Yet another destination just an hour from Greenville, Crowders Mountain State Park is located north of the SC/NC state line a few miles from I-85, making it easily accessible from Spartanburg and Charlotte, NC. Our previous visit coincided with the aftermath of a snowstorm, and although the Fern and Lake trails were open for exploration, all trails leading to the summits of Crowders Mountain and neighboring Kings Mountain Parks in SC were closed due to safety concerns.
On this particular visit we had our sights set on The Pinnacle, a two-mile trek from Sparrow Springs Access and the Park Visitor Center. It’s easy to find the trailhead (which is just next to the Visitor Center), but the ascent to Gaston County’s highest peak takes a little more effort. There and back brings the total to 4 miles, with an elevation gain of almost 1,000ft. Rated strenuous on the state park website but easy on some local hiking sites, I found it somewhere in the middle; the final climb to the pinnacle was steep and the last 100 feet scaled the rocky outcrop, and so this isn’t a hike I would attempt alone with the boys. On the other hand both the 6 and 4 year olds managed with only a little hand-holding, while the backpack carrier allowed Vilis to ride the more difficult sections.
Following the orange blazes we soon hit the split with Crowders trail, the 3-mile hike to Crowders Mountain, a 1,625ft peak on the north end of the park. Continuing on, the trail is wide and well-worn, and at one point we passed a family pushing a stroller going the opposite way (I have no idea how far they made it, and definitely do not recommend this trail as stroller-friendly). We hiked from a pine forest into a rocky, prevalently oak woods, the trees becoming more stunted as we approached the crest.
Shortly before the trail ends you’ll pass Ridgeline trail which leads over 6 miles south to the state line and into Kings Mountain State Park and Kind Mountain National Military Park. Although Crowders Mountain SP opened in 1974, it wasn’t until 1987 that this portion of the park was added. The last ½ mile is the steepest, with the trail culminating in a climb up the large rock outcrop to reach several open areas with panoramic views to the northwest.
The site of many accidents and fatalities over the years (recently a mother of three who slipped off while taking a picture), extreme caution should be exercised near the edge and on the rocky ridge. With views extending a hundred miles and scenic shots in every direction, there is no reason to climb the crags for a photograph at the cost of a life.
For a variation on the return trip, about halfway back you’ll come to the intersection with Turnback trail. As the name implies, following this trail will take you back toward the parking area, although you’ll emerge closer to the Lake Trail loop and approach the Sparrow Springs Access from the south. This state park has become a popular destination in recent years due to the scenic views and updated visitor services, so plan for crowds on the weekends. Even on an extremely hot summer afternoon we met dozens of people on the trail and hardly had the pinnacle to ourselves; instead, there was a film crew and photographer seemingly shooting a rap video. Just remember, parking at the Sparrow Springs Access is limited, and once full, it is closed until spots open up. We thoroughly enjoyed this hike – the views but also the challenge of a longer hike – and will probably return in the fall when the leaves are turning.
Click here for a map of Crowders Mountain State Park.