When I was a teenager, my brother and I would take our Australian Shepherd on long walks through the neighboring woods, cow pastures and overgrown fields. It wasn’t just exercise for the dog, who needed lots of exercise, it was an adventure for us. We used to joke about how we were the only ones walking in the park in the rain, because it was muddy conditions on our typical route that forced us to find more stable trails, while the city-dwellers didn’t even come out in the bad weather.
Today, I get the best of both worlds on the beautiful Sauratown Trails that connect Pilot Mountain State Park to Hanging Rock State Park. Wide, well-kept gravel trails provide a welcoming place to explore the landscape in and around our wonderful Sauratown Mountains. Whether you prefer to travel the trails on horseback or on foot with your favorite canine companion, there is plenty to see around every bend. Twenty-two miles of trails connect the two state parks, and the trails are divided into 16 sections to make hiking more accessible. Five parking areas also aid accessibility, with room for horse trailers in each parking are and picnic areas at some. (See the map on the Sauratown Trails website for more details.)
It’s hard for me to pick which sections of the trails are my favorite. Walking along the sections near Flat Rock Road and Thore Road you happen upon some great views of Sauratown Mountain. And of course, as you get closer to Hanging Rock State Park, the rock outcroppings become more prominent. Through it all you travel through woods and pastures, coming up to creeks that you sometimes have to cross over and getting some great views along the way.
Today these great trails are part of the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail, but they have been around since before that organization even existed. Back in the early 70s, a group of people from our area decided it was time for a hiking trail to connect Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock state parks. That started the process of knocking on doors of landowners, asking permission to build a trail through their land. The trail opened for the first time in 1979. Over the years the trails were opened and closed at various times, for problems with liability laws and the challenges of maintenance.
In 2002, the trails as we know them were opened once again, thanks to some changes in liability laws that took place in the 90s and a lot of hard work by the Sauratown Trails Association. This great group of people help oversee and maintain the trails, making it easy for all of us to the time we spend hiking or riding on them. If you’d like to help out, become a member of the Sauaratown Trails Assocation. You’ll not only meet a great group of people, you’ll be helping maintain one of the attractions of Stokes County.