The hike to the Pinnacle begins on a back road in Sylva NC with a well marked parking area. You will notice signs for the trail systems as you begin. The trails are pet friendly which makes this a convenient trail for those traveling with their furry friends. Most of the trails in the Smoky Mountains, especially inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, do not allow pets so please be aware of this if you are vacationing here. You can find more about this on our Pet Friendly Vacations in the Smoky Mountains webpage.
The Lower Loop Trail
The lower loop trail is nice for those just looking to get outside and enjoy nature. It’s roughly a half mile and crosses several creeks via bridge. It will also take you by Split Rock, a massive boulder with crack almost all the way through it. You will also notice the dam, pipes, and other remnants of the old town watershed system. The forest floor around you will be very green and lush with an abundance of wildflowers in the Spring.
West Fork Trail of The Pinnacle
The main trail system is called the West Fork Trail. This will lead you to the Pinnacle and its 360 degree views of the Smoky Mountains and the town of Sylva NC. With the summit coming in at just over 5,000 ft in elevation this is a very strenuous hike. This is an out-and-back trail and just as the sign at the trailhead states its almost 4 miles to the summit, or 8 miles round trip. The first 3/4 miles will give you a glimpse into the rockiness of the trail but this segment is not too steep. Once you are past the massive Split Rock you will notice the grade and steepness of the trail will rapidly increase. This will be a very slow ascent for the next 1.5 miles or so before bearing left and making your final push to the Pinnacle. Along the way you will find streams and creeks, very tall old growth forest, as well as places of solitude. The trail is a very wide old roadbed and extremely rocky throughout this section. My only advice is to take your time, keep your hiking pace at your comfort level, and enjoy hiking in the Smoky Mountains! Trust me the views are worth it!
Are we There Yet?
You will find a trail sign clearly marking a “fork in the road”. You will bear left to make your way to The Pinnacle which is only 1.4 miles from this point. The trail will also flatten out quite a bit and you will notice a different terrain far from the old roadbed which is a psychological relief after the strenuous climb. Just before the actual Pinnacle rock outcroppings you will come to a flat bald that will be open except for on the sides. No doubt this provided great views at one time prior to new Mountain Laurel and other plant life re-establishing itself. To get the most of the hike you will need to continue to what will seem like the very end of the trail. In the back corner of the Mountain Laurel there will be a faint path that almost looks like an animal trail depending on the season you are hiking that will lead you to the rocky summit. I have heard this described as “rock climbing” but it is far from that. No matter how you view it please beware and take caution once you begin working your way up the rocks. You will notice a couple of up and down sections of climbing with the pending views driving your excitement levels way up! Although the trails are pet friendly I would not take your pet any further than the bald or just down the spur trail. It will make sense once you experience the rocky summit.
Summit Views of Sylva NC and The Smoky Mountains
The views are well worth the strenuous hike up to the Pinnacle. It’s probably one of the best hikes in Western NC if you are looking for a payoff of nice panoramic views. After taking in the views I was able to take a seat and partake in a mini picnic out on the rocks since there wasn’t really anyone on the trail that day. In view are the Plott Balsam mountain ranges, the valley that the town of Sylva sits in, Wester Carolina University and Cullowhee, and long range mountain views to the South. The views alone absolutely make this one of the the best pet friendly trails in the Smoky Mountains. Take you time, you have earned it. When you are ready follow the trail back down to the trailhead parking lot area.
Directions to the Pinnacle in Sylva NC
The trailhead and parking area of Pinnacle Park in Sylva NC are easily found from GPS systems but we have included the directions and map on our Pet Friendly Trails in The Smoky Mountains webpage.