Stone Mountain State Park (5-13-14)
Though some may find it generic, Stone Mountain's name could not be more appropriate. Tucked up against the high wall of the Blue Ridge in the northwest corner of the state, the one thing you'll see on this peak is stone, and lots of it. One of the more unique natural features of the Southern Appalachians is its abundance of granite plutons, of which Stone Mountain is included. Plutons are peaks made of erosion resistant rock and are characterized by expansive open cliffs. Stone Mountain's open slopes rise some 600' above the surrounding valley and overlook numerous lesser summits with open, precipitous slopes of their own. Add to all this a half dozen waterfalls (one over 200' high), a restored historic farmstead, and a trail network that tops out over 20 miles you have one of the finest pieces of property in the entire State of North Carolina.
The state park itself was established in 1975 and now encompasses some 14,000+ acres, making it one of the largest in the system. It also offers modern camping, a somewhat unique feature within the NC State Park system. For this hike I'd be trying to take in the major highlights of the park in one 7-mile loop. Starting at the trailhead for the Stone Mountain Loop Trail I planned on making the side-loop out to Stone Mountain's neighbors, Wolf and Cedar Rocks. I'd then make my way down to the old Hutchinson Homestead (a restored 19th Century farm) and over to the 200' sliding cascade of Stone Mountain Falls. The grand finale would be the return hike up and over Stone Mountain itself. This promised to be one of the more unique and varied hikes I'd partaken in in recent memory, come on along and see what I found...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 36.397923, -81.052002
Route Type: Loop Difficulty: MODERATE
Hike Length: 7.0 miles Hike Duration: 3:00
Trailhead Temp: 70'F Trail Traffic: 25-50 people
Min. Elevation: 1,480' Max. Elevation: 2,305'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,250' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 179'
Trails Used (blaze color/shape): Cedar Rock (red circles), Stone Mountain Loop (orange circles), Wolf Rock (red squares)