This was supposed to be a beach trip. I decided Sunday that it would be unsafe to travel to the outer banks with the current post-hurricane flooding, so I changed the reservations to Stone Mountain and New River. So, me and the girlfriend went off to the northwest corner, stopping at Stone Mountain first.
Now, don’t get this confused with the more heavily traveled Stone Mountain theme park in Georgia, which I’ve been to as well. The North Carolina variant is not commercialized meaning you won’t find vendors around every corner.
The park office is a nice, small building set up on a hill. A quick stop gets you plenty of helpful information and some neat information about the area. Nearby is a picnic area that we had lunch at. Afterwards, we decided to take the park’s primary loop trail that brings to to two main attractions: Stone Mountain and Stone Mountain Falls.
Hiking the Loop
The park’s loop trail starts from two different areas. The upper parking lot being closest to the waterfall and the lower lot closest to the top of Stone Mountain. Start from the upper parking lot to see the waterfall or to take the more gradual hike to the top, or the lower to take the quickest route to the top of the mountain. Or do the full loop from either.
I wanted to try the entire loop, so I parked at the upper area near the park office and headed towards the waterfall first. I don’t regret doing it this way.
The waterfall was pretty spectacular. Plenty of steps bring you down the waterfall, with a view at the top of the stream that forms the waterfall. Hiking back up these 300 stairs could be intense. I never had to do it. The hike going up later on was more gradual.
The Boring Part
Between the waterfall and the homestead could be considered the “boring” part. You start out walking along the creek for a while, with lots of rhododendrons, and eventually you pass a spur trail leading to smaller falls (neither of which seemed to be worth it). Continuing from there is a decent hike leading to the historic Hutchinson Homestead at the base of the mountain, as seen in the panorama below. The lower parking lot is near here, and you can get to the homestead via the road. An excellent place for a picnic.
Up The Mountain
The trail starts ascending after passing the lower parking lot spur trail. You don’t go up constant steps like at the waterfall, but they are nicely mixed in with the steeply inclining trail at needed moments. You get to a point where short distances off the trail are some awesome overlooks. Safely see a few of these, but know that the view at the top is 100x better.
Overall, this was a difficult but quick incline. Untrained legs will burn.
Mountain Top Views
I’ve seen some awesome overlooks, but Stone Mountain was something unique. The overwhelming size and lack of people made it very easy to walk around and explore. The granite top means a lack of trees, giving a very open view. Not many restrictions are set, meaning you can walk around on the granite top wherever you choose to go. Wind is strong, and it’s overall quite breathtaking. There’s enough room up on the top for hundreds of people without bothering each other- which is different from most other mountain summits I’ve been to.
Summary & Other Thoughts
The trail comes back down more gradually on the other side. You get back to the start after about a mile and a half. There are a few more views going back down.
I hiked to the Widows Creek Falls the next morning and there were some pretty cool views right off the road there, hardly any hike required. Just be careful as this area can be slippery and a bit difficult to get steady footing around.
The campsites and shower houses are above average, although there seemed to be an abundance of stink bugs in our campsite. I’m still finding one in my car every now and then.