Crowders Mountain State Park

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Crowders Mountain Before it Became a State Park

Trees growing up in cracks of the boulders near Kings Pinnacle  at Crowders Mountain State Park.
As you climb higher up the Kings Pinnacle Trail at Crowders Mountain State Park, the terrain changes from the familiar rolling hills of the Piedmont to the rocky rough terrain visitors travel to experience.

Once marking the boundary between the hunting grounds of the Cherokee and the Catawba nations, the twin peaks of Crowders Mountain and Kings Pinnacle still tower above the North Carolina Piedmont. While still an impressive sight, the peaks in Crowders Mountain State Park are just pale reflections of their former glory.

Classified as monadnocks rather than true mountains, Crowders Mountain and the surrounding peaks are the remnants of an ancient mountain range once taller than the Alps. Over hundreds of millions of years the softer earth has been eroded away to expose the quartzite core. The strength of that quartzite core is what allowed Crowders Mountain still stand while others have fallen to the elements.

boulders high up in Crowders Mountain State Park looking out over land below the top of a single tree can be seen through a gap in the rocks.
Boulders and rock outcroppings are common at Crowders Mountain State Park

That quartz core also makes Crowders Mountain State Park a geological outlier in this region of the Piedmont. It’s not just the way the mountains rise up from their relatively flat surroundings.

Rock outcrops are rare this far east, but around these peaks, boulders are abundant. Geologically speaking, Crowders Mountain State Park is much more like the foothills region of the Appalachian Mountains than the rolling hills of the Piedmont.

Narrow path with tall boulders on the left and shorter ones on the right along the Kings Pinnacle Trail at Crowders Mountain State Park
The hike to the top of Kings Pinnacle is worth it if for now other reasons than to enjoy the rock formations along the way.

Mining Concerns on Crowders Mountain

It’s this easy access to mineral deposits that almost cost the North Carolina Piedmont two of it’s most treasured natural sights. As far back as the 18th Century, some type of mining has been conducted on Crowders Mountain. There are even traces of gold mines dating to the North Carolina Gold Rush still in the State Park. Other mining operations on the mountain included iron, kyanite, and barite. But most of these were small scale operations that didn’t leave lasting scars on the landscape.

Kings Pinnacle  at Crowders Mountain State ParkLarge rock outcrop the top of a cliff looking down on area at base of the mountain
The View from Kings Pinnacle on Crowders Mountain State Park Pinnacle Trail – hint that’s the I-85 Corridor Below.

But in 1970, interest in large scale mining of the mountain began. When residents saw what happened at nearby Henry’s Knob in York County, South Carolina and became alarmed.

Once a monadnock that rivaled Crowders Mountain, Henry’s Knob was the site of the largest deposit of kyanite in the world. Between 1947 and 1970, an open pit mining operation turned Henry’s Knob from a vibrant forested mountain into a lifeless hole in the ground.

Large granite rock  formation on  the right looking down on surrounding hills with pine trees growing.
Crowders Mountain State Park may contain the highest peak in the area, but it’s certainly not the only monadnock in the range. Although the geology in the park marks a stark difference from the surrounding area.

The Gaston Conservation Society was formed to ensure that the same thing didn’t happen here. Through their tireless efforts, the state of North Carolina was persuaded to buy up the land on and around the mountain.

Crowders Mountain State Park was opened in 1973. Additional acreage including the Pinnacle was added in 1988 with a final 2000 avers connecting Crowders Mountain to Kings Mountain State Park being purchased in 2000.

Visiting Crowders Mountain State Park

For details on our visit check out our Crowders Mountain State Park Field Report

The unique features that made Crowders Mountain a target for mining interests make it a must see destination for people living in the eastern Piedmont. With just a short drive from Charlotte, you can have a taste of mountain life but much closer to home.

Kings Pinnacle at Crowders Mountain State Park - rock formation at the edge of a cliff looking down on the land below.
Kings Pinnacle Lookout along on Crowders Mountain Pinnacle Trail

The mature climax forest of mostly hardwood trees is home to abundant wildlife, but as the park tends to be very busy, most animals keep their distance. You may, however, see signs of wildlife like footprints along the trail. Deer, fox, and chipmunk are just a few of the animals that call the park home.

Dirt trail leading up a hill along the Pinnacle Trail at Crowders Mountain
Don’t let the easy start to some of the trails fool you…they become much more challenging about half way in, but there are plenty of benches where you can catch your breath.

Around the lake and streams you might see aquatic life like frogs and turtles. Most of the snakes found in the park are harmless, but keep an eye out as copperheads and timber rattlers live in the forest as well.

The park is also a great spot for bird watching. Over 160 species of birds including waterfowl, songbirds, wading birds, and raptors either live in the park or migrate through.

The Very top of the Kings Pinnacle Trail at Crowders Mountain - a number or large boulders in rocky soil with what looks like a pipe sticking up from the ground a few trees and vegetation
Once you reach this point ta the top of the Pinnacle, you’ll be treated to a spectacular view of the surrounding area. On a clear day you can see Charlotte in the distance.

The topography is much closer to what you’d find further west in the Appalachian Foothills. Rock outcrops and sheer stone cliffs are the trademarks of Chowders Mountain. The rugged terrain not only makes for challenging hikes, but the abundant wildflowers along the trails such as mountain laurel and rhododendron will compete with the scenic view for your attention.

Crowders Mountain Hiking Trails

pine trees rock outcroppings and a small path at the top of Pinnacle Mountain
Top of Pinnacle Mountain

The State Park boasts 11 trails ranging from easy to strenuous. If you’re feeling adventurous you can even trek the entire length of the park and enter the Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina. The park has three access points with only trails connecting them inside the park, so it’s best to decide what trails you want to hike before getting to the park.

Linwood Rd Access at Crowders Mountain

Backside Trail -Begins near the parking lot – .8 mile one way strenuous hike to the top of Crowder’s Mountain. Along the way, you’ll pass the end of Crowders Trail which will take you south to the Pinnacle Trail and the Visitor Center at the Sparrow Springs access point. The Rocktop Trail begins at the end of the Backside Trail.

large rock outcrop - rock face - with trees growing at the top
Most people climb to the top at the fist spot they see, but there is another way. If you follow the path at the base of this rock face to the left, you can find an easier way to the top.

Rocktop Trail – Begins at the top of Crowders Mountain – 1.5 mile strenuous hike. Crosses several rock ledges and eventually ends at the Crowders Trail near Sparrow Springs rd. From there you can either follow Crowders Trail to the Sparrow Springs access point, take Crowders Trail North to get back to the Backside Trail and then the Linwood Rd Access, or turn around and follow Rocktop back the way you came.

Tower Trail – Begins at the Linwood Rd Parking lot – 1.8 mile strenuous hike. The Tower Trail will take you to the base of the radio towers on Crowders Mountain. It ends on the Rocktop Trail, from there you can either turn north to the summit and pick up the Backside Trail back to the parking lot, or follow the Rocktop Trail south to the Crowders Trail, or turn around and go back the way you came.

Sparrow Springs Access at Crowders Mountain

Fern Trail and Lake Trail – Both easy .8 mile loop trails. You can access both trails from the parking area near the lake. The Lake Trail is a gravel path looping around the lake. The Fern Trail is a looping nature trail around the picnic areas.

Crowders Trail – Begins to the left of the Visitors Center – 2.8 mile moderate hike. Trail runs north towards the Linwood Rd Access. Shortly after crossing Sparrow Springs Rd, the Rocktop Trail will fork off to the right. Crowders Trail ends at the Backside Trail which you can follow to the summit of Crowders Mountain or continue on to the parking area.

rock cliff with earthen stairs to the left leading up
Getting Close to the top of the Pinnacle

Crowders Mountain Pinnacle Trail – Begins to the left of the Visitors Center along the same path as the Crowders Trail – 2 mile strenuous hike to the top of King’s Pinnacle. About half way up the Turnback Trail splits off and runs back to the parking lot in front of the Visitors Center. Near the summit, the Ridgeline Trail splits off and runs south past the Boulders Access Point..

rocky path near the top of the mountain with a natural rock ledge on both sides and threes growing along the path
The top of the mountain is like a different world. The trail to the top of The Pinnacle is pretty easy once you get to this point.

Crowders Mountain Turnback Trail – Begins at the parking lot in front of the Visitors Center – 1.2 mile moderate hike. Spills into the Pinnacle Trail about half way to the summit and offers access to the Fern Trail as well.

Crowders Mountain Ridgeline Trail – Splits off the Pinnacle Trail near the summit – 6.2 mile moderate hike. Runs south past the Boulders Access point finally ending in South Carolina’s Kings Mountain Park.

Weathered looking rock formations at Crowders Mountain - Rocky cliff about thirty feet high with signs of erosion
The rocky outcrops and rugged terrain of Crowders Mountain look like they belong far away in the mountains of North Carolina instead of just a stones throw from Charlotte.

Camping at Crowders Mountain State Park

Crowders Mountain State Park features a number of backcountry primitive camping sites. The sites are accessible along the Pentacle Trail and about a mile from the parking area. If you plan on camping, be sure to register at the visitor’s center and pack out everything you pack in.

Other Activities at Crowders Mountain State Park

If you’re not into mountain climbing or backcountry camping, you’ll still find enough to do for an entire day. There are plenty of picnic spots around the lake and fishing is allowed with a North Carolina fishing license.

Crowders Mountain State Park Today

Crowders Mountain is a great spot for folks in the Charlotte area to get way from the city. It’s close by, so you can spend more time in nature and less time in your car. It does get busy, especially on the weekends. Park officials may have to close access to parts of the park when the parking lots are full. So you’re best bet is to arrive early. Weekdays tend to be less crowded, but you may be surprised at how many people had the same idea you did when you arrive at the park.

small lake with wooden fishing pier
The lake at Crowders Mountain State Park

Most of the hikes are on the strenuous side, but if you’re looking for an easy stroll or a lazy day at the lake, you’ll find that here too. The trails are well marked and if you take a picture of the trail maps with you’re phone before you start, you’ll always be able to look up what trail you’re on. Lots of people take their dogs on the trails, but be sure to pack enough water for both of you.

Fast Facts about Crowders Mountain State Park

Type:State Park
Location:522 Park Office Ln, Kings Mountain, NC 28086
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Things to do: Hiking, Picnicking, Rock Climbing, Fishing, Camping

Map to Crowders Mountain State Park