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South1.jpg (3198 bytes)LENGTH: 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 Knob Overlook.

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 | State 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 foot hills.

 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. Old CCC road

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.

View of High Shoals Falls from the overlook

Chestnut Knob

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 Weather beaten trees and rocks


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. Dave's Tree


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.View Southeast

Cool Rocks       




South Mountains Map | South Mountains Camping | South Mountains Photos



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. 

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