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A Complete Guide to Crowders Mountain State Park, North Carolina

Efficient Admin (aka Michelle) has been hiking for eight years on the wonderful mountain trails of North Carolina and South Carolina.

The view from King's Pinnacle at Crowders Mountain State Park in North Carolina.

The view from King's Pinnacle at Crowders Mountain State Park in North Carolina.

Welcome to Crowders Mountain!

In 2013, Crowders Mountain was voted the number one state park in North Carolina. This spectacular mountain, like many others, would not exist today if it were not for the efforts of concerned citizens dedicated to protecting our environment from continued development.

Crowders Mountain features sheer vertical cliffs, has an elevation of 1,625 feet, and is a registered natural heritage area. It is geologically classified as kyanite-quartzite monadnocks, and only the strength of said quartzite has allowed these pinnacles to withstand the wind, water, and other forces that have eroded less resistant peaks.

Crowders Mountain offers hiking, rock climbing, and camping opportunities. There are cliffs that drop 150 feet and you can find spots atop The Kings Pinnacle that provide front row seats for views stretching more than 20 miles; this is the highest point in Gaston County. This area also offers a variety of other terrains such as valleys, foothills, and quiet woods with trickling streams. In addition, there are many songbirds to provide music and wildflowers to gaze upon.

View from The King's Pinnacle in Crowders Mountain State Park.

View from The King's Pinnacle in Crowders Mountain State Park.

History of the Area

Before the arrival of European settlers, much of the land in this area was natural prairies grazed by herds of buffalo, and it was also a major trading route for the Cherokee. The Catawba and Cherokee people both hunted in these mountains. Then, in 1775, approximately 80 thousand settlers migrated to these mountains from the northern colonies, and a treaty in 1777 allowed white settlers from as far west as the Blue Ridge Mountains to move peacefully southward. Despite the treaty, settlers and the Cherokee had conflicts until after the Revolutionary War.

Gold, Gold, Gold

Valuable minerals were discovered and had a considerable impact on the area. In 1799 a 17-pound gold nugget was found and then in 1803, another 28-pound nugget was discovered. Soon after, a high quantity of these valuable minerals was uncovered near Crowders Mountain. North Carolina became the chief gold-producing state in the nation after California where gold was discovered in 1849.

Hundreds of mines in some ten counties began scarring the land during the North Carolina gold rush era. Kyanite was also mined, and open-pit mining took place near Crowders, which caused devastating effects on the environment.

Preserving the Land

When exploratory drilling and excavation began in 1970, the threat that Crowders Mountain would be mined led local citizens to seek its preservation. The Gaston County Conservation Society was organized to alert people to the danger of the loss of the landmark, to block mining operations, and to encourage the state to acquire the mountain and made it into a park.

Based upon the group’s proposal in 1971, the state approved Crowders Mountain as a potential state park, and funds were designated for land acquisition a year later. This new state park opened to the public in 1974, but it was not until 1977 that the summit of Crowders Mountain was included within the park boundary. King's Pinnacle and the additional acreage were acquired in 1987.

In 2000, an additional two thousand acres of land was added to Crowders Mountain State Park. It was funded by the NC Natural Heritage and the NC Parks and Recreation trust funds. This land connects the state park to Kings Mountain National Military Park and Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina.

Now, onto activities you can partake in throughout the park!

Hiking Trails

You can really appreciate the beauty and diversity of Crowders when you hike on the miles and miles of trails. Some are lined with wildflowers and mountain laurels along the ridges and up to the summits, while others offer easy meandering through pastoral settings.

You can circle the lake on a gravel path or view aquatic plants and animals along a narrow creek. Bring a pair of binoculars and do some bird watching or tote a camera and capture the beauty of the wildflowers in bloom. There is a trail for everyone at Crowders: easy, moderate, and strenuous. Here is a description of each trail.

Pinnacle Trail

This strenuous two mile (one-way) trail begins at the visitor center and ends at the summit of King’s Pinnacle—the highest point in Gaston County that reaches 1,705 feet. This is a very popular trail at Crowders, and if you plan to visit I would highly recommend you get there before 9:00 a.m. if possible to ensure a parking space.

This trail has a lot of elevation but that does not stop crowds of people from hiking it. It is mostly a climb up two miles to the top. Once you get close to the pinnacle itself it is extremely steep. You will then have to climb some large boulders to get to the view. You may want to take hiking poles on this trail if you are so inclined to use them.

Ridgeline Trail

This is a more moderate 6.2 mile (one-way) trail that starts near the summit of Kings Pinnacle and follows the ridgeline all the way to the South Carolina state line. There is a visitor center called the Boulder Area Access at this section of the trail. The Ridgeline trail then continues 2.5 miles into South Carolina through Kings Mountain State Park and then ends at the 16 mile Kings Mountain National Recreation Trail going through both Kings Mountain State Park and the national military park. Wow, that is a mouthful!

You can also start this trail into South Carolina from Boulder's Area Access on Vandyke Road, which would be an out-and-back of 6.2 miles total. You will pass through two gas pipeline clearings once you cross over into South Carolina. The trail deadends at the Kings Mountain State Park loop trail, and you will know when you get to this area because it is a "T" intersection. There is also a big sign and a wooden bench where you can stop and have a lunch break before turning around and backtracking into North Carolina.

Rocktop Trail

This strenuous 1.4 mile loop (one-way) trail starts at the road crossing of Sparrow Springs Road and Freedom Mill Road and ends at the summit of Crowders Mountain. There is no parking at either end of the trail and the trail must be accessed by either beginning on the Crowders Trail (Visitor Center) or the Backside Trail (which starts at the Linwood Road Access). This trail crosses several rock ledges and requires both good footwear and for you to pay careful attention. If you like using hiking poles, I recommended you bring them.

Once you get on Rocktop Trail, you will begin to climb toward a large rock face. Once you reach the rock face, turn left and follow the orange circles on the trees. Most of the time you are hiking on a ridgeline. This is a beautiful trail with a lot of views, beautiful large rocks, and plenty of mountain laurel. Along the way, in the far distance, you can even view downtown Charlotte! Near the television tower is the main viewing point.

Be very careful while on these rocks—one wrong slip and it will be all over. There are many sharp steep drops at this point. It gets extremely crowded with people during the warmer months. I will not go near any drops with that many people up there; I am afraid someone will accidentally bump into me and I'll go tumbling off the cliff.

Once you are finished viewing this area, there are about 300 wooden steps that will take you to the Backside Trail and the Crowders Trail. The Backside Trail leads back to the Linwood Road Access parking area, and the Crowders Trail takes you back to the main visitor center.

Backside Trail

This is a strenuous though short .8 mile (one-way) trail that starts at the Linwood Access Area and ends at the summit of Crowders Mountain. Just before reaching the summit, hikers will need to climb up 336 wooden steps.

Crowders Trail

A moderately strenuous 2.8 miles (one-way) trail that begins at the Visitor Center and ends at the Backside Trail before that trail reaches the summit. The trail includes one state road crossing. Besides the Fern and Lake Trails, this trail is one of the easier trails to manage since there is not much elevation to conquer, no rock scramblings, or ledges to navigate. It's the kind of trail that provides a nice walk in the woods.

Once you get closer to the Backside Trail, however, it does get really steep for a few minutes before the intersection of Crowders Trail and Backside Trail. There are a few tree roots and rocks to step up and over, though it's nothing major. However, for comfort reasons, I would still recommend good sturdy hiking boots if you decide to do this trail.

Fern Trail

An easy 0.8 mile loop that begins at picnic shelter number one, connects with a portion of the Turnback Trail, and also follows a creek for some portions of the trail.

Lake Trail

This is another easy 0.8 mile loop that goes around the park's lake.

Tower Trail

A strenuous 1.8 mile (one-way) trail begins at the Linwood Access Area and ends at the television towers on Crowders Mountain. The trail is an old roadbed that begins with a gentle climb and then becomes quite steep toward the end.

Turnback Trail

This moderate 1.2 mile (one-way) trail begins at the southeast corner of the visitor center parking lot and ends at the Pinnacle Trail .7 miles from the summit of King’s Pinnacle. The trail gives alternate hiking opportunities for both the Pinnacle and Fern trails.

Rock Climbing and Bouldering

Experienced climbers will enjoy the challenges this mountain provides. Climbing is permitted in designated areas only. Pitons, bolts, or similar devices that may damage cliff faces are not permitted and if you need further information, it can be obtained at the park office.

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing without anchors and ropes, and is available on Buzzard’s Roost, near the Boulders Access Area. All climbing regulations, including the requirement of a permit, are in effect, and some sections of Buzzard’s Roost may be closed to bouldering at certain times of the year. Check with park staff for more information.

All climbers must register with the park by completing a climbing and rappelling registration and activity permit. These are available at the park office visitor center or at the self-registration box at the Linwood Access Area. There is no fee for this permit. Prior to your activity, a copy of the permit must be deposited in a registration box or given to a park ranger. An additional copy is provided for the climber and must be in their possession at all times while engaged in climbing or rappelling.

Participants are responsible for their own safety, which includes having the proper training and equipment and adhering to safe practices. Basic rock climbing safety equipment and techniques must be used at all times.

Education and Events

Rangers regularly hold scheduled educational programs about Crowders Mountain State Park. To arrange a special exploration of Crowders Mountain State Park for your group or class, contact the park office.

Educational materials have been developed for grades 5–7 and correlate to North Carolina’s competency-based curriculum in science, social studies, mathematics, and English/language arts. The program introduces students to basic geologic concepts, including the rock cycle, rock, and mineral identification, weathering and erosion, and resource use. A teacher’s booklet is also included with the program and provides a workshop, it is free of charge to educators.