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Roaring Gap, North Carolina, United States

Stone Mountain Loop - Stone Mtn. State Park - N.C

Best hike around the granite dome at Stone Mountain State Park south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 5.2 miles / 8.4 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: A bedazzling granite bulge forms the centerpiece of Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina's cousin to the more famous mountain of the same name outside Atlanta, Georgia.

Stone Mountain Loop takes you to the top of the bulge, past a scenic waterfall and through the restored homestead of a family that lived in the shadow of Stone Mountain for four generations. The park also provides an excellent side trip for travelers along the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway.

Two trailheads at Stone Mountain State Park lead to the loop. While the Lower Trailhead in the park's northeast corner gets you to the base of the mountain more quickly, the far better hiking route is from the Upper Trailhead on the west side of the park. From there, you hike a short spur to reach the loop trail, hang a left, walk down past Stone Mountain Falls and then continue till the massive wall of granite starts to fill the background behind the thinning tree cover about 1.75 miles in.

Slack-jawed wonder is a perfectly natural response to seeing Stone Mountain for the first time. Once you get your wits about you again, you can explore the Hutchinson family's homestead, occupied for a century from 1855 to 1955.

Then it's a steep slog to the summit - a vast, sloping field of granite striped black by one rainstorm after another. Finally, it's all downhill to get back where you came from.

Best time to go: mid- to late October for the fall colors. About the only time to avoid the park is in the sweltering weeks of August.


Tips: Stone Mountain has a few serious dangers -- here's how to avoid them:

* Stay behind the wooden fence at Stone Mountain Falls. People have tried to get up close to the falls, lost their footing on the extremely slippery rock and fallen 200 feet to their deaths.

* From Stone Mountain Summit, it's possible to descend too far, lose your footing and slide to the bottom, with fatal results. Enjoy the view but explore with extreme caution; even if you don't fall, you can get trapped if you descend to point where you can't get enough traction to go back up the hill.

* Stay off the summit if a storm is coming in; you don't want to be exposed if lightning strikes.

What to bring:
Shoes with good traction
Water & snacks to keep your energy up
Camera
Hiking pole if you use one
Clothing in layers in case it rains

Points of Interest

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Upper Trailhead, Stone Mountain Loop

Restrooms here have running water. There's a soda machine over to one side.

Follow the trail over to the left. It goes back into the woods for about a quarter mile.
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Trail Junction - left for the falls, right for the mountain

An old stone fireplace stands at the junction with the Stone Mountain Loop Trail.

I recommend turning left here, taking the wooden stairs down to Stone Mountain Falls. A right turn takes a more gentle climb to the top of Stone Mountain, but I much prefer other direction.
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Stone Mountain Falls - Stay on this side of the fence

Do not be tempted to cross the fence -- the small stream of water seems harmless, but rock that looks dry can actually be very slippery (particularly in North Carolina's high humidity). A slip can get you killed.
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Base of Stone Mountain Falls

Excellent scrambling opportunities here, just mind your footing.

The creek just down the trail from here offers some fine photographic opportunities.
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Trail Junction - Middle and Lower Falls Trail

If you want to add some more distance, turn left to check out a couple mildly interesting waterfalls on the Middle and Lower Falls Trail. Otherwise, continue on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail.
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Stone Mountain rises above the trees

At about 1.75 miles, the first hints of Stone Mountain show up in the trees, which appear to thin just down the trail.

As you walk further, the mountain begins to fill your entire field of view. Benches offer a great place to soak it all in.
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Hutchinson Homestead

For generations of farmers carved a living from this remote country over a century in this valley below Stone Mountain.

Volunteers often staff the old homestead on weekends. If you're lucky you might stop in when one of the Hutchinsons' descendants is showing people around.

A parking lot nearby has a few lots for disabled visitors. The area around the homestead is generally accessible.
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Turnoff to Stone Mountain Summit

After you leave the Hutchinson Homestead, watch for the trail turn-off over to your right.

The trail climbs steeply, with a few cables to help keep your traction on the way up. Be prepared for many rest stops unless you're in very strong physical condition.

Excellent view of the nearby Blue Ridge Escarpment open up as you climb. Avoid the temptation to get of the trail and explore the granite dome. It's steeper and more treacherous than it looks.
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Stone Mountain Summit

At 2,305 feet, the summit offers wonderful views of the nearby mountains.

Don't go too far down the hill -- it's too easy to go farther than you want too.

Follow the orange dots painted on the granite to stay on the trail.
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Long view of Stone Mountain

The trail descends for awhile before there is this one great break in the trail, offering an excellent side view of the dome's arc.

From here it's just a matter of walking back to the intersection where the old fireplace stands, turning left and heading back to parking lot.
Pictures in this guide taken by: tommangan, cbhiker6, pmuellr

Stone Mountain Loop - Stone Mtn. State Park - N.C Trail Map


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About the Author

tommangan
tommangan
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