north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

      Pilot Mountain is one of North Carolina’s most recognizable landmarks. Rising 2,420 feet above the surrounding countryside, it can be seen for hundreds of square miles and has served as a guidepost for travelers for centuries. The unusual mountain is believed to be the sole survivor of the ancient Sauratown Mountain range after softer peaks eroded away over millions of years.

      The base of the mountain is conical with slopes that gradually culminate into two distinct pinnacles known as “Big Pinnacle,” a quartzite monadnock with a rounded vegetation covered top, and “Little Pinnacle,” which is a lower section of rare metamorphic rock. Another interesting feature located on the mountain is “The Devil’s Den,” a small grotto from which a steady breeze blows at all times. Members of over seventy families of plants live on or around the mountain and among the diverse animal life are rare nesting ravens.

      A former north-south Indian trail later known as the Great Wagon Road was the main route into the piedmont region of North Carolina from the points north prior to the nineteenth century. The native Saura Indians knew the mountain as Jomeokee, the “Great Guide,” or “Pilot.” In 1770, as surveyors of European descent reached the area, the mountain appears on a survey map as Mount Ararat, and later on a map made in 1751 by Joshua Frye and Peter Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s father.

      The monadnock began to appear as Pilot Mountain on maps after 1808. Due to frontier hostilities, the area surrounding the mountain was sparsely populated into the colonial period until Moravian settlers traveled from Pennsylvania to settle the Wachovia tract on the Yadkin river near present day Winston-Salem. “Pilot” is mentioned often in the Moravian records as a place of interest from the moment they first discovered it from miles away and “rejoiced to think we would soon see the boundary of Carolina and set foot in our own dear land.”

      Pilot Mountain was privately owned from 1857 to 1968, serving as a commercial tourist attraction for much of that period. Largely due to the efforts of local citizens interested in protecting the mountain and its natural beauty, Pilot Mountain became the fourteenth North Carolina State Park in 1968. Pilot Mountain State Park now features 3,703 acres for camping, nature study, hiking and horseback riding. It was registered in 1976 as a National Natural Landmark.

J. Wright Horton Jr. and Victor A Zullo, eds., The Geology of the Carolina (1991)
William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (1989)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina—entry by Ken Otterbourg
Adelaide L. Fries, ed., Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, II (1968 reprint)
Bill Sharpe, A New Geography of North Carolina (1954-1965)
Pilot Mountain State Park website:
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources