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Triad Favorites: Pilot Mountain

Aubrey Linville Photograph

Posted By Aubrey Linville

Folks travel from all over to visit Pilot Mountain, but if you’re lucky enough to live here, it feels like home.

My first recollection of Pilot Mountain was when I was a Boy Scout (Centenary Troop 920). It’s just a flash of a memory, but it’s one of those childhood moments I’ll never forget, right up there with building a fort and camping out. When I got my license, I couldn’t wait to drive there with my high school friends. I still remember exactly what it felt like hitting 52 for the first time. Cruise control, windows down, volume cranked up. Freedom on the open road. Those were the days.

Decades later, I’m still just as excited about grabbing a daypack and loading my family in the car. Same hiking trails, same picnic spots, same views. You’d think the novelty would eventually wear off, but an impromptu trip to Pilot Mountain is the kind of adventure that never gets old. Watching my son and daughter enjoy the experience makes me feel like a kid all over again.

The Jomeokee Trail is a family favorite. On a clear day, you can see the Winston-Salem skyline, a jagged collection of rectangles popping up over the trees. You can see old barns, farmhouses, lakes, and cows. You can watch eighteen-wheelers heading up the highway. At 2,421 feet above sea level, they look like tiny ants marching towards a piece of candy. It’s pretty neat to feel so big and so small, all in the same moment.

The panoramic views are incredible, and it’s always fun to try to point out specific mountains, rivers, and landmarks in the distance. All family disputes can be settled at the skyline map on the northwest side of the park. In the meantime, there’s no mistaking Sauratown Mountain or Hanging Rock State Park. And it’s easy to envision the laughter coming from Camp Hanes or Raven Knob.

It’s easy to see why Pilot Mountain has been a geographical landmark for generations. The Saura Indians used it as guide on their long journeys. The Moravians watched for it as they traveled down the Great Wagon Road. When Mrs. J.W. Beasly sold Pilot Mountain to the State of North Carolina on July 25, 1968, she didn’t do it for her own benefit. She did it so families like ours could enjoy it. 

Maybe it’s just my imagination, but the air feels crisper and smells fresher at the top. Life seems a tad less complicated here. Some decisions are hard, but the 26-minute drive from our office to Pilot Mountain is a no-brainer. Do yourself a favor now that spring has come to Winston-Salem and visit this gem in our midst!