Are you looking for adventurous things to do in North Carolina? Today we’re sharing the best Pilot Mountain State Park activities for couples.”
Pilot Mountain State Park is one of the most visited state parks in North Carolina and all it takes is one stop and you’ll be hooked by the views you’ll find at the top of the mountain.
Recognized as a National Natural Landmark, I believe the popularity of this park is a combination of the uniqueness of the landmark and also its convenient location for travelers to stop and stretch their legs.
Where is Pilot Mountain North Carolina?
Plot Mountain is easily accessible from US 52 where you take the Pilot Mountain State Park exit and travel west into the park near the park office. The park is located in the Surry and Yadkin counties.
How Long of a Drive is it from Mt Airy to Pilot Mountain?
Mount Pilot is a short drive from Mount Airy (about 15 miles) and only 24 miles north of Winston-Salem near Pinnacle, North Carolina.
Why do they call it Pilot Mountain?
Pilot Mountain has helped travelers navigate for centuries. Part of the Sauratown Mountains, this unique landmark was called “Jomeokee” by the Saura Indians which means “pilot.”
It’s hard to miss and is visible from miles away. I admit the pinnacle caught my eye and piqued my curiosity several years ago when I visited Mt Airy NC with my mom and dad. So much so, that we felt compelled to stop for a closer look.
One stop and it quickly became one of my favorite attractions when traveling south to Florida. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that this past February, my husband and I stopped at Pilot Mountain and spent a relaxing couple of hours when driving that very route on our van camping trip.
Things to Know Before Visiting Pilot Mountain
Anyone can stop to enjoy Pilot Mountain, but to get the most out of your stop, there are a few things that you should know.
Pilot Mountain has two pinnacles, aptly named Big Pinnacle and Little Pinnacle. Big Pinnacle is also called “The Knob” that reaches a height of 1,400 feet above the surrounding landscape and it is that knob that will catch your eye long before you see the exit to visit the park.
There are two ways to get close to the Big Pinnacle. As you enter the park, you’ll find a small Ranger Station and parking lot. You can park and make your way to the base of the Big Pinnacle on foot or, you can drive a winding two-mile-long paved road that leads upwards to the summit of Little Pinnacle where you’ll find a large parking lot.
From there, you’ll find several overlooks to take in the view of the Yadkin Valley below and the short but slightly steep Big Pinnacle Overlook Trail that provides the best view of the Big Pinnacle.
For those that want a bit more of a challenge, you’ll find a longer hike from Little Pinnacle that will take you around the base of Big Pinnacle and back or you can walk back down the mountain.
Pilot Mountain State Park is a popular place for locals as well as tourists. Because of this, the parking lot at the summit often fills to capacity.
My advice is to visit early in the day to ensure you nab a spot. There really isn’t an off-season when it comes to visiting Pilot Mountain, but like many attractions, you’ll typically find less visitors if you skip the hectic summer months and also if you visit during the week as opposed to the weekend.
You’ll find clean, modern restrooms at the summit as well as picnic tables with grills, making it an ideal location for lunch.
The park is dog-friendly so you’ll find plenty of friendly canines, just make sure to take along a few doggie bags to clean up messes.
If you plan to walk any of the trails, make sure you are wearing sturdy walking shoes and have more water than you think you will need. Due to the elevation and wind, you may find it cooler at the top of the mountain than below and should dress in layers.
What are the Best Pilot Mountain State Park Activities for Couples?
Pilot Mountain State Park provides an opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy nature with the one you love. While the park welcomes all ages and abilities, it may be best suited for adventurous couples who will find a plethora of outdoor activities waiting for them. From hiking to horseback riding, rock climbing and rappelling, and even canoe-in campsites, one could say Pilot Mountain is an outdoor lover’s paradise. But that doesn’t mean those a little less adventurous can’t enjoy the park too. I’ve visited twice with little more than the desire to simply take in the view from the top of the mountain and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Hiking– You’ll find 5 miles of trails to hike in Pilot Mountain State Park and as I mentioned, they range from easy to moderately strenuous. Slip on your hiking shoes and backpack and make it a day climbing to the top of Pilot Mountain.
Rock Climbing and Rappelling– The rocky terrain found at Pilot Mountain naturally lures climbers to the area. Visitors must bring their own safety equipment, and obtain a permit (free) before climbing.
Horseback Riding– Trailer your horses into the park or arrange for a guided riding experience from one of the local stables.
Canoeing– The two-mile portion of the Yadkin River that runs through the park offers some of the most scenic views on the river. Two small islands in the river can be accessed by canoe and allow overnight camping. Just make sure to bring your own canoe or kayak.
Cycling– You won’t find trails within the park but I’ve spotted cyclists along the road into the park and heading up the summit on both occasions that I’ve visited. Keep in mind that the road is steeply graded and should only be attempted by experienced cyclists.
Fishing– Purchase a state fishing license and while your day away catching smallmouth bass, spotted bass and catfish.
Picnicking– You’ll find individual picnic tables as well as a picnic shelter at the top of Pilot Mountain.
Geocaching– Download the Geocache app and set out on a modern day treasure hunt. Several geocaches are available as well as an Earthcache which leads to unique geological feature (as if Pilot Mountain itself isn’t incredible enough). Download the Geocache app for Android here or Apple here.
Bird Watching– The park is located on the NC Birding Trail making it an ideal destination for bird watching. Birds of interest include the Bald Eagle, Common Raven, Pileated Woodpecker and various migrating species including the Snowy Egret and Green Heron which can be seen starting in late September to November. Make sure you pack your binoculars for the best views.
Photography– You’ll find plenty of opportunities to take photographs at Pilot Mountain. From the scenic views to the wildlife, this is one trip when you’ll be happy to have your camera.This is my go-to camera. It’s compact and easy to carry but has an amazing zoom that allows me to catch just the shot I want.
Ranger Led Programs– Pilot Mountain State Park offers programs for a variety of ages and interests. Join a guided bird walk and learn about migratory birds that stop in the park, go on a hawk watch, learn about the trees and diverse plants in the park or join volunteers for an evening of sky watching.
Camping– You’ll find campsites within the park that welcome tent campers and RVers and are open March 15th until November 30th. Don’t have your own RV? Not a problem! You can rent one through Outdoorsy but personally, I don’t think you need to look any further than this cozy Airstream for a memorable couple’s getaway.
More Lodging Options– If you’re looking for something a bit more romantic than the tent or RV for your romantic getaway to Pilot Mountain, check out nearby Pilot Knob Inn or one of the beautifully appointed suites at the Heart & Soul Bed and Breakfast. You’ll also find additional options through Airbnb and you’ll save $40 off your first booking of $75 or more when you use this link.
Spend an hour or a few days in Pilot Mountain State Park, it’s up to you. Have you visited this North Carolina treasure? Leave a comment below and tell us what you enjoyed most.
Pilot Mountain State Park
Address: 1792 Pilot Knob Park Road Pinnacle, NC 27043
© 2019, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.