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Winter Hike at Stone Mountain

posted Jan 16, 2017, 7:13 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jan 26, 2017, 6:59 AM ]

Last Saturday, Sandy had the day off, so we headed to the mountains for a winter day trip.  Our destination was Stone Mountain State Park at the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment.  We left around 7, arriving at the park around 930.  After parking at the Upper Trailhead, we started off on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail in the counterclockwise direction.  It was very cloudy and foggy so as we hiked up the mountain, we knew there weren’t going to be any great sweeping views.

But the dreary weather and fog made for a spooky atmosphere and it's nice to enjoy the park in a different setting.  We stopped for a bit at the summit but didn’t spend too much time here as we couldn’t see much.

Just past the summit, we followed a short path to the other side of the mountain.  The views weren’t any better here, but there were a few patches of residual snow.

Then we headed back down the mountain towards the Lower Trailhead Parking.  At the parking area, we followed the road about a mile to Widows Creek Falls.  I had been here before several years ago, but it was Sandy’s first visit.  The water level was quite low.

Despite this, the waterfall was really cool – the rock face that water flowed over looked like a skull (albeit with just one eye socket).  In normal water flows, it’s obscured, but today it was really obvious.  I scrambled down to the lower cascades, for some pictures from a different angle and then we ate lunch here, before following the road back to the Stone Mountain Loop Trail.

Back on the main trail, we almost immediately turned right to get on the Wolf Rock Trail and followed this out to its namesake overlook.  The views weren’t great due to the fog, but still we could see the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment covered in dense fogs.

Continuing on the trail, Sandy spotted a little sapling covered in water droplets - it was quite photogenic.

We also stopped at the remains of an old hunting lodge.

Continuing to the end of this Wolf Rock Trail, we made a short detour to Cedar Rock.  This overlook has probably the best views of Stone Mountain, even covered in clouds.

Then we backtracked to the intersection and hiked the Blackjack Ridge Trail.  Following the ridge down, the trail loops back towards Cedar Rock, we could see both that and Stone Mountain from the trail.

Especially in the winter when the leaves are down, the monolith just towers over everywhere else in the park.  At the end of the trail, we went backwards on Stone Mountain Loop Trail to check out Hutchinson Homestead then continued back towards the start.

We took the Middle Falls/Lower Falls Trail to follow Big Sandy Creek downstream and made a detour on the spur trail to see Middle Falls.  This one is not too impressive in low water, but we scrambled down for a picture or two.

There was one nice cascade above the main drop that I stopped for a picture of.

Then we continued on the main trail.  At the end, it meets up with the Out-and-Back Bridle Trail.  But there was no Lower Falls.  After the fact, I realized that Lower Falls is further down on the bridle trail.  But that trail didn’t exist the last time I was here.  It’s not the most exciting waterfall anyway, I’ve been here before, so we just gave up and headed back.  Back on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, there were several spots to stop and see some very scenic cascades along Big Sandy Creek.

And soon we made it to Stone Mountain Falls.  The water level was low, but this is still an impressive waterfall.

While we were there, a guy proposed to his girlfriend in front of the falls, and Sandy and I were reminded of our engagement at Hebron Colony Falls many years ago.  Then we climbed the many steps up to the top and headed back to the car to finish up our hike.  On the way home, we stopped for barbeque at Little Richards in Yadkinville.