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Crowders Mountain State Park - Kings Mountain, NC

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

Introduction

In 2013, Crowders Mountain was voted the #1 state park in North Carolina. This spectacular mountain, like other state parks in North Carolina, would not exist today if it were not for the efforts of concerned citizens dedicated to protecting our environment from continued development and rises 800 feet above the surrounding countryside. Crowders Mountain has an elevation of 1,625 feet and is a registered natural heritage area that features sheer vertical cliffs and is geologically classified as kyanite-quartzite monadnocks, only the strength of quartzite has allowed these pinnacles to withstand the wind, water, and other forces that eroded less resistant peaks.

Crowders Mountain offers hiking, rock climbing, and camping. There are sheer vertical cliffs that drop 150 feet. You can have a front row seat to views that stretch more than 20 miles high atop The Kings Pinnacle, which is the highest point in Gaston County (see photos of atop The Kings Pinnacle). This area also offers a variety of terrain such as valleys, cross some foothills, enjoy quiet woods with trickling streams and many songbirds for music.

Overview of Crowders Mountain State Park - Kings Mountain, NC

History

Before the arrival of European settlers, much of the land in this area was natural prairie grazed by herds of buffalo and was a major trading route of the Cherokee Indians. The Catawba and Cherokee Indians hunted in these mountains. In 1775 approximately 80,000 settlers migrated to these mountains from the northern colonies. A treaty in 1777 allowed white settlers as far west as the Blue Ridge Mountains move peacefully southward, however the settlers and the Cherokee Indians had conflicts until after the Revolutionary War.

Valuable minerals were discovered in this area and had a considerable impact on the area. In 1799 a 17-pound gold nugget was found and another weighing in at 28 pounds was discovered in 1803. Soon after, a high quantity of these valuable minerals was uncovered near Crowders Mountain. North Carolina as the chief gold-producing state in the nation, right after the discovery of gold in California in 1849. Hundreds of mines in at least 10 counties scarred the land during this North Carolina gold rush. Kyanite was also mined, and open-pit mining took place near Crowders, which produced a devastating effect on the environment.

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 for 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. Kings Pinnacle and the additional acreage were acquired in 1987.

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

Hiking Trails

You can really appreciate the beauty and diversity of Crowders when you hike on the miles of trails. They are lined with wildflowers and mountain laurel along the ridges and to the summits. Other trails are 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 brief description of each trail:

Pinnacle Trail: Strenuous 2-mile (one-way) trail begins at the Visitor Center and ends at the summit of King’s Pinnacle, the highest point in Gaston County at 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 get a parking space.

This trail has a lot of elevation but that does not stop the crowds of people from hiking it. It is mostly a climb up two miles to the top. Once you get real close to the Pinnacle 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 poles.

Ridgeline Trail: Moderate 6.2 mile (one-way) trail starting near the summit of Kings Pinnacle, following 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 that goes through Kings Mountain State Park and Kings Mountain National Military Park. Wow that is a mouthful! You can also start this trail into South Carolina from the 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. 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: 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 good footwear and much careful attention is needed while hiking this trail. If you like using hiking poles, it is highly 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 mountain laurel. Along the way, in the far distance, you can even view downtown Charlotte, NC! Near the television tower is the main viewing point. Be very careful while on these rocks - one wrong slip 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 accidently bump into me and then I fall off the cliff.

Once you are finished viewing this area, there are about 300 wooden steps which 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.

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Backside Trail: Strenuous .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 climb up 336 wooden steps.

Crowders Trail: Moderately Strenuous 2.8 miles (one-way). This trail 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 is a nice walk in the woods kind of trail. Once you get closer to the Backside Trail however, it does get real 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, but nothing major. However for comfort reasons I would still recommend good sturdy hiking boots if you decide to do this trail.

Fern Trail: Easy 0.8 mile loop begins at picnic shelter number 1, connects with a portion of the Turnback Trail and follows a creek for some portions of the trail.

Lake Trail: Easy 0.8 mile loop goes around the park lake.

Tower Trail: Strenuous 1.8 mile (one-way) trail begins at the Linwood Access Area and ends at the television towers on Crowders Mountain (see photos). The trail is an old roadbed that begins with a gentle climb that becomes quite steep towards the end.

Turnback Trail: 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.

Climbing Regulations Apply At All Times

  • All climbers must register with the park staff and must keep on their person a valid rock climbing and rappelling permit.
  • Organized, private, commercial, or non-profit groups must obtain a special activity permit prior to the outing. Contact the park office.
  • NC state parks do not install or maintain any climbing route or fixed anchors.
  • New routes are not permitted
  • Climbers climb at their own risk and are responsible for obtaining proper equipment and training
  • Unroped climbing is discouraged
  • Route selection and the decision to rely on any fixed anchors are the climber’s responsibility
  • Climbing activities are permitted in designed areas only and must coincide with the park’s posted hours of operation
  • All accidents and injuries must be reported to park staff
  • All climbers and rappellers must schedule their activity in order to leave the park by the posted closing hour
  • Park only in designated parking areas

Rock Climbing and Bouldering

Experienced climbers will enjoy the challenges of this mountain. Climbing is permitted in designated areas only. Pitons, bolts or similar devices that may damage cliff faces are not permitted. Further information may 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 which is 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 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, equipment, and adhering to safe practices. Basic rock climbing safety equipment and techniques must be used at all times.