Adventure Zone posts? Check them out HERE!

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