From Marshall Ellis, Mountain Regions Biologist, North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation:
The question of access to the Big Pinnacle at Pilot Mountain gets asked quite often, both by climbers and non-climbers. The Big Pinnacle has been closed to visitor access since the late 1970s when the old staircase finally gave way and was dismantled, and over the intervening years, the division's policy has been to keep that area closed to visitor access. There are a number of reasons for that, both operationally and ecologically. Constructing and maintaining an access and then safeguarding the public once they were on top would inevitably lead to extensive railings, stairs, safety barriers, etc. that would detract significantly from the local views of the Big Pinnacle. All things equal, we've opted to keep that view as natural as possible.
From a climbing perspective, the decision was made early on to limit climbing in the park to the cliffs along the Ledge Springs Trail. As it happens, the Big Pinnacle and the Ledge Springs cliffs share a number of cliff-dwelling species and natural community types, so basically, an ecological trade was made that sacrificed the cliffside species and natural communities along the Ledge Springs cliffs in exchange for preserving those on the Big Pinnacle. We've made similar trade-offs at all of the other climbing parks as well in an attempt to accommodate recreation and resource protection.