South Mountain State Park - Hiking

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About

Summary

Waterfall watching and long trail hiking at South Mountain State Park

Written by

Rob Glover

Distance

12.0 miles

There are several options to vary the loop length.

Destination Distance From Downtown

11.4 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

Some steep and, at times, slippery trails provide a bit of challenge at South Mountain. Varied loop lengths mean there is something for a range of hiking skills

Time To Complete

6 hours

6-8 hours

Seasonality

All Seasons

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

No

Topographical Map

South Mountain State Park Map

Review

Intro

One of the coolest features of the South Mountain trail system is the ability to easily create loops of varying length using the old CCC roads which form the upper spine of the park. The best part is no matter which option you choose, you will get to peek at the peaks through the trees that decorate the park and stand at both the top and base of an 80-foot waterfall. 

What Makes It Great

In the early 1800’s someone found some shiny metal in Brindle Creek, drawing attention to a rugged bit of land in the western piedmont of North Carolina. A little over 100 years later the CCC built a logging camp and some roads around the same piece of land to extract another natural resource. More recently, in the ‘70’s, some folks noticed that the forests, rugged hills, and 80-foot waterfall were kind of pretty and worth protecting. The state bought up a chunk of land and created South Mountain State Park.

The park holds about 40 miles of trail. Some are equestrian, some biking, and all are open to hikers. To create a challenging 12-plus-mile loop that includes most of the park’s highlights, start your day at the Jacob’s Fork Parking Area.

After a short walk from your car on the flat Hemlock Nature Trail, turn right onto Chestnut Knob – this uphill will earn you your burger and beer. Continue onto the Sawtooth Trail taking a left onto the Upper CCC Trail (of the aforementioned CCC roads). Continue following the trail as it turns into the Horseridge Trail and then the Lower CCC Trail. Turn left on the Upper Falls Trail and take it all the way to the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail.

The High Shoals Falls Loop is, not surprisingly, where you’ll find the High Shoals Falls – an 80 foot cascade terminating in a small pool perfect for feet soaking on a hot day. The Loop connects to the Hemlock Nature Trail and back to the parking area.

If you want to cut some miles, drop down from the Horse Ridge Trail on the Possum Trail. Be warned, the distance you save will be paid for by a more rugged trail.

Who is Going to Love It

Families will love the park as the signature feature, High Shoals Falls, can be reached with just a few miles walk from the parking area. For kids there are rocks to climb and a pool at the base of the waterfall to splash around in. Those looking for a longer leg stretch or some backpack training miles have 40 miles of options with plenty of opportunities for steep elevation change. South Mountain is also known for its stocked trout waters and has some great camping options.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

After entering the park drive to the Jacobs Creek Parking area. The trailhead is easily recognizable at the edge of the lot. There is a kiosk and a wood box usually filled with trail maps. Located a short walk in from the lot the bathroom facility has flush toilets and a water fountain. 

Dogs are allowed on a leash. There is no fee or registration required for day hiking. Campsites can be reserved online.

Location

South Mountain State Park Hiking

3001 South Mountain Park Ave
Connelly Springs, NC, 28612
35.237667, -80.632184

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