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Stone Mountain State Park

Stone Mountain
Stone Mountain State Park is a park in Alleghany and Wilkes Counties in northwestern North Carolina on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

Stone Mountain itself is characterized by the impressive 600-foot granite dome on top of the peak.  The dome is part of a 25-square-mile pluton, which is an igneous rock formed underground by molten lava.  Over millions of years, erosion removed the softer layers, exposing the the granite outcrop that is visible today.  On the surface today, one can see the troughs in the granite rock carved by water running down the surface.

Before it became a state park, the area around Stone Mountain was settled by immigrants of various European descents, who established self-sufficient communities with log homes, churches and schools.  The state park was established in 1969 and became a National Natural Landmark in 1975.

Contact Information:
3042 Frank Parkway
Roaring Gap, NC 28668

Phone: (336) 957-8185

Email: stone.mountain@ncdenr.gov

GPS Coordinates: 36.3873, -81.0273

Directions:

From points east, take I-77 north to exit 83.  Follow US-21 north for about 13 miles and turn left on Traphill Road (SR 1002).  After about 4 miles, turn right on John P Frank Parkway and follow to the park.  From points west, take US-421 to NC-18 east to North Wilkesboro.  Turn right on NC-268 and after about 3 miles, turn left on Airport Road.  In about 4 miles, turn left onto Traphill Road (SR 1002).  Follow Traphill Road for about 11 miles and turn left on John P Frank Parkway and follow to the park.  Use the map below to generate customized directions.

Map:

Stone Mountain State Park

Trails:

There are more than ten miles of hiking trails in the park, taking in the many natural and historical attractions within the park.

Blackjack Ridge Trail:

Length: 1.5 miles (partial loop)
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: White Square

Black Jack Ridge Trail begins at the three-way intersection with Wolf Rock trail and Cedar Rock Trail.  From here, the trail follows the ridge then loops back towards Cedar Rock.  Especially in winter, when the leaves are down, there are nice views of Stone Mountain and Cedar Rock from the trail.  The trail ends at Cedar Rock Trail near the intersection with Stone Mountain Loop Trail.

Cedar Rock Trail:

Length: 1.0 miles (one-way)
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: Red Circle

Cedar Rock is a short trail that runs from Wolf Rock Trail just east of Wolf Rock to Stone Mountain Loop Trail just east of the Hutchinson Homestead.  Along the way, the trail crosses Cedar Rock, another large granite outcrop with excellent views of Stone Mountain.

Middle & Lower Falls Trail:

Length: 1.0 mile (one-way)
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: Blue Circle

The Middle & Lower Falls Trail is a one-mile out-and-back trail that takes in two of the park's smaller waterfalls.  The trailhead is off the Stone Mountain Loop Trail just west of Stone Mountain Falls.  Immediately, the trail crosses a tributary of Big Sandy Creek.  In just under a half-mile, a spur to the right leads to Middle Falls.  There is a crossing of Big Sandy Creek right past the spur.  The trail then heads up and down a ridge to the third creek crossing.  At the point, the trail is also a bridle trail.  The foot trail ends at Lower Falls, while the bridle trail continues.


Mountains-to-Sea Trail:

Length: 6 miles (one-way, length within park)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Blaze: White Circle

Section 18 of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail runs through Stone Mountain State Park.  This section starts at Devil's Garden Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway and heads down into the park.  The trail meets up with the Widow's Creek Trail near the backcountry campsites and continues down to Stone Mountain Road.

Stone Mountain Loop Trail:

Length: 4.5 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Blaze: Orange Circle

Stone Mountain Loop Trail is the most popular trail in the park, taking in many of the park's attractions along the way.  There are two trailheads - the Upper Trailhead lot near the Visitor Center and the Lower Trailhead lot near the Hutchinson Homestead.  From the Upper Trailhead lot, there is a short connector that leads up to an old chimney and a split in the trail, with left going to the falls and right going to Stone Mountain.  Going right and following the trail in a counterclockwise loop, the trail heads towards the summit of Stone Mountain, crossing a few granite outcrops with views of Stone Mountain from the side.  There are a couple switchbacks for the final ascent to the summit of Stone Mountain.  The trail then heads back down the other side, passing over another rocky outcrop with open views before heading into the woods and descending via switchbacks.  Near the bottom, the trail crosses the road that provides disabled access to Hutchinson Homestead and then passes near the Lower Trailhead.  From this trailhead, the trail passes Wolf Rock Trail and moderately ascends along a tributary to Hutchinson Homestead, a restored 19th century farm typical to the area.  For the next 3/4 of a mile, the trail follows a tributary downstream to the intersection with Lower Falls & Middle Falls Trail.  Staying on the main trail, it follows Big Sandy Creek upstream to Stone Mountain Falls, the highest in the park.  You'll need to climb around 300 stairs to get to the top of the waterfall and then just a short distance to the old chimney at the start of the loop.


Widow's Creek Trail:

Length: 2.5 miles (one-way)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Blaze: Orange Square

The Widow's Creek Trail follows Widow's Creek from the backcountry camping parking lot on the western end of the park up to the campsites.  The trail runs with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail for most of its length, splitting as the Widow's Creek Trail heads to the campsites and the MST continues up the mountain.

Widow's Creek Trail

Wolf Rock Trail:

Length: 1.5 miles (one-way)
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: Red Square

Wolf Rock Trail leads from the Stone Mountain Loop Trail near the Lower Trailhead parking lot to the intersection with Cedar Rock and Black Jack Ridge Trails.  From Stone Mountain Trail, Wolf Rock Trail climbs up for a while then eventually levels off.  A spur to the right leads out to an outcrop on Wolf Rock.  This outcrop provides great views of the Blue Ridge Escarpment to the west and the ridges dividing the three main creeks running down from the Blue Ridge Parkway - Garden Creek, Widow's Creek, and Bullhead Creek.  Past the spur, the trail descends to the remains of an old hunting shack.  Shortly after this point, the trail ends at Cedar Rock and Blackjack Ridge Trails.

Waterfalls:

There are four named waterfalls in the park.

Lower Falls:

Lower Falls is the last waterfall on Big Sandy Creek.  To reach the waterfall, hike Lower Falls & Middle Falls Trail, which starts from the Stone Mountain Loop Trail just west of Stone Mountain Falls.  Follow this trail about a mile, passing the spur to Middle Falls and crossing the creek a total of three times.  After the third crossing, the trail follows a bridle trail and a sign indicates where the hiking trail ends.  Climb down from the trail to the base of Lower Falls.

Middle Falls:

Middle Falls is located on Big Sandy Creek downstream from Stone Mountain Falls.  Follow Middle Falls/Lower Falls Trail from Stone Mountain Trail to a spur in less than half a mile.  Turn right on follow this to the top of Middle Falls.  It's very steep to get down to the base of Middle Falls and I had to squeeze under a rock to get a descent view.  This is the least impressive waterfall in the park in my opinion.

Stone Mountain Falls:

Stone Mountain Falls, also called Little Falls, is the highest waterfall in the park.  The waterfall is located along the Stone Mountain Loop Trail and is closest to the Upper Trailhead.  From the Upper Trailhead parking, take the connector trail to Stone Mountain Loop Trail and turn left.  The trail comes out at the top of the falls and descends to the base via a very long set of stairs.

Widow's Creek Falls:

Widow's Creek Falls is located near the western end of the park.  From the main entrance to the park, continue on Stone Mountain Road past Stone Mountain and the old homestead and a small pull-off will be on the right.  The waterfall is only a short walk from this parking area.  At the top of the falls, the water splits into three cascades that tumble 25 or so feet into a pool then continue down a series of short slides.  This is a popular swimming hole in the warmer months, but be sure to always exercise caution as the rocks around the falls can be very slippery.


The above picture is during normal water flow.  In low water levels, more of the rock face is exposed and I though it kind of looks like a skull.

Wildlife:

Sulphur shelf fungi (Laetiporus sulphureus) is an edible mushroom sometimes called "chicken of the woods" because it tastes like chicken.

Blog Entries:


External Links:

NC State Parks website: https://www.ncparks.gov/stone-mountain-state-park