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Pilot Mountain Loop

  4.5 ( 12 ) Favorite


5.7 mile 9.1 kilometer loop


Ascent: 643' 196 m
Descent: -647' -197 m
High: 1,610' 491 m
Low: 1,138' 347 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 15% (8°)


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Trail shared by Thomas Birch


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Circle Pilot Mountain on this great loop hike.

Thomas Birch

Features Birding · Views · Wildlife


Circumnavigate scenic Pilot Mountain on this great loop hike which follows the Grindstone Trail and Mountain Trail. In winter there are opportunities to get views for the Big Pinnacle from not often seen angles.


Starting across the park road from the Visitor Center parking area, the hike begins by ascending on the Grindstone Trail following the blue and white circle trail blazes toward the summit. The trail will cross several small streams in the first section before passing a stone cabin. The trail then crosses the main park road at 0.4 miles, and continues its ascent on a wide forest road. The trail continues on to the family campground. A short spur trail leads to the campground at the 1.0 mile mark. Continue on the Grindstone Trail until you reach a large trail junction at 1.4 miles.

To continue the Pilot Mountain Loop follow the Mountain Trail (Red Circle Blazes) and Mountains-to-Sea Trail Segment 7: Sauratown Trail (White Circle Blazes) to the right at this junction. This section of the trail is wide and follows a fire break line through the mixed pine forest. The trail is fairly level and well graded. The trail goes through several large boulder fields during this section.

As the Mountain Trail rounds the southwest flank of the mountain it begins another ascent eventually reaching the highest point of the hike at 1,600 feet at the 3.2 mile mark of the hike. The trail then starts descending fairly steeply for the next 1.3 miles. Watch for the blazes marking a large switchback while coming down the mountain. At the 4.5 mile mark there is a trail junction the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Segment 7: Sauratown Trail turns off to the right.

At this trail junction, stay straight and follow the red circle blazes to continue on the Mountain Trail. There will be a small sign indicating the Park Office 1 mile. The trail then crosses some small streams on large rocks as it winds around the eastern flank of Pilot Mountain. The trail is well graded and has only a slight grade as it makes its way back to the Park Office completing the hike.

Flora & Fauna

This hike passes through forest typical of this part of the North Carolina Piedmont. It's a mixed hardwood and pine forest with several groves of rhododendron in the small creek drainages coming off the mountain.

There are many opportunities to see whitetail deer on the hike.

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Jun 9, 2019
Jana DuMond
Beautiful hike with a nice roll to it. There was a lot of water rushing about on the Grassroots trail, but that was no surprise given the rains thi… 5.7mi — 2h 00m
May 11, 2019
Kayla McFadden
Nice, easy, steady loop around the mountain. Some awesome views show through the trees. — 2h 15m
Mar 30, 2019
William Carter
6mi — 12h 00m
Aug 20, 2018
Sharon Gardner
With Nate
Aug 14, 2018
Clark Maness
Jul 21, 2018
Josh Schuman
Jul 21, 2018
Josh Schuman
May 7, 2018
Jennifer Marquardt
From the visitor's center, to the top, around Pilot Mountain, and back down. 8.1mi

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 12 votes


  4.5 from 12 votes
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