Pinnacle Park boasts breathtaking views and strenuous climbs

Pinnacle Park is a well-maintained 1,100-acre area in Sylva where several miles of hiking trails can be found. 

By taking a left past the McDonald’s onto Skyland Drive, drivers are on their way to the trailhead. After a few miles, turn left onto Fischer Creek, which dead ends at the parking lot of Pinnacle Park.

There is an information board that holds a box containing permits that must be filled out by anyone entering the park. There is no fee for this permit, however it is important to fill in the information, such as expected time of return, group size and license plate number, and deposit it into the collection box, which is checked daily. Many people get lost each year while on a simple day hike, so providing this information will help search and rescue teams locate anyone who fails to return to their vehicle on time. The permit has two sections, and hikers are advised to carry the section with the trail map. 

The large sign past the information board marks the trailhead, and hikers are presented with a number of options. For those seeking a simple walk in the woods, a .5 mile loop that crosses over the stream several times is available. For the more adventurous hiker, there is a route that covers 6.2 miles (12.4 miles round trip) and ends at Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway. For something in between, hiking to the Pinnacle or Black Rock is recommended. These hikes are seven and 8.5-9 miles respectively, round trip (depending on trail choices) and feature a steep climb for the first two miles then become slightly less steep afterwards but still definitely uphill.

To get to Pinnacle, keep left to follow west fork, keeping an eye on the trail as it is covered in medium-sized rocks just waiting to roll someone’s ankle. At the next intersection, turn left again to follow the sign to Pinnacle. This section of the trail winds through rhododendron and is not severely steep but uphill for most of the way.

At the top of the hike is a clearing with a rock-lined fire ring, but this is not quite the finish line. Look closely into the shrubs and small trees behind the fire ring for a narrow, almost overgrown path. Following this takes hikers to the actual Pinnacle, which rewards them with an astounding view of Jackson County. Be careful of the edge! There is nothing keeping hikers between plummeting down the heart-dropping length to the bottom of the mountain.

The entire length of this trail is easy to follow and well-maintained with signs at every intersection. The trail is shaded for the majority of the hike as well as offering several good places to stop for a snack or picnic lunch. Hikers will pass and cross over several creek runoffs, which can be used to cool down on hot days. Only use creek water as a drinking source if you use a filter or purification tablet/liquid like iodine. Drinking untreated water is dangerous and causes many harmful side effects to the body.

The route to Blackrock is the more challenging of the two but is nearly as simple and differs only in length and type of trail.

To get there, hikers can either take the right turn onto east fork or follow west fork as though headed to Pinnacle, keeping right at the last intersection. East fork has a steeper climb and a narrow, overgrown single track trail. Early in the morning, there are also plenty of spider webs to battle. Hikers choosing this route should also be cautioned about the bountiful poison ivy lining the trail, so high socks or long pants and a hiking stick are recommended.

The first 1.7 miles of this trail are steeper than west fork, but it has a much more secluded and natural feel to it. Trekkers will pass spring runoffs with miniature waterfalls.

Once past the first two miles, the incline lessens and alternates between flats and ascents. The final .6 mile push to Blackrock is the steepest in Pinnacle Park. Be prepared to stop frequently and to use nearby trees as hand holds. Almost at the end of the climb is a large boulder that offers a great and well-deserved resting place and/or picnic lunch site. This, however, is not Blackrock. Continue on the trail around the left of the boulder for about a quarter mile. At the top is Blackrock with another boulder that offers equally as impressive views as Pinnacle. Continuing the trail from there leads to Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Both Pinnacle and Blackrock offer amazing views, but these trails are steep and not for everyone. People not in reasonable physical condition or families with younger children should plan to only hike part of the way before turning around.

Also, bring extra water, as no one ever complained about having too much. Any of it not consumed while hiking will be a welcome treat on the drive home.

Remember before leaving for the trail to give at least two people who are not part of the hiking party that day the hiking plans and return time so they know when to notify the authorities about a missing person, especially if hiking alone.