The Ridgeline Trail


The Ridgeline Trail is a point-to-point moderately strenuous hiking trail that begins in North Carolina and terminates in South Carolina. It is recommended as a shuttle hike, leaving a
vehicle at each trailhead.

The hike starts out at Crowders Mountain State Park located in Gaston County, NC at the Sparrow Springs Access Area. Hikers will take the 2-mile Pinnacle Trail. Just below the Pinnacle’s jagged summit, the Ridgeline Trail forks off to the left and winds its way to Kings Mountain State Park. The entire hike is in the neighborhood of 10.7 miles, accounting for the climb to The Pinnacle’s summit – which you will not want to miss – and exploring the house sized boulders you’ll encounter just before crossing into South Carolina.

This is a great Fall hike for a number of reasons. If you time it just right during the Piedmont’s leaf peak, you’ll be greeted with festive colors. Autumn colors are slower to turn in this area and seem to last a little longer than they do farther north. Also, the 360 views from The Pinnacle are spectacular this time of year. The air seems to be clearer and there is less summer haze. The cooler weather also makes for a more comfortable hike. There are strenuous sections of this trail, but they’re easier to deal with when it’s not 100 degrees! There is solitude to be found in this hike. I’ve only ever encountered a handful of other hikers on this route. If you’re looking for quiet time, hike the Ridgeline in the Fall. Finally, there is something unique about hiking a trail that starts out in one state and ends in another.

Begin this trek at the Sparrow Springs Access Area in Crowders Mountain State Park. Take the Pinnacle Trail as it trail veers left at the junction sign. It is blazed by orange circles. The trail begins to ascend moderately with several switchbacks. Eventually, you’ll reach a boulder-strewn ridgeline. Watching your footing, continue on. At around 1.5 miles, the trail begins to ascend more steeply to the summit of The Pinnacle. Just below the summit, the Ridgeline Trail veers to the left at the fork. It is blazed in red triangles. Before continuing on the Ridgeline, climb to the summit of the Pinnacle. The views are amazing. The true summit is marked by a concrete pad and a steel pole that was once used as an aircraft beacon. This is a great place to explore the many interesting rock formations and take a break.

After resting, climb back down to the fork and begin the Ridgeline Trail. The trail begins a long descent down a set of wooden steps. This section of trail is gently graded overall, but has a
couple of short, steep sections. As with the hike up, you’ll scramble over some boulders in the path. The trail will dip in and out of trees and crosses a couple of fields and a road. After
heading back into the forest, notice the thick tunnels of mountain laurel. You can look behind you and see the Pinnacle. You will cross near the summit of several small mountains. Huge boulders are on the right, just above of the trail.

As the descent continues, you will pass by the Boulders Access Area, and see a sign letting you know you’re near South Carolina. Here the trail becomes relatively level and winds through “the
bottoms” and crosses a couple of small wooden bridges. After crossing into South Carolina, you will need to hike another 2.5 miles to Kings Mountain State Park. This section is also relatively flat, and a small creek comes into view on the left. After one last push, you’ll come to the Kings Mountain Visitors Center, and thus end your hike.

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Roger Upton
Bio: Roger Upton is a hiking guide, adventurer, freelance graphic artist, photographer, writer, and non-profit manager based in the beautiful upstate of South Carolina. You can follow his blog and social media @carolinatrekker.

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