Crowders Mountain State Park - Kings Mountain, NC
King's Pinnacle view at Crowders Mountain at Kings Mountain, NC
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
Views from the top of The King's PinnacleClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
Television Towers on the Rocktop Trail / Tower TrailClick thumbnail to view full-size
Scenes from "The Pinnacle Trail"Click thumbnail to view full-size
Scenes (summer and winter) along the "Ridgeline Trail"Click thumbnail to view full-size
Scenes along the "Rocktop Trail." You really need to pay attention when hiking this trail! These photos were taken in November.Click thumbnail to view full-size
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.
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.
Summer Photos of the Rocktop TrailClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
Fall Colors Along the Pinnacle Trail. This is a very popular trail in the fall. Try to get there before 9 a.m. when you can still get a parking space!Click thumbnail to view full-size
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 are correlated 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 includes a workshop which is free of charge to educators.
Facility: Canoe Rental
Location: Park Lake
Accommodates: Maximum of four per canoe
Nearby Amenities: Picnic Tables, Restroom
Reservations Required: Register at the Visitor Center
Fees: Call for information 704-853-5375
Water Sports and the Lake
The park has a beautiful wooded lake. It is a nine-acre manmade lake and has ample parking nearby. Canoes can be rented at the park office. You can paddle to secluded spots along the shoreline where the only sound is rippling of water. You can fish from choice fishing spots along the bank, or you can fish from your canoe. The lake is stocked with Bass and bream. You must have a NC fishing license. Swimming and private boats are not allowed on the lake.
The Lake and Surrounding AreaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Various species of plants, flowers, and moss that can be seen at Crowders Mountain State Park. I have not seen any of the wild animals yet.Click thumbnail to view full-size
The shade of large trees provides a spot for outdoor dining in a beautiful wooded area. Scattered throughout the picnic area are 28 tables and eight grills. Drinking water and restrooms are located nearby. Two large shelters with tables and grills are available for group picnics. Reservations are suggested to be certain they are available. Use of the shelters is free of charge and on a first-come first-serve basis unless reservations are requested. There are five picnic tables at the Linwood Access Area.
Plants and Animals
Birds are abundant in any season, especially in the spring when they migrate. More than 160 species of birds, including waterfowl, wading birds, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers have been recorded at the park. While some birds visit the park for only a season, others live there permanently. Among them are black and turkey vultures that roost in the isolated rock outcrops near the mountain peaks and fly into the surrounding countryside in search of food.
Mountain ridges support a variety of animals including chipmunk, eastern cottontail, and red and gray foxes. Eastern moles form tunnels when the small burrowers search for food below ground and are often seen in the soft earth along the hiking trails. The resident amphibians and reptiles include Fowler’s and American toads, slimy salamanders, eastern box turtles, and several species of snakes. Though most of the snakes found in the park are harmless and rarely encountered, the copperhead and timberland rattlesnakes are venomous and hikers should be alert.
Most of Crowders Mountain is made up mostly of mature Chestnut Oak hardwoods. Areas once disturbed by fire and logging are now being restored by the process of succession. Shrubby growth, followed by pines is now being replaced by hardwoods such as red maple, American Beech, and several varieties of oak.
Beautiful blossoms may be seen along the park trails. Flowering dogwood is abundant and mountain laurel is plentiful throughout the park, especially on Crowders and Pinnacle trails. Rhododendron also grows at the higher elevations. Ferns, from the delicate to the hardy, are common at the park. Ferns that are more than six feet tall grow on the north ridge of Crowders Mountain. Bracken fern grows in sunny spots and cinnamon, netted chain, and southern lady ferns grow along the streams and in the moist soil of the bogs.
Contact Information and Park Hours
522 Park Office Lane
Kings Mountain, NC 28086
November – February 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
March, April, September, & October 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
May – August 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Closed Christmas Day
Caution: For Your Safety!
To prevent accidents, remember the following safety tips:
- Rock climbing in the park is for experienced climbers only! All safety equipment and techniques must be employed.
- When hiking, carry water, stay on designated trails and stay away from rock cliffs.
- Be alert to approaching storms and seek appropriate shelter.
- Venomous snakes, ticks, and poison ivy may be found along park trails. Exercise caution.
- Remember daylight hours are shorter in the fall and winter. Allow plenty of time for a hike to avoid being caught by darkness.
Does Crowders Mountain State Park sound like a place you would like to visit?
Rules and Regulations
To make your visit safe and rewarding experience, our regulations are posted for the protection of our visitors and our park. A complete list is available at the park office.
- The removal or destruction of any plant, animals, artifact, rock, or mineral is prohibited.
- All areas managed by the Division of Parks and Recreation are wildlife preserves. Hunting and trapping are prohibited.
- N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission boating and fishing regulations are enforced.
- Do not litter. Place trash in proper receptacles. State law requires aluminum cans and plastic bottles to put in recycling containers.
- Fireworks are not permitted.
- Firearms and other weapons are prohibited except that those with a proper permit may possess a concealed handgun in permitted areas and under the requirements of North Carolina G.S. 14-415.11. All firearms and weapons are prohibited in visitor centers and park offices.
- Camping and fires are allowed in designated areas.
- The possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages in prohibited.
- Pets must be on an attended leash no longer than six feet.
- Camping is permitted in designed areas by permit only.
- Rock climbing is permitted in designated areas only. Climbers must register before beginning to climb.
- To see a complete and full listing of Rules and Regulations, visit www.ncparks.gov
There are secluded areas for camping about one mile from the park office. These areas are so private there is often not another person in sight. Both campgrounds are reached by trail and all supplies must be packed to the campsites. Campers must register at the Visitor Center.
Backcountry Family Camping: A one-mile trail leads to the forested camping area where each campsite has a grill, picnic table and tent pad. Drinking water and vault toilets are provided. Not having the comforts of home are worth it when every stream, tree, and flower seems made just for you.
Backcountry Group Camping: Larger groups will enjoy fellowship in the group camping area. Each of six group sites will accommodate 10 to 15 people. Camping areas include a fire circle for cooking and a picnic table. Vault toilets and water are nearby. Advance reservations are recommended.
Scenes Along the Crowders TrailClick thumbnail to view full-size
10 Primitive/Backpack Campsites
6 Primitive Group Campsites
Approx. 1 mile from Visitor Center by hiking the Pinnacle Trail and turning right at the campground trail junction
Approx. 1 mile from Visitor Center by hiking Pinnacle Trail and turning right at the campground trail junction
Up to Six
Up to 15 people per site
Drinking water and pit toilets
Drinking water and pit toilets
Strongly advised; first-come first serve
Virtual tour of The Pinnacle Trail
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Michelle Dee