South Mountains State Park Hike Route Map

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 separated 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 stopped 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 Shoals 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


Route Type:  Lollipop + Out-and-back

Difficulty:  HARD  (Petzoldt Rating:  10.20 )

Hike Length: ~7.0 miles                    Hike Duration: 3:00

Trailhead Temp: 55'F                       Trail Traffic:  25-50 people

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)

  • Dan Weemhoff (dwhike)

    on November 13, 2018

    No worries at all Tim...I love hearing that folks are finding my site useful and interesting! Comment all you'd like! South Mountains in the fall is wonderful but fleeting. Thanks for sharing!

  • Tim Truemper

    on November 12, 2018

    I know I am commenting a lot on your page as of late. Was at South Mountain Park today and went to Clear Creek on the West Side and then did the River Trail for photo shots. Well, as we know fall is way late. Today was past peak but what you would expect for late October. Regardless, your blog is so fun to view.