Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Pilot Mountain

Posted September 30, 2008

The first brush of fall is sweeping across North Carolina. I encountered autumn's early scarlet glow at Pilot Mountain 30 miles north of Winston-Salem Sunday. I see Pilot Mountain everytime I go to my cabin off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Glade Valley. Well, I see it everytime the weather is clear. But I had never stopped to see Pilot Mountain up close. What was I waiting for?

The state park here is beautiful with lots of great trails and beautiful scenery. The area offers a two for one deal. You’ve got Hanging Rock State Park just a few miles south of Pilot Mountain off Highway 52.

Here’s a little Pilot Mountain quiz question for you: The father of what US President mapped Pilot Mountain in 1751?

Thomas Jefferson’s father Peter mapped the area along with another surveyor Joshua Fry. Here’s something else you may not have known. Pilot Mountain was a commercial tourist attraction similar to Grandfather Mountain prior to 1968 when the state purchased the land and turned it into a park. It is interesting to note that Grandfather Mountain is now going into state hands just as Pilot Mountain did 40 years ago and Chimney Rock as well. I think that is a good thing.

Pilot Mountain got its name because the peak helped guide Native Americans and early European hunters. The rugged hills are part of the Sauratown Mountains which survived intense erosion in the area. Pilot Mountain includes Big Pinnacle and Little Pinnacle. The state park offers easy access to Little Pinnacle. Trails allow you to hike around the base of Big Pinnacle. Bird watching is popular here. So is rock climbing. The kids love it. So do the parents.

Andy Griffith borrowed the name of this rugged mountain area for his popular CBS show in the 1960’s. He combined his hometown of Mount Airy and Pilot Mountain to create Mount Pilot. It was a place to go find things you couldn’t buy in Mayberry. There actually is a town called Pilot Mountain. The people are nice and friendly just like they were on the television show. A nice place to stay is the Pilot Knob Inn Bed & Breakfast which sits on 100 acres and offers grand views of Big Pinnacle.


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  • UNCfuturealumi Sep 30, 2008

    Many moons ago our youth group from church would go up to Hanging Rock state park for a day of fun, fellowship and swimming and if you was quick enough, sneak a kiss from your beau while hiking the trails. Just a lovely setting then and some sixty plus years later even more beautiful. Stop and smell the roses kids while you can.

  • cagerat42 Sep 30, 2008

    That is a beautiful sight coming out of Winston-Salem on Hwy.52
    When my boys see that they know we are close to grandma's house.
    Will be back that way at Christmas and can't wait to see it again.

  • jdlewis76 Sep 30, 2008

    I'd love to visit that area more often, but then we'd be obliged to visit my in-laws...

  • kmason910 Sep 30, 2008

    My mother grew up in Toast, which is a "suburb" of Mt. Airy, and we would visit up there 2-3 times a year when I was growing up. Before 4-lane highways were predominant, the ride from the coast was 8 hours. Pilot Mountain's knob was always a sign that we were "almost there"--a most welcome sight!!!

    Many good memories of that area. The park areas abound, and were always a good place to go cook and eat "on the mountain"--Mom and my aunts would take the food to cook, and the kids got to explore. In the summertime it was welcome relief, and in the fall, the car trunk filled with apples to carry home. I'll still take a good Stayman Winesap over any other apple.

  • Yea Me Sep 30, 2008

    This is a beautiful area! You can see the pinnacle from my aunt's deck.

  • Tigger2 Sep 30, 2008

    bill -- you should stay at the Tobacco Barn cabins next time you are there. My honey and I had a wonderful time there last fall and had a great time.

  • Wake1 Sep 30, 2008

    This a a very beautiful area! I don't get out there often enough!

  • pirate03 Sep 30, 2008

    I recommended eating at the "Squeeze Box" if your ever back in that neck of the woods. Or if your feeling really adventurous, drive about 10 minutes to a little community called Siloam and tell my grandma hello.

  • davidgnews Sep 30, 2008

    My wife and I celebrated an anniversary at Pilot Knobb Inn across from the foot of Pilot Mountain. You could look up at the mountain directly from the breakfast room. We had a great time visiting the mountain, Mt. Airy, and local wineries. A piece of heaven on earth!

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Bill Leslie