South Mountains State Park (10-9-14)
South Mountains State Park is North Carolina's largest, covering some 18,000-acres. Located just south of Morganton, the South Mountains are an ancient extension of the Appalachian Mountains which are now seperated from them by about 30-miles. Though not high by Appalachian standards, as far as the mountains of the Piedmont go, the South Mountains are the highest reaching elevations close to 3,000'. With over 40-miles of trails this huge state park offers everything from short day hikes to overnight backpacking trips that get you back into some truly remote country.
Although only about 2-hours from my home I have had very limited experience with South Mountians. Once before, some 10-years ago, my family and I stoppped by to see the parks famous waterfall High Shoals Falls. Beyond that I hadn't been back. So when the opportunity came to stop by again in the form of a job interview I figured it would be irresponsible of me not to log at least a few miles of trail under my feet this time around.
My route for the day would take me on the 3-mile loop to and around High Shaols Falls as well as up to the Jacob Fork River Gorge Overlook and the summit crags of Chestnut Knob. Combined this would be around a 7-mile hike and combines two of the more popular trails in the park. Along the way I'd be treated to rugged streams, falls, cliffside overlooks, and a remarkable array of natural habitats. Though I would still only be scratching the surface of what this park has to offer I figured it would provide a nice overview of its highlights and spark and interest in returning in much less time than the previous 10-years. So, to the trail I headed to explore a small portion of this wonderfully diverse park...enjoy...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.602251, -81.629536
Hike Length: ~7.0 miles Hike Duration: 3:00
Trailhead Temp: 55'F
Min. Elevation: 1,350' Max. Elevation: 2,291'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,600' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 229'
Trails Used (blaze color/shape): Chestnut Knob (white diamonds), Hemlock Nature (white triangles), High Shoals Falls Loop (blue circles)