update from Bill Webster (and many thanks to Bill for all his work!):
Pilot Mountain is almost certainly the most crowded climbing
area in North Carolina. Despite the extra management issues that this entails,
in my experience the park staff are supportive of climbing in the park. Early
in 2011 Erica Lineberry, Jeff Dillon and I met with park staff to discuss
issues of concern to the park. One topic of discussion was the effect of
climbing on the park’s vegetation. It was agreed that an aggressive bolting
program would be beneficial to the park’s trees and other vegetation that are
damaged by climbers top rope anchors and access trails. Shortly after that
meeting I started a project to replace old bolts and add new anchors to achieve the following
Easy access and pleasant winter temps make Pilot one of the most popular crags in the state. Top ropes are easy to set up from fixed anchors on most climbs and there are bolted lead climbs as well. Please make sure to descend via the 3 Bears Gulley (look for the sign) and be considerate of others, particularly non-climbers, and don't block the trail at the base with gear.
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.
A new guide for Pilot Mountain is now available. This guide was developed because the most recent guidebook covering Pilot Mountain has been out of print for several years. The new guide includes several enhancements including route photos and route-quality ratings.This guide is available for free. You can download the guide from this site or pick up a printed copy at the Pilot Mountain ranger's station.