Hike the West Fork Trail at Pinnacle Park in Sylva, North Carolina, climbing to exceptional views from The Pinnacle, a high-elevation, knobby summit.

georgia hiking trails: 6 or more miles 6.5 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: difficultmost
difficult
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:Near Sylva, North Carolina in the Nantahala National Forest

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and mountain logo hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 785 Trails Illustrated Map

Towering high above the western North Carolina town of Sylva, The Pinnacle is a knobby, craggy peak that rises from the edge of the Plott Balsam mountain range. The views from the rocky summit are sublime, stretching over the surrounding Appalachian peaks to the far-distant horizon.

Pinnacle Park in Sylva, NC

The journey to the summit makes for a fantastic, strenuous, upward hike through a scenic, creek-filled forest on Pinnacle Park’s West Fork Trail. The hike is challenging, but exceptionally rewarding. The trails meander through a beautiful hardwood forest, and the summit views at the end of this out-and-back hike are simply unforgettable. The Pinnacle’s sun-drenched rock outcrops offer a great spot to soak in views of the nearby Blackrock Mountain and the Plott Balsams, the town of Sylva, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the neighboring Great Smoky Mountains on the northern horizon.

The hike racks up over 1800 feet of elevation gain in the outbound 3.5 miles, so it’s a challenging one, for sure – and the hike’s initial rocky climb along a boulder-crusted old roadbed makes for a great, calf-burning workout. But the summit’s views are a fantastic, rewarding payoff for the effort.

Hike the West Fork Trail at Pinnacle Park in Sylva, North Carolina, climbing to exceptional views from The Pinnacle, a high-elevation, knobby summit. #hiking #trailrunning #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Pinnacle Park to The Pinnacle: the hike

The hike begins at the Pinnacle Park trailhead, north of Sylva, NC (view maps and driving directions). A wooden kiosk marks the trailhead; the hiking trails and backcountry sites at the park are free, but require a permit (available at the trailhead kiosk) before starting the hike. The hike skirts around a metal gate, following the trail northbound. In just under a tenth of a mile, the trail reaches a small spillway dam and waterfall on Fisher Creek, the remains of the Sylva’s former watershed that occupied the park before its conversion to recreation land in the 1990s.

The hike begins a nearly relentless climb to the Plott Balsam ridgeline, following purple and gold trail blazes through a ferny, mossy hardwood forest. The trail passes a small campsite before reaching a trail fork at .3 mile; from here, this hike veers left, following the West Fork Trail and hiking northwest. The sound of falling water fills the forest as the West Fork Trail continues to climb elevation, reaching a towering, split rock outcrop with an enormous fissure at .5 miles.

The West Fork Trail arcs to the southwest at .6 mile, crossing Fisher Creek and passing a small series of cascading waterfalls.

Pinnacle Park in Sylva, NC

The trail meanders through wide switchbacks, following the route of an old, rocky, boulder-filled, gravel road bed. The elevation climb intensifies as the trail climbs steadily upward, gaining over 1100 feet of elevation over the next course of 1.3 miles. The trail passes large, towering, mossy rock outcrops as it climbs and winds, and hikes past a trickling creek on the right at 1.6 miles. Just after passing a small, mossy waterfall, the West Fork Trail meets a signed trail junction at 1.9 miles; from here, this route turns left, hiking The Pinnacle Trail westbound. (The trail to the right leads 1.8 miles to the summit of Blackrock Mountain, an intense climb that rewards with stunning 360-degree panoramic views. If you’re up for the extra mileage and a great workout, it’s a great addition to this hike.)

Towering, old-growth oak shade gnarly-branched rhododendron as The Pinnacle Trail begins to level at 2.25 miles. The trail’s gentle rolling elevation is a welcome break from the nearly continuous climb. The trail is scenic in every season, with through-the-trees views framed by towering hardwoods. But it’s an especially beautiful hike in late spring, with the blooming of the trail’s abundant rhododendron, and in fall, when autumn paints the towering deciduous forest in vibrant hues.

The trail arcs southbound, winding through the forest. The hike rolls over a small knob at 2.8 miles, tunneling through dense rhododendron and mountain laurel thickets. The trail reaches a campsite at 3.2 miles. The hike continues on the opposite, south side of the campsite, ducking through dense rhododendron on a tight, narrow singletrack trail. And, suddenly, the trail breaks through the cover, and the sun-drenched summit is dead ahead.

Pinnacle Park in Sylva, NC

A careful scramble up The Pinnacle offers stunning views, but the summit’s drop-offs are steep and sudden, so some caution is needed to navigate out to the craggy peak. The town of Sylva is easily visible to the south, and the towering peak of Blackrock Mountain, another of the park’s hiking destinations, dominates the near horizon to the northeast. Exceptional, mountainous views wrap around the summit in every direction.

After soaking up the views (and grabbing a few Instagram-worthy shots), the hike flips in reverse in a nearly continuous downhill trek to the trailhead. The hike reaches the trailhead at 6.5 miles, completing the adventure.


Pinnacle Park West Fork Trail Map, Directions & Details

This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions



Parking

Free parking is available at the trailhead; donations accepted (and encouraged). Permit required (free; fill out the provided form at the trailhead).


GPS Coordinates

35.422617, -83.191217     //     N35 25.357 W83 11.473

Elevation Profile

Pinnacle Park West Fork Trail to The Pinnacle: Elevation Profile
 
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Eric Champlin
Author

Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.