Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina
Designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1975, this 13,747 acre park is located in Wilkes and Allegheny Counties of North Carolina and is bordered on the North by the Blue Ridge Parkway and the West by the Thurmon Chatham Game Lands.
The most remarkable feature of the park is, of course, Stone Mountain itself, a 600-foot granite dome rising from the meadow below and surrounded by cool forest and numerous creeks.
From the Park Service:
This magnificent feature is part of a 25 square-mile platon, an igneous rock
formed beneath the earth's surface by molten lava. Over time, wind, water, and
other forces gradually eroded the softer layers of rock atop the granite block
and exposed the outcrop we see today. Wet weather springs continually carve
troughs in the granite as water runs down the sloping face.
With over 16 miles of trails, 17 miles of designated trout waters, a historical homestead, camping, climbing, and a great deal of wildlife, this park has something for everyone.
By far the most popular trail is the Stone Mountain Loop Trail. This strenuous trail takes you 3/4 mile to the summit with its stunning views, then another 1 1/4 miles to the top of Stone Mountain Falls. A series of stairs leads you down the side of the Falls to the bottom. From here the trail leads you another 2 miles to the meadow at the base of the mountain for views back to the top.
Here you will find the Hutchinson Homestead, built in the mid-19th century and representative of the settlements that where here in the early days when English, German, French, Irish, and Scotch-Irish immigrants built farm communities. The homestead contains a log cabin, barn, blacksmith shop, corncrib, meat house, and original furnishings.
Other great trails include:
The Cedar Rock Trail, a mile-long trail that leads to a rock outcropping with views of Stone Mtn.
Wolf Rock, a 1 1/2-mile trail with views of the Blue Ridge Mountain Escarpment. You can also see the ridges that divide the three watersheds in the park--Garden Creek, Widow's Creek, and Bullhead Creek.
Black Jack Ridge Trail, a strenuous 1 1/2 mile trail along an old road bed to excellent views of the face of the mountain.
Middle Falls/Lower Falls Trail, a 1/2 mile trail along Big Sandy Creek to Middle Falls and then on to Lower Falls.
Widow's Creek Trail, 2 1/2 miles to back country camping sites along Widow's Creek and access to Widow's Creek Falls.
There is also a five-mile horse trail through the park.
Camping is available in the family campground and at backcountry sites along Widow's Creek. The family campground has 90 sites (some with hook-ups for RVs) and a wash house with hot showers.
With more than 17 miles of designated trout waters in the park, fishing is popular here. You will largely find rainbow and brown trout in the lower streams and brook trout in the higher areas. Garden Creek, Widow's Creek, and Big Sandy Creek are designated Wild Trout Waters, meaning only single hook artificial lures can be used. The East Prong of Roaring River is a stocked stream designated as delayed harvest, meaning that for eight months of the year, the stream is catch-and-release (no trout can be harvested) and only single hook artificial lures may be used.
Of course, rock climbing is a popular activity in the park. I have never been here that climbers were not scaling this dome. As climbing is dangerous, it is allowed only in designated areas with a permit and is not recommended for beginners here.
For more information, please visit the park website here.
Directions to Stone Mountain State Park:
From the East and I-77, turn West onto US 21. Veer left onto Traphill Road (SR1002) and follow it to the John P. Frank Parkway. Turn Right and follow the Parkway to the Park.
From the West, take NC 18 North and turn right onto Traphill Road (SR1002) and follow it to the John P. Frank Parkway. Turn Left and follow the Parkway to the Park.
All images by Wesley J. Satterwhite