PILOT MOUNTAIN — Twelve miles of trails at Pilot Mountain State Park officially will become part of a statewide system during a celebration at the park next week.
Officials including State Parks Director Lewis Ledford are scheduled to be part of the Sept. 27 event that will include dedicating the Pilot Mountain trails as an addition to North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
The festivities, scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the summit area of the park, will include a chicken stew dinner, music, a sunset hike and fellowship with others who love the mountain and trail, organizers say.
“We are excited these trails are being incorporated into the system,” said Kate Dixon, executive director of the Raleigh-based group Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
It is a roughly 1,000-mile route that cuts through about 40 counties including Surry. The trail stretches from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Outer Banks east of Havelock and consists of footpaths, roads and state bike routes.
When the trail originally was laid out, it did not encompass Pilot Mountain State Park, according to Dixon. “It now swings by there, but doesn’t go into the park system itself,” she explained.
“We thought that was an error that needed to be corrected,” Dixon said. “I think of Pilot Mountain as one of the really special sites in North Carolina, so we want hikers to experience it.”
Dixon added, “We are really excited to have the trail that will take people there.”
Matt Windsor, who has been superintendent of Pilot Mountain State Park for nearly five years, said the idea of adding the hiking paths at the park to the statewide trail was hatched by Friends of Sauratown Mountains, a local volunteer group.
“They wanted to do that to promote the park,” the superintendent said.
“They really thought it was a shame that people hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail weren’t getting the chance to hike and see some of Pilot Mountain State Park,” Windsor added. “Hopefully, it’ll just bring some more visibility.”
Windsor agrees that few people actually trek across North Carolina for the entire length of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. But he hopes its addition will bring more hikers through the area to Pilot Mountain State Park and encourage greater use of it overall.
The local park official also thinks the kind of trails to be included at Pilot Mountain conform to the original intent of the Mountains-to-Sea concept: an emphasis on foot paths rather than roadways.
Public roads must be relied on in cases where trails can’t be built or where they presently don’t exist. In some cases, those roadways approximate where hiking paths eventually will go, Dixon said.
Efforts are constantly under way to add more non-vehicular routes to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, according to Dixon. She said a Surry group called the Elkin Valley Trail Association “has been working real hard” to build such pathways.
Along with dedicating the 12 miles of trails in the state park next week as part of the Mountains-to-Sea network, Dixon said a new backroads route for hikers will be announced that day between Stone Mountain and Pilot Mountain state parks.
The Sept. 27 event is to include a brief ceremony in which Ledford, the state parks director, presides over the formal dedication of the Pilot Mountain trails.
It is being co-sponsored by the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and the local groups that support the park and the trail — Friends of Sauratown Mountains, the Elkin Valley Trail Association and Sauratown Trails Association.
Pilot Mountain town officials are expected to be represented at the event as well, based on discussion at a recent council meeting.
“It will be a fun evening, and we want to share it with … others who love Pilot Mountain and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail,” Dixon added.
Next week’s gathering is open to the public, but organizers are seeking a head count to make sure enough stew is available. Those wanting to attend are asked to indicate that by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.