Summit Area Closed to Vehicle Traffic on Weekends and Holidays
at Pilot Mountain State Park

The summit area of Pilot Mountain State Park has parking space for 90 cars. Visitation to the park has surged from 400,000 people annually to over 1 million in recent years, resulting in long lines of traffic, safety hazards, and a deplenished visitor experience at the summit. Because of this, since 2020, the park has run a shuttle service on weekends and holidays during periods of historic peak use and closed the summit parking lot to regular vehicle traffic. Please see details below.

Summit Parking Area

From March through November, on weekends and holidays only, a shuttle service will be on-site to transport visitors to the summit lot and back. The shuttle begins running as soon as the summit parking lot is nearing capacity, which is usually between 10:30 - 11:00 am, at which point the road is closed to other vehicle traffic except campers heading to the campground.  Shuttle tickets are sold by the vendor in front of the visitor center at the shuttle stop.  Final tickets are sold around 4:00 - 4:30 pm, or until they sell out, and the summit reopens to regular vehicle traffic generally no later than 6:00 pm (except November).  

Shuttle and Ticket Information

Shuttle tickets are sold in front of the visitor center at the shuttle stop. Only debit or credit cards can be used to purchase tickets. The roundtrip fare is $5 for adults. Children ages 10 and under ride for free. There are no one-way tickets available.

The shuttle is wheelchair-accessible. Service animals are permitted on the shuttle; pets are not. 

Other Parking Areas

When the shuttle is running, visitors can park at the visitor center or visit another access area. All access areas have limited parking; when a parking lot is full, the area is closed to further traffic. Waiting is not permitted. Parking on road shoulders is prohibited.

Learn more about parking areas and alternate locations nearby that you can visit when the park is full:

Visiting Pilot Mountain on weekends

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the park run a shuttle?

The visitation at Pilot Mountain State Park has surged from 400,000 visitors a year to over 1 million visitors a year in the last 10 years. The surge has resulted in long lines of traffic, safety hazards, and a diminished visitor experience at the summit.

Will the shuttle program continue forever?

This is a 3-year pilot program that started in August 2020. The program will be reviewed regularly to determine its long-term feasibility. The shuttle program was developed using similar programs at other crowded mountain parks with one-way roads, such as Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (managed by the National Park Service), the Brasstown Bald Recreation Area in the Chattachoochee-Oconee National Forests (managed by the U.S. Forest Service), and Hungry Mother State Park in Virginia.

Why can't you let cars up if the lot has some spaces?

During peak times of day, more than 300 cars enter the park every hour. There are 90 spaces at the summit. The average visitor stay is 1.5 hours, and at this rate, the summit lot fills up in around 30 minutes. This amount of vehicle traffic can make it unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists who also use the roadways. With the addition of a visitor center and increased traffic with Interstate 74, we expect visitation to increase.

We realize many visitors only want a quick scenic drive. If this is your plan, you can visit outside the shuttle times or visit during the week, when there are no vehicle restrictions. There are many low-traffic roads around the mountain with scenic views and photo opportunities. You can also visit the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway (managed by the National Park Service), a scenic 400+ mile motor road and national park. It is best accessed by taking U.S. 52 north 52 miles to Fancy Gap, Va.

What does crowding at the top have to do with protecting the natural resources?

The summit area of Pilot Mountain was designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service in the early 1970s. Since then, visitation has steadily increased. The steady foot traffic in the park takes a toll on the plants and wildlife that live on top of the mountain on thin, acidic soil that is slow to recover from trampling. This is why we ask visitors to stay on the trails at the summit, besides the obvious hazards of wandering near cliffs. This also limits what visitor facilities can be built at the top of the mountain, including septic systems to support public restrooms.

Why do I have to pay?

The shuttle is run by a private contractor (SP+ of Winston-Salem/Charlotte) and is priced at the lowest possible market rate. After bids were solicited, the state parks team picked the contractor with the most reasonable rate for the public. The shuttle service does return 10 percent of its profits to the state parks system. These funds do not go specifically to Pilot Mountain State Park but benefit the state parks system's overall needs and pays for temporary employee salaries. While Pilot Mountain's operating budget has not grown since before the 2008 recession, facilities and visitation have grown leaps and bounds.

Files

Pilot Mountain State Park – Weekend Visit Brochure
Pilot Mountain State Park – Weekend Visit Brochure
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