Pilot Mountain

Written By Jonathan Martin

Pilot Mountain has long remained a striking mountain landmark in Surry County, North Carolina. Towering over its surroundings at over 1,400 feet, Pilot Mountain’s distinct geographic features served as a beacon for both Native Americans and incoming settlers for centuries according to historian William S. Powell. The Saura called the mount Jomeokee, meaning the “Great Guide” or “Pilot.”

The Saura tribe, along with other Native Americans in the Piedmont, used Pilot Mountain as a landmark to navigate their trade routes. As European hunters entered the region they benefited from the mountain’s guidance. In the eighteenth century, northern settlers traveled down the Great Wagon Road that passed along the mountain’s base. Pilot becoming a welcoming sight to traveling newcomers.

One such group that noted Pilot’s guiding help were the Moravians. Countless Moravian settlers used the Great Wagon Road to arrive at their Wachovia settlement in the 1750s. William S. Powell detailed the excitement of one Moravian settler in his Encyclopedia of North Carolina: we “saw the Pilot Mountain, and rejoiced to think that we would soon see the boundary of Carolina, and set foot in our own dear land” (p. 886).

Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s father, were the first to map Pilot Mountain in 1751. From 1857 until 1968, the large peak was owned by private land owners, but in the late 1960s, the mountain became North Carolina’s fourteenth state park as Surry County residents wanted to preserve the local landscape of Pilot.

Mrs. J. W. Beasley, the owner of Pilot in the 1960s, and The Pilot Mountain Preservation and Park Committee worked together to make the land a public park. In 1976, the park became a National Natural Landmark. The total size of Pilot Mountain State Park is over 3,700 acres. Today, tourists enjoy hiking excursions, camping trips, and horseback riding at the park.

Pilot’s most distinctive features are its two pinnacles, Big Pinnacle and Little Pinnacle. The Big Pinnacle, a 200-feet tall bald rock that extends from the mountains base, is covered vegetation at its crest. Little Pinnacle, accessible by tourists and hikers, connects to the Big Pinnacle. Views from the Little Pinnacle allow mountain goers to see “hundreds of square miles of the Piedmont and the nearby mountains of North Carolina and Virginia” according to the North Carolina Division of Parks & Recreation.