South Mountains State Park

Trout Streams. Hemlocks. Rhododendrons. Waterfalls. Hiking, Mountain Bike, and Bridle Trails. Scenery. South Mountains State Park.

Numerous streams and creeks branch throughout this isolated mountain range located south of Morganton, NC near Hickory, cooling the air and creating cascades along boulder-strewn waterways.

Hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians can enjoy sections of more than forty miles of trails that range from easy to strenuous (rentals not available). We began our journey on the .3 mile Hemlock Nature Trail, and strolled along the shady path past leafy thickets of budding rhododendrons, and tender Eastern Hemlocks.

At the end of the trail, we found the park's most popular hike--the 2.7 mile High Shoals Falls Trail. Along this loop are signs discussing the parks unique geological features, including the exfoliation process that resulted in a rock slide during Hurricane Hugo.

Note, the slabs now cover the trail, so wear appropriate shoes and be prepared to walk over a few rocks.

The trail soon crossed over the Jacob Branch. We stopped on the narrow wooden bridge to enjoy the cascades gushing over even more boulders.

The trail takes visitors to an observation platform overlooking an 80-foot waterfall roaring over a cliff formed by erosion.

We continued on, up a hundred or so steps built along the vertical rock. The climb was tiring for both children and adults, and we chatted with other hikers at rest points along the way.

Behind this group of fellow hikers (and exceedingly good sports) the sharp rise in elevation is visible.

But the view at the upper observation platform is worth the effort. In addition to another cascade, we found more rhodos, a scenic bridge, and "potholes" carved into the rock by water.

Along with hiking, biking, and horseback riding, picnicking and camping are also popular activities at the park. Twenty backpack campgrounds, eleven primitive family campgrounds, and an equestrian campground is available within the parks boundaries. Check the park's website for information on reservation and fees.

Note: the parking lot fills quickly, so it's best to arrive early.

For more information on South Mountains State Park, go to


Jack Thyen said...

Nice! I've only been to South Mountains State Park once, and that was several cameras ago! I need to get back sometime!

Kimberli said...

Thanks, Jack! We fell in love with the place, and hope to spend more time there soon. Especially when all those rhododendrons are in bloom!