Crowders Mountain State Park Field Report
Today’s visit was to Crowders Mountain State Park in Gastonia, North Carolina, about 30 miles outside of Charlotte. Crowders Mountain has three access points and they’re only connection from inside the park is via hiking trails. Today’s plan was to head up to Pinnacle Point from the Sparrow Springs Rd access point and the main visitor’s center.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you turn onto State Park Rd towards the visitor’s center is the speed bumps, so keep an eye in your speed.
Once you get on the trails, they’re easy to follow. The only problem is finding the trailhead you’re looking for. Both the Pinnacle Trail (4 miles round trip) and the Crowders Mountain Trail (6 miles round trip) start from the left of the visitor’s center. Follow that path a short way, and you’ll see a sign where the two trails split off. The Turnback Trail starts at the far end of the parking lot directly in front of the visitors center.
Today, I planned to try out the Pinnacle Trail to the summit. The trail is listed as strenuous on the park map, but it starts out as a moderate hike at best. About half way up, it becomes much steeper. This is about the point where you’ll pass the Turnback Trail which leads back to the parking lot.
In total you’ll gain about 800 feet in elevation. There are a few benches along the trail and some large boulders where you could take a rest if you need to. Before the final climb to the top, the Ridgeline trail splits off. Ridgeline is a 6.2 mile trail that connects Crowders Mountain State Park with Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina.
As you get close to King’s Pinnacle, you walk up some stone stairs until you’re face to to face with the rock face of the peak. If you want to climb to the very top, you’ll need to do a little bolder climbing. Lots of people climb straight on from the main path, but if you follow the rock wall around to the left, you’ll find a slightly easier way up. You’ll still have to make your way over some boulders, so if you’ve brought your dogs along, this may be as far as you want to go. But you’ll still have great views to the south and east enough to see the Charlotte skyline.
If you’re up for some bolder climbing, you can reach King’s Pinnacle. The area at the top of the mountain is nice with lots of boulders and vegetation. A short path leads to to the absolute top of the mountain. The views from a little bit lower are better though. From the summit, your views are mostly to the west and north – that would be the I-85 Corridor.
After making my way down from the top, I headed back down the trail. This time, I took the Turnback Trail back to the parking lot. Turnback is a fairly moderate trail and runs next to a small brook for part of the way. Along the way, you’ll find the trailhead to the Fern Trail – an easy nature loop that reconnects to Turnback near one of the picnic areas.
After returning to the parking lot, the next stop was to check out the lake and picnic shelters. Across the road from the Visitor Center parking lot, is the lake access parking lot. The lake is fairly small with a loop trail running around it. The trail is level and made of packed gravel. Traveling counterclockwise around the lake, you can cut off the main path and up a hill to the first of the picnic shelters. It’s a large shelter with room for about 30 people. You can reserve the shelters for a fee otherwise it’s a first come first served situation. Both picnic shelters are accessible via the park road.
Other Access Points
Linwood Access – A number of trails start here and you can pick up the Crowders Mountain Trail that will take you to the visitor’s center. There’s also an EV charging station.
The Boulders Access is the southernmost access point in the park. The Ridgeline trail runs through this access point on its way to Kings Mountain in South Carolina.
Although Crowders Mountain pales in comparison with what you’ll find further west in the Blue Ridge, it is a nice spot with interesting geology. It’s only 30 miles outside Charlotte, so if you’re in that area and want to spend a day getting back to nature, Crowders is a great spot.