The first time I saw Pilot Mountain was on a road trip to Indiana. As you zip along scenic Hwy 52 toward the VA border, Pilot Mountain suddenly leaps into view, looking like absolutely nothing else in the area!
We have since driven by Pilot Mountain on several trips and vowed that one day we would actually drive over there and hike around it. We finally got around to doing that last Thanksgiving, and we had such a great time I think it will now be our annual Thanksgiving tradition (weather permitting, of course!).
Any trip to Pilot Mountain should start or end with a side trip to the charming city of Mt. Airy, which is about 20 minutes away. We have been to Mt. Airy several times and I can’t imagine why I have no photos, but sorry, I don’t. I recommend lunch at either Barney’s or Leon’s Burger Express. This is not fancy food, just Southern fare served with plenty of Southern hospitality – and cheap too! I also highly recommend popping in to Specialty Gifts. They sell all kinds of Mayberry things, but more of interest to me is their massive selection of Department 56 pieces and Old World Christmas ornaments.
Last year we decided to skip Black Friday and take advantage of a beautiful Fall day to head out for lunch and shopping in Mt. Airy and hiking at Pilot Mtn. We hit up Specialty Gifts to buy some new Old World Christmas ornaments for our ever-expanding collection, had a quick lunch at Leon’s and then took the 20 minute drive back to Pilot Mountain State Park which is located right on Hwy 52 (you can’t miss the signs). The park has plenty of easy to moderate hiking trails and good restroom facilities. We started our exploring on the Jomeokee (the Saura Indian word for “guide” or “pilot”, thus the English name for the mountain) Trail which circumnavigates the iconic quartzite “crown” atop Pilot Mountain. I was highly annoyed with myself that I forgot to bring my camera, but I have to say, I think my iPhone 5 took some pretty decent snaps!
We then headed over to walk some of the Ledge Spring and Grindstone trails, which afforded gorgeous views south and west towards Elkin and Winston Salem. These trails are labeled Moderate to Strenuous, but the parts we were on were fairly easy (we’re both fully mobile and “moderately fit”). There was only one rough spot we encountered which required you to scramble up about 50 yards of tumbled rock, but other than that – pretty level and easy-peasy.
Near the top of the “rock staircase” we found an outcrop over a 100 foot cliff that afforded an amazing view of the rolling Piedmont below. It was so peaceful and quiet up there that we spent quite a few minutes just soaking in the sun and enjoying the view. This was also the moment when I reached into my backpack and produced a big, fat wedge of Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie (ridiculously delicious!) that I had made for Thanksgiving. We sat on those cold rocks with tired legs and savored every last crumb!
That day was so fun and relaxing! I wouldn’t recommend hiking there in Summer (godawful HOT!), but late Fall was wonderful, and I imagine Spring or early Fall when the leaves are turning would be spectacular. This is definitely our new Thanksgiving tradition!