Pilot Rock Trail #321

3.6 mi - Difficult - After leaving the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the Pilot Rock Trail climbs up Little Bald Mountain, which is a grass savanna; in the summer, you are likely to hear the drumming of Ruffed Grouse. The trail then descends moderately down a dry ridge until reaching the top of Pilot Rock. The first access point to the rock is rather steep and small; the second, about 20 yards further, is more comfortable to use. From here, a breathtaking, 180-degree view of the surrounding mountains includes Funneltop Mountain, the Pink Beds Valley, and Pilot Mountain. The top of Cedar Rock Mountain (approximately ten miles away) is just visible above a far ridge. After leaving the crest of Pilot Rock, you will come to the steepest section of the trail: a 600-foot descent in less than a mile on a series of switchbacks. Along the way, you will pass the Pilot Rock Extension ((#321A), a 0.4-mile spur trail that provides access to the rock’s base for technical climbers. The trail terminates on FS 1206 at Grassy Lot Gap.

Approximate Elevation Change: 1,800 feet
Blaze: Orange

At a Glance

Open Season: Year-round
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: Hiking Trail: Foot traffic (Sections of trail open for mountain bike use).
Water: yes
Restroom: none
Operated By: US Forest Service

General Information

Directions: A car switch is necessary to avoid backtracking on this trail. Leaving the Pisgah District Ranger Station/Visitor Center, turn right (north) onto US 276. Proceed north 14 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway and then go north (right) to the Pisgah Inn (Milepost 408.6). Facing the inn, note a trail system sign, trail marking post, and set of steps at the far left end of the sidewalk that fronts the inn. Use the steps and proceed approximately 0.4 miles on the subsequent trail, which is an unsigned section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (#440). *Bikes must be walked or carried on National Park Service Land (Parkway) land. Pilot Rock Trail starts on your right, at a signed intersection. The other end of the trail is 3.6 miles away on FS 1206 (Yellow Gap Road) [the sign’s mileage of “2.3 mi” is incorrect], approximately 4 miles from US 276. Parking for one or two cars is available there, with another small space nearby. If your primary destination is Pilot Rock, start your hike there.


Mountain Biking

Day Hiking