High Shoals Falls Loop 3.5 miles Chestnut
Knob Overlook 4 miles (R.T) SKILL:
Novice - Intermediate
WATER: Falls Loop: Yes
Chestnut Knob: Small spring between Jacobs Fork Overlook and Chestnut
NOTES: Be careful at the top of High Shoals Falls.
It is easy to be swept off of the edge, on the slippery rocks.
South Mountains Map
| South Mountains Camping
South Mountains Photos
Park Web Site
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The park reopened
to visitors Jan. 3. However, hurricane damage to trails and pedestrian
bridges has required some trail detours.
Apart from the rest
The South Mountains are another very unique North Carolina hiking
destination. Separated, by 30 miles, from the main ridge of the
Appalachian Mountains, there is nothing else quite like it. This
group of rugged mountains that range in elevation from 1100
to over 3000 feet high, stand alone on the rolling hills of the
Piedmont. These mountains encompass 100,000 acres in Burke, Cleveland
and Rutherford counties. This separation from the main Blue Ridge
mountain range make it closer to home for hikers that need that
"quick get away" from the over populated North Carolina
South Mountains State Park is located in the middle of this
unusual mountain range. With the acquisition of 5300 acres in 1995,
it is now the largest State Park in North Carolina. 16,918 acres
of scenic beauty in a well maintained park make this one of
my favorite day hiking spots. The following descriptions are two
great hikes that showcase the parks great features.
As you drive the three and a half miles up the newly paved road,
you may begin to wonder where the beautiful mountains are. There
aren't any views of the peaks and knobs that are the back bone of
this wonderful park. As soon as you leave the parking lot and start
walking on the Headquaters Trail, you enter another world. After
passing the picnic area and the rest rooms, the trail to Chestnut
Knob is on the immediate right. As with all of the trails in this
park, it is well signed. The State Park is installing new steps
on this trail, making it easier to climb to the overlooks. The path
is also well graded, so the steep climb to Jacobs fork Overlook,
is not as difficult as it could be.
One of the first things you will notice is the over-abundance of
dead conifers that litter the side of the trail. Again the rangers
are cutting these trees up and keeping the trail clear. Climbing
the newly constructed stairs is surprisingly easy. They are well
spaced, allowing for the different strides of the many hikers that
make this climb. The forest that surrounds you consists primarily
of oaks, hickories and poplars. This climax forest also has an understory
of laurel, holly, mulberry and rhododendron. Although this upper
piedmont eco-system is separated from the Blue Ridge Mountains,
it very much resembles what you would find 30 miles to the north.
After a 1/2 mile of negotiating the twists and turns of the Chestnut
Knob Trail, you reach a junction with an old road. A turn to the
left and a short walk of a couple of hundred feet takes you to the
Jacobs Fork Overlook. From here you can see across the gorge that
you just climbed from, to the High Shoals Waterfall. The sound of
rushing water fills the air. You are now a little more than halfway
to the Chestnut Knob overlook. This is a great place to enjoy the
High Shoals Waterfall without dealing with large crowds. The sound
of the waterfall in the distance has a soothing effect. This makes
it even harder to continue your climb to the next overlook
Except for a climb up some well spaced steps, the rest of the hike
to the next overlook is an easy climb. The trees on this section
of trail are younger than the trees at the beginning of the trail.
The majority of them are hardwoods, making this a young climax forest.
As you near the next overlook, the trail becomes much wider. The
trail for the overlook is to the left and is much narrower than
the main trail. After the turn, it is a short down hill walk to
some great views. This short trail twists through some interesting
rock formations. The ground is covered with the crumbled stone
and can cause a nasty fall for the unwary hiker. The weather beaten
trees that grow from the cracks in the rocks add to the beauty of
this great overlook.
The view to the south reveals the rolling hills of the Piedmont.
On a clear day, usually in the Spring or Fall, the skyline of Charlotte
can be seen. To the Northwest a view of Benn's Knob and other high
ridges can be viewed.
This is a great spot for a picnic or just a well deserved break
from the hike to this great overlook. After lingering here to your
hearts content back-track to the Headquaters Trail.
South Mountains Map
| South Mountains Camping
CONTINUE THE HIKE TO
HIGH SHOALS FALLS
South Mountain State Park is 18 miles south of Morganton. Take
exit 105 from I-40 and turn left on 18 at the bottom of the ramp.
Follow the signs for 18 miles. From the south you can take Highway
27 west from Lincolnton, NC. West of Lincolnton turn right on 18
and follow the signs.
Map it with Mapquest>>