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Stone Mountain State Park    

Stone Mountain Photo Gallery | Stone Mountain Map

The 13,000+ acre Stone Mountain State Park has well maintained trails. If you like views, this is the place to hike. A word of caution though; there are many places within this park where getting close to the edge can cost you your life. Waterfalls and steep cliffs have claimed several lives in the past.

his is a serious trail" was the exclamation that I heard from below. Serious indeed, I thought. The Stone Mountain Trail is extremely steep and slippery. It is also has breathtaking views, especially in the Winter. I was sitting on a rock after a long climb up the Stone Mountain Trail. A group of hikers were making their way up the climb that I had just finished. I could hear their collective gasps for air. Maybe it was the sadist in me but it was nice to hear that I wasn't the only one that lost his breath climbing up that mountain.

 

The yellow blazed Stone Mountain Trail begins at the Comfort Station in the hiker parking area. To the right of this building, the trail winds through a dense rhododendron forest. Even in January, a warm day brings out the earthy and sweet fragrance of the rhododendron lined creek. After a short walk through the dense and dark forest, the trail crosses the road. It is at this point the trail begins the climb to the rock faces that define this park.

 

 

stone14.jpg (11877 bytes) The first cliffs are visible through the trees after a quarter mile of climbing. Side trails to the right lead out to nice views of the rolling hills of the North Carolina Piedmont. This is the beginning of a series of truly spectacular views that deserve many . The white faced cliffs have furrows carved in them from millions of years of erosion. Little streams flow in these groves, down the steep sides of the mountain.
dThe trail continues to climb along the face of Stone Mountain. The hardwood forest along the edge of the rock faces is comprised of of hickories, oaks and few scattered pines. This is known as a climax forest, the final stage of this forest community. The hardwoods are slowly "pushing the pines out". The trees are relatively young or immature. The plant community, that survives in patches on the white rock, consists mainly of pine, heath and some mountain laurel.

The trail passes a few more views and levels off. There are several side trails that lead to excellent picnic spots. It may sound repetitive, but many hikers have wandered too far on the steep edges and became stranded on small rock ledge

As the trail winds across the top of the mountain the yellow blazes lead the way. The trail makes a few turns and enters a wooded area. Many seeps cross the path making the rock slippery in some places.

 

The trail begins its decent after an impressive walk along the top of the Granite Dome. The forest thickens into a pine-oak forest. I spotted deer twice on the decent to the Stone Mountain Falls. A total of four deer, in just a mile and a half, crossed my path. One stopped and tried to "blend" into his(her) surroundings.

200 foot Stone Mountain Falls from the bottom. Notice the observation deck on the upper left.

After passing a side trail to a picnic area, the trail continues on to the Stone Mountain Falls. This impressive 200 foot plume is well protected by wooden railings. The warning signs are posted at the top of the falls and the message is obvious.

The trail proceeds from the top of the falls to a long wooden stairway that descends to the bottom of the falls. There is an observation deck close to the top of the falls and the view is sensational.

 

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The stairway is nearly as impressive as the falls !

Well maintained trail follows cool, rushing waters.

From the bottom of the falls to the trail head near the base of Stone Mountain the trail is nearly level. The walk is along the Rhododendron lined Big Sandy Creek, a contrast to the high and dry ridge of Stone Mountain.
The view from Wolf Rock

Two worthwhile side trips from the trails should be noted. The trail to Lower and Middle Falls is short and worth the effort.While not as spectacular as The Stone Mountain Falls both of these falls are worthy of mention.

The second side trip is the short nature trail loop at the base of Stone Mountain. Several plaques label trees and members of the plant community at points along the trail.                    

At the base of Stone Mountain you are one half of a mile from the trail head and the parking lot. This is a wide open field and is a popular place for observing the "Friction Cliff Climbers". This is the only site in the East for this type of ridge climbing. Friction climbing is a method with which climbers use ropes to pull themselves up the mountain. It is more of a cross between walking and climbing and is very fun to watch.

My pedometer read 10 miles at the completion of this hike. This includes side trips and explorations of the cliffs. (Not Recommended)

The trail to the top of Stone Mountain 
should not be attempted in freezing or wet weather. 
The possibility of injury is great here, even in dry weather.
                                     

GETTIN' THERE :

Stone Mountain State Park is 45 miles north of Statesville, NC. Take exit 83 (US 21) on I-77 and drive 10 miles to Roaring Gap. Turn left at the brown State Park sign and travel 3 miles to the John Frank Parkway. Turn right and drive 2 miles to the park entrance.

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