We’re always up for a challenge and hiking King’s Pinnacle did not disappoint. In fact, we probably were a little too ambitious and over did it because we were wiped out for the rest of the day and part of the following day. Crowders Mountain State Park is a place we have been to a few times. There’s over 5,000 acres to explore and miles of hiking trails that range from easy to strenuous. One of the things that we like best about this park is that the kids can log miles on Kids in Parks and do the activities associated with it. The first time we visited Crowder’s Mountain State Park the boys were small. We drove to the visitor’s center at the Sparrow Springs Access and walked part of Crowder’s Trail. We turned around once we got to some strenuous rock formations because the kids were not at all ready to walk long distances and the terrain was too dangerous for them to continue. Crowder’s Trail is about 2 miles and at the time we made around 1 mile in before we stopped to have lunch and called it a day. We were new to hiking and probably should have chosen one of the easier trails but the kids really wanted to see what was around. Since then, we have been back several times. We have completed the Tower Trail and Backside Trail on the other side of the park. Each of these trails were strenuous and truthfully scary at times because of the drop offs near the top of the Tower Trail. There are warning signs in bright yellow that you can’t miss and that was the point that we told the kids not to go past because of how dangerous it is.
This trip was just us and we went in the morning after the kids were dropped off at school. We are about an hour away so we got there about mid morning. We started at the Sparrow Springs Access and walked the Turnback Trail. The Turnback Trail is not difficult at all (about 1 mile) you pass the Fern Trail and some picnic areas before you start to climb elevation slightly and reach the Pinnacle Trail. The PinnacleTrail is more difficult. It’s like a winding road straight up the mountain. We were walking this trail fairly quickly and underestimated how much energy we would need to gather to make it all the way to the top. Walking the Pinnacle Trail does not seem like it is going to be hard at first, there are lots of trees, it’s fairly shaded but not much to see but the woods around you. It’s very quiet. There were a few other hikers and lots of families with dogs. We brought Layla with us since she loves to be with us everywhere. She had an awesome time sniffing new trees and seeing other dogs on the trail.
The hike all the way up to the Pinnacle was about 2 miles one way from the sign and truthfully, by the time we got there we were struggling. The Pinnacle Trail is much more of a workout and a challenging hike than the other two trails to the top on the other side near the Tower and Backside Trails. The Pinnacle Trail is seriously no joke. The trail consists of a gravel with lots of uphill elevation changes. Once you start reaching closer to the top, there are rocky obstacles and tree roots to watch out for. The views aren’t much other than the woods that you’re walking in but if you look out past the trees you can get a good sense of how high you’re eventually going to get.
We were lightheaded, winded and having a very hard time making it to the top. A lot of encouragement and leaning on the occasional tree for short breaks were what got us up there. We weren’t the only ones though, others were pausing too so we didn’t feel SO bad about not just powering through. Once you reach the top, you realize why it’s important to not give up, the views were amazing!
Photographic opportunities are everywhere as well as constant reminders of how high you are. King’s Pinnacle is the highest point in Gastonia at around 1,700 feet above sea level. When you first reach King’s Pinnacle you meet the familiar warning sign that is a reality check that people have died and been injured while visiting this spot. We can’t stress enough how important it is to really watch your footing around these peaks. One wrong step and it could be a disaster, for real. We walked to the left of the sign along a smaller trail to a peak where we sat for a while and took some photos, carefully navigating around so as to not fall. To the right and UP and over more rocks you will see the other side of the Pinnacle that is obviously a popular photograph spot. It is breathtaking and you can see out for miles. This spot is what everyone sees from the highway. We’ve seen this spot and said “nope, too high, we’re never going up there” but here we were, sitting in that spot that we said we’d never get to. Never say never!
It is very quiet and peaceful up there, you really are in awe as to what you’re seeing, what you went through getting up there and but also the reality that you now have to walk back DOWN. We were running short of time before having to get back to school to pick up the kids so we decided to head back out. Getting down off of the trail was obviously less challenging but with legs that felt like Jello proved to be a little more tricky. We were less winded but Layla was obviously tired and thirsty. Most of the stops on the way down the trail were to let her rest and get a drink. Once we got back to the car, we stopped and turned around to again look at the spot that we were just standing. Hiking is a challenge but brings great rewards. It had been a long time since we had done a hike just the two of us and it helped us to reconnect a little bit. Work, the kids, crazy schedules made us realize that we are constantly moving, almost robotic so in the same rush and routine daily. Getting to the pinnacle, sitting and watching the birds fly over, looking out above the trees in the absolute quiet was recharging and something that we really needed. We love hiking with the kids but we usually divide and conquer when it’s the four of us. Just the two of us, we pushed and encouraged each other when the terrain got rough, we sat there on the rocks looking out, realizing how quickly we made it up the trail and probably should have slowed down a little.
- activities for the kids through Kids in Parks
- clear trail markings
- challenging terrain
- the view from the top