In North Carolina, the shift from summer to fall brings with it all the familiar signs.
The air feels crisper, the leaves slowly fade from green to varying hues of red, orange and yellow and autumn-inspired specialty lattes appear on coffee shop menus. All are indicators that “fall in the forest” is on the way. But though the highly-anticipated season often lands our campus on coveted lists ranking the nation’s most beautiful college grounds, the real forest extends beyond our campus gates.
When standing at the top of the Wait Chapel bell tower on a sunny day, surrounded by the carillon that chime each day at 5 p.m., you can see it. One hundred eighty degrees from the forward-facing side is the outline of a protrusion in the earth that rises over 2,000 feet — Pilot Mountain.
In just 25 minutes, one can go from the bird’s eye view at the heart of campus to a secluded state park just northwest of Winston-Salem. Once driving on highway 52 North, it’s a straight shot for just 16 miles.
On weekends, Pilot Mountain State Park is likely to be bustling with activity — children strapped onto their hiking parents’ backs, climbers making their way up the mountainside or bikers pushing pedals to make it to the top. But on a weekday, it has the potential to be a personal sanctuary — filled only with open air and open paths to travel.
One of the key features of Pilot Mountain is its easy accessibility. At the top of the mountain is a large parking lot for visitors to stop and hop out to begin their day outdoors. If you’re pressed for time, just driving to the top of the mountain and walking to viewing deck can clear the mind. At this overlook the trees begin to blend together, seeming to go on to the edges of what can be seen. As the leaves begin to change a sea of warm colors populates the view below.
For avid hikers, Pilot Mountain offers an opportunity to be among the sea of trees. With nine different hiking trails ranging from 0.1 to 6.6 miles and corresponding levels of difficulty from easy to strenuous, there is something for everyone.
For adventurers, rock climbing and repelling is also permitted in designated areas around the park. Be sure to register with the park office before beginning a climb.
If getting in the car and taking a spontaneous trip isn’t for you, there’s good news: Outdoor Pursuits offers various types of trips to Pilot Mountain each semester. On these trips you have the chance to meet fellow students that you likely would not have spent quality time off-campus with before. On Friday, Nov. 3 “Climb and Dine” will take students to explore the mountain and try a hand at rock climbing, with an included dinner, all for free. There is also the “Wall to Rock Climbing School” event scheduled for Friday, Nov. 3-Saturday, Nov. 4 that will take place both at Reynolds Gym climbing wall and Pilot Mountain for a $30.00 fee.
Whether you choose to embark on a solo journey or take advantage of the opportunities to travel as a group, exploring the forest beyond “fall in the forest” is made easy with Pilot Mountain so close to our campus.