Winston-Salem is a smaller city in North Carolina, but there are still plenty of things to do here. One thing I love doing is taking a hike – no matter if I’m at home or on vacation. I live just outside of the city so I do know where a few of the best hikes near Winston-Salem are.

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There are so many opportunities to get outside here and even though we’re in the Piedmont there are a few mountains to climb! Each one of these places offers something unique so I hope you find one that you love.

Pilot Mountain State Park

  • Mountain Section Address: 1792 Pilot Knob Park Road, Pinnacle, NC 27043
  • River Section Address: 103 Yadkin River Park Trail, Pinnacle, NC 27043
  • Hours: Varies per season. Check the hours here.
  • Dog-friendly? Yes
Pilot knob made of stone rising from the mountain covered by trees. One of the best places to hike near Winston-Salem.

Pilot Mountain was originally known as a landmark for the native Indians, the Saura tribe, in the area and settlers that later came through. Hence the name “Pilot” as it used to pilot many people on their journey.

If you drive about 30 minutes north on Highway 52 from Winston-Salem you’ll arrive at the main entrance to the state park. At the bottom of the mountain, there is a new visitor’s center that you can check out and plenty of parking if you want to start on the Grindstone Trail.

Trails

The visitor’s center is also the perfect spot for a picnic. You can also continue on to the top of the mountain and take a few different trails from there. Two of my favorites are the Jomeokee Trail which is a short 0.8-mile loop around the knob and Ledge Springs Trail if I’m looking for something a little more serious.

Ledge Springs is a 1-mile strenuous trail that takes you around where the rock climbers climb and up and down multiple staircases made from huge rocks. It connects the Jomeokee Trail to Grindstone so you have to follow one of those back to the parking lot depending which direction you went.

When visiting during the colder months, be sure to come prepared. Up on the mountain it’s always at least a few degrees colder and usually windier than in town. It’s always a good idea to bring a big jacket, gloves, and a toboggan. But I do get cold easily.

Check the trail map for the mountain section here and the river section here.

River Section

What many people don’t realize is that Pilot has a river section as well. There are two parking lots in this section. One on the Surry County side, Bean Shoals Access, and one on the Yadkin County side, Ivy Bluff Access. These trails take you down to the banks of the Yadkin River and meander alongside it for a couple miles.

These trails are great if you don’t want a strenuous hike, but watch the weather and don’t go if there has been a big rain recently. If the area gets too flooded they will shut down that section of the park. You can check the state park’s website for closures.

Things to Know Before You Go

They just started a shuttle program at the state park this year during the main tourist seasons. On the weekends, if you arrive after 10 am you must park at the new visitor’s center and ride the shuttle up to the top of the mountain. You can also hike up. There is a small fee to ride the shuttle.

One of the reasons they instituted the shuttle service was overcrowding at the top of the mountain. This park does get very crowded on the weekends so I would highly suggest getting there early – by 8 am – if you want a peaceful walk without seeing many other people.

The shuttle does not run during the off-season.

By all means, come later but just know you’ll deal with many more people. There are public restrooms at the visitor’s center as well as at the top of the mountain.

Related: How to Spend 3 Days in the Yadkin Valley

Hanging Rock State Park

  • Address: 1790 Hanging Rock Park Road, Danbury, NC 27016
  • Hours: Varies per season. Check the hours here.
  • Dog-friendly? Yes

This park really has it all. Sweeping views of the Piedmont and Sauratown Mountains, waterfalls, a lake, and a river running through it. There are over 20 miles of hiking trails available to use plus mountain biking trails and rock climbing.

To get to Hanging Rock, you also start out going up 52, but you’ll exit well before you reach Pilot Mountain. At that point, it’s a beautiful drive through the backroads of Stokes County until you get to the park.

Trails

The most popular trail is a 1.3-mile one-way trail that leads to Hanging Rock. I’m assuming they call it this because it literally feels like you’re hanging out over the land below. The trail is classified as moderate and the only tough part comes at the end where you have to climb lots of stairs.

If you’re chasing waterfalls then head down the Indian Creek Trail where you’ll find Hidden Falls and Window Falls. These are only 0.4 and 0.6 miles down the trail respectively, but Indian Creek continues all the way to the Dan River so be sure to turn back at the falls. Unless you want to hike an extra six miles.

An easier waterfall to reach is the Upper Cascades Falls which is a short and east 0.2-mile trail. You really should go see this one though because it’s absolutely gorgeous. I love seeing the water spill down off the rocks.

These are some of the best waterfalls near Winston-Salem that you’ll find.

One of my personal favorites is the Wolf Rock Trail because it’s much less crowded but still has beautiful views. If you’re in good shape then try Moore’s Wall Loop which is 4.7 miles and strenuous. I haven’t done this one, but I plan to try it soon!

Check out the trail map here.

Visiting the Lake

The lake at Hanging Rock is one of those things that is kept pretty quiet. I didn’t even know about it until about a year ago. And I only live 45 minutes away!

It’s open for swimming during the summer months but only when they have staff available to operate it. Definitely call before to verify that it’s open. Fees are $6/day for adults and $4/day for kids.

Private boats aren’t allowed on the lake but you can rent canoes and rowboats for $7/hour. In spring and fall these are only available on the weekends but during summer they are available daily. Again, subject to staff being available.

If you want to fish on the lake, be sure you have your fishing license!

Note: Due to COVID boat rentals and swimming were not allowed this year. Hopefully next year they will be back in operation.

Things to Know Before You Go

Again, this is a park you’ll want to visit early. It’s very popular and gets incredibly crowded on the weekends!

If you have time, stop by the Visitor’s Center and talk to some of the park rangers about hidden gems of the park. You’ll be surprised at what you can find out! They also have an Exhibit Hall in the Visitor’s Center that teaches you about the history and ecology of the park.

Public restrooms are available at the Visitor’s Center.

Stone Mountain State Park

  • Address: 3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap, NC 28668
  • Hours: Varies per season. Check the hours here.
  • Dog-friendly? Yes

This park is named for a massive granite mountain that you can gaze up at from the meadow by the Hutchinson Homestead. The Homestead has been restored to what it would have been in the mid-19th century.

While many people come here to hike, it’s equally popular for trout fishing. People come from all over year-round to try their luck in the 20+ miles of trout streams. This is also one of the most popular spots for people to bring their horses and ride so do be on the lookout for horseback riders.

Trails

The Stone Mountain Loop Trail is the most popular trail in the park for hikers by far. It’s a 4.5-mile strenuous loop and it’s one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday morning. On the Loop you’ll pass by a towering waterfall, the Hutchinson Homestead, and summit Stone Mountain itself.

The view from the top of the mountain is stunning. If it isn’t a windy day then taking some sandwiches and having a picnic is a great way to take a break for a little while. It’s so peaceful.

A few other trails that I love are Wolf Rock, Cedar Rock, and Black Jack Ridge. The views aren’t too shabby here either.

Things to Know Before You Go

Stone Mountain is typically one of the least crowded State Parks that I visit in my area. Even in the afternoons on a weekend you won’t be surrounded by swarms of people like at Pilot or Hanging Rock.

There are two main parking lots for the loop trail – an Upper and Lower Lot. I know, original right? My preference is to park in the Lower Lot and go up the mountain so the last half of the trip is coming back down.

It also gives me an easy chance to change my mind and take one of the other three trails if I want. They are all three closest to the Lower Lot.

If you want to fish here you’ll need a North Carolina fishing license!

Mountains-to-Sea Trail

  • Address: N/A
  • Hours: N/A
  • Dog-friendly? Not on the Sauratown Trail but in the State Parks, yes.

This trail actually makes its way through all three of these state parks I’ve already mentioned! It begins at Clingman’s Dome and makes its way across North Carolina all the way to Jockey’s Ridge.

In Pilot Mountain State Park the Corridor and Mountain Trails are both part of the Mountains-to-Sea trail. You have to follow the road for a bit before you reach the Sauratown Trail but then it continues for 25 miles until you reach Hanging Rock.

Once at Hanging Rock you’ll enter on Tory’s Den Trail and continue using Moore’s Wall Loop Trail. Obviously this is not a day hike and for quick trips I recommend visiting one of these state parks.

If you want to hike part of the Sauratown Trail then check out the MST website and the MST Segment 7 guide for parking lot locations. The Sauratown Trail is closed during hunting season between November and early January. The majority of this trail winds through private land.

Salem Lake

  • Address: 815 Salem Lake Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27107
  • Hours: Lake operating hours are 8 am – 6 pm. Bait shop hours vary. Check hours here.
  • Dog-friendly? Yes

Salem Lake is a man-made lake just east of downtown Winston. Many people love to kayak or bring their jon boats to the lake as there is a free boat launch right now. Whether that will change after COVID, I am not sure. There is a hiking trail that surrounds the lake that is about 7 miles long and allows hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.

This is one of the most popular hikes near Winston-Salem so be sure to plan accordingly. There are three different parking lots surrounding the lake plus a marina and playground. You do have to check in at the marina if you plan on going boating.

You must be out of the park by 6pm when the gates close. Double check the hours here in case they change with the seasons!

Tanglewood Park

  • Address: 4061 Clemmons Rd, Clemmons, NC 27012
  • Hours: Varies per season Check the hours here.
  • Dog-friendly? Yes – even has a dog park!

Tanglewood is a popular county park about 15 minutes west of Winston-Salem. There is SO much to do here other than hiking like swimming, horseback riding, BMX racing, mountain biking, tennis, golf, the list goes on. We’re here to talk about hiking though.

This is the only one on the list where the park requires an entrance fee and as of December 2020 that fee is $2.00 for personal vehicles. There are two options for hiking – not sure if I should call it a hike or a walk – one is the multi-use trail that circles the mountain biking trails and the other is the Yadkin River Nature Trail.

The Nature Trail is a total of 2.5 miles and follows the Yadkin River near the southwest corner of the park. Here you’ll see lots of native species of grass that provide a habitat for many native animals. At the multi-use trail you’ll get to enjoy watching the bikers and horseback riders as you circle their trails.

Looking for more great hikes in North Carolina? Check out Linville Falls.

Do you know any other best hikes near Winston-Salem?

Winston-Salem, North Carolina has some of the best hiking in NC that you'll find. Living in the Piedmont of North Carolina is an outdoor lovers paradise! #hiking #northcarolina

6 Comments

  1. I love reading about new places to hike, and this area looks stunning with some amazing views. Thanks for the tips!

  2. All great ideas! I’ll hopefully be visiting NC later this year for some fall foliage viewing and these all look like beautiful spots!

    1. I hope you take the Blue Ridge Parkway! It’s beautiful in the fall.

  3. What a comprehensive list 🙂 I really value high quality content. I see that you’ve put a lot of effort to put it together! Thanks a lot 🙂

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