Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kings Pinnacle Hike 1/22/2011

The temperature is in the thirties but we have a day off and the ice and  snow have melted so it's time to hit the trail.  My husband, Mitch suggested Kings Pinnacle so we headed to Crowders Mountain State Park.  There are two monadnocks in this park Crowders Mountain and Kings Pinnacle.  We have hiked both but today we chose the pinnacle.  This trail is well marked and easy to follow but is through a nice woods with no traffic noise or pavement. 

The trailhead is to the left of the visitor center in the main portion of the park.  Take advantage of the facilities here as there are no restrooms, water fountains, or trashcans on the trail.  The hike is about 3.5 miles round trip and you will want to spend some time enjoying the views at the top so be sure to allow several hours and bring water and snacks to fully enjoy this area.

The first part of the trail is easy walking with very few obstacles and little elevation change.  After ten minutes or so you will climb the first hill and follow a ridge for a short distance.  This ridge area has good size rocks beside the trail that children enjoy exploring.There are a  few rocks in the trail that you have to step over.  This section may be a minor challenge for the adults but is a fun area for the youngest hikers.  You will descend a short distance below this hill before the final ascent.  As you begin downhill there is a good view of your destination this time of year.  Once the leaves are back on the trees it will be harder to see.  At the low point you will see a bench and several signs.  The Turnback Trail intersects at this point.  To reach the pinnacle we will continue straight ahead but remember this spot because on the return we will take the Turnback trail.

We had a surprise at this point.  This is where the trail use to quickly become steep but they have replaced the old eroded trail here with a new section.  The new trail is slightly longer but the elevation gain is more gentle.  After a pleasant walk on the new section  we found ourselves once again on the old eroded trail with about a quarter mile left to go.  This last section is the hardest due to more rapid elevation gain and exposed rocks and roots but don't give up - you are almost there.

With .17 miles to go you find a sign for the Ridge Trail.  This is a new trail that follows the ridge line of this very old and eroded mountain chain south to the new Boulders Access area and then further south into Kings Mountain State Park and Kings Mountain National Military park in South Carolina.  We would  like to one day hike this trail but since it is longer then we usually hike in a day it would require us to bring a second vehicle to park at the Boulders Access instead of hiking back.

You will finally reach a sign that say Trail Ends Here.  This spot will not give you the views you made this climb for.  There is a sign warning that this area is dangerous - pay attention and keep a close eye on the children in your group in this area.  Several times a year we see stories in the local news of hiker in this park who have fallen while playing on the rocks.  Behind the sign there is an orange circle on the rocks.  If you carefully climb the rocks at this point you will find a level area about 25 feet away with good views.  The rocks at this point almost form a natural fence allowing you a good view without danger of falling.  From here you can follow the orange circles painted on the rocks to the right for more views in all directions.  On a clear day like today you can see the Charlotte skyline to the east and the Blue Ridges to the west.  We have wondered about the concrete pad found if you walk a couple hundred feet along the ridge.  We learned from another hiker today that there use to be a beacon light for the Charlotte airport here.

When you have finished relaxing at the top retrace your steps to the point where the Turnback Trail starts.  You have a choice to return the way you came or take this trail.  We prefer the Turnback Trail for several reasons.  It is about the same distance as the Pinnacle Trail but does not include any rocky section.  It is much less busy.  We only saw one other hiker on this trail but we saw probably fifty hikers and a dozen dogs on the Pinnacle trail.  You also get to see different scenery including two sections along a small creek.  You will pass close to the picnic area and the Fern Nature Trail will join you for a time before forking off to the right.  This trail ends at the same parking lot where we started except that you are on the opposite side of the parking lot from the building.

We did not see any large wildlife today but we have seen wild turkeys and deer on this trail.  If you want to make a day of it there are a picnic area, exhibits in the visitor center, a small lake with a trail around it, and canoes for rent in the warmer months.  Of course if you have the energy left there is another mountain to climb.  We will save it for another day.

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