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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Pilot Mountain

Posted September 30, 2008 9:37 a.m. EDT

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.