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Stone Mountain Day Hike

posted Dec 18, 2012, 9:21 AM by Justin P
This past Saturday, Sandy actually had a weekend day off of work, so we decided to take advantage and plan a day trip out to Stone Mountain State Park.  We met up with friends in Chapel Hill and carpooled out to the park, arriving at around 930.  After donning our hiking gear, we set out on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail in the counterclockwise direction.  The trail initially heads up a bit before coming to the first granite outcrop, the trademark of Stone Mountain.  With only a few small trees on these outcrops, they provide great views of the area surrounding Stone Mountain, including the Blue Ridge escarpment just to the west.  Continuing on a bit, we came to the summit of Stone Mountain at 2305 feet above sea level.  Again, the summit is a large granite outcrop with beautiful views of the surrounding landscape.  I had originally planned to stop and have lunch here, but it was only about 1030 at this point, so we decided to hold off on lunch and eat at another spot.  From the high point of our hike, we began our descent back down the mountain.  Along the way we saw some holly in bloom, looking very festive for the holiday season, even though the weather was unseasonably warm.  At the base of the mountain, we passed the road that leads to the Hutchinson Homestead and exited the Stone Mountain Loop Trail to take the Wolf Rock Trail.  Shortly, we reached Wolf Rock, another granite outcrop facing west.  Although there are no views of Stone Mountain from here, there are great views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We stopped here for lunch as it was past noon and had a chat with some other hikers from the Triad region.  Apparently, more than 20 people had signed up for the hike but only three showed up.  One had previously lived in the Triangle and reminded us how much better the hiking groups are in our area.  After lunch we continued on the Wolf Rock Trail and turned off to hike the Cedar Rock Trail.  Cedar Rock, another granite outcrop, faces Stone Mountain and is one of the best spots for views of the mountain.  Finishing up the Cedar Rock Trail, we got back on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail and backtracked just a bit to see the Hutchinson Homestead.  Although it is closed during the winter, it is still possible to walk the grounds and check out the numerous restored buildings, including a log cabin, barn, blacksmith shop, corncrib, and meathouse.  The homestead is located right at the base of Stone Mountain and is a very scenic location.  Not a bad place to live in the 19th century.  And being so close to the mountain, we could see rock climbers scaling the face of the mountain.  After a bit, we headed back on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail to the Middle Falls/Lower Falls Trail.  This trail is less well-maintained than the others and included a couple stream crossings without bridges.  About half way down the trail, we took the short spur over to Middle Falls and then finished the trail out to Lower Falls.  Both of these required a bit of bushwhacking and and rock-hopping to get to a good spot for viewing the falls and I managed to fall and sprain my wrist.  But it didn't hurt at first and I really didn't notice.  Taking the trail back to the Stone Mountain Loop, we finished up the trail with a stop at Stone Mountain Falls and then the 340 stairs up to the top of the falls and back to the parking lot.  I didn't actually count the stairs, but some people at the top claimed that they had and the number was 340.  Back at the parking lot, we headed back to the Triangle with a stop in Greensboro for Mexican on the way back.  By the time we got back to the Triangle, my wrist was starting to bother me, but its not a real adventure unless you're a little beat up at the end.