Pilot Mountain

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!

Pilot Mountain appears out of nowhere on Hwy 52N

Pilot Mountain appears out of nowhere on Hwy 52N

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!

A view of the quartzite cap of Pilot Mtn, from the Little Pinnacle Overlook

A view of the quartzite cap of Pilot Mtn, from the Little Pinnacle Overlook

A view from the start of the Jomeokee Trail

A view from the start of the Jomeokee Trail

The entire cap is layer upon layer of quartzite.  If geology is your thing, this mountain is fascinating!

The entire cap is layer upon layer of quartzite. If geology is your thing, this mountain is fascinating!

A closeup of the quartzite layers

A closeup of the quartzite layers – it was literally like looking at a wall of time.

I spent nearly the entire time on the Jomeokee Trail looking up because (a) it always looked like a huge rock was about to fall on you and (b) there were dozens of Turkey Vultures hanging out up there just waiting for that to happen.

I spent nearly the entire time on the Jomeokee Trail looking up because (a) it always looked like a huge rock was about to fall on you and (b) there were dozens of Turkey Vultures hanging out up there just waiting for that to happen.

On the Jomeokee Trail - you can see for miles and miles practically the whole way around.

On the Jomeokee Trail – you can see for miles and miles practically the whole way around.

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.

On the Ledge Spring Trail

On the Ledge Spring Trail.  We saw lots of people practicing rappelling on the rock cliffs.

The only tricky part we encountered were these rocks you had to climb up.  Really, quite doable, tho I did manage to bash my knee on the very last part at the top.

The only tricky part we encountered were these rocks you had to climb up. Really, quite doable, tho I did manage to bash my knee on the very last part at the top.

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!

Our picnic spot atop the cliff.  Below we could see a meandering river and picturesque homesteads.

Our picnic spot atop the cliff. Below we could see a meandering river and picturesque homesteads.

I don't know what possessed me to go stand on the edge of that cliff (probably the sugar and the Bourbon in that pie) - but I just HAD to get my picture made!

I don’t know what possessed me to go stand on the edge of that cliff (probably the sugar and the Bourbon in the pie) – but I just HAD to get my picture made!  At no point did I let go of that tree.

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!

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Comments

  • Anonymous  On March 3, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    You make this area sound so beautiful, rugged and…interesting. I do love the pics as well as your eloquent descriptions.

    Like

    • E H Whitesides  On March 3, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      Thanks! I hope you have a chance to get out there and experience Pilot Mtn for yourself!

      Like

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