STONE MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
Intentionally waiting to hike Stone Mountain State Park in the winter was a great idea....at 2305 feet, the summit is similar to Pilot Mountain or Moore's Knob in elevation and is not a hike to do on a hot day....but what we found on a warm January day was another gem of a State Park...don't miss out on this hike as this park has many beautiful and varied vistas.....and steps!
Thanks to the report of Tom Mangan at his Two Heel Drive blog (http://www.tommangan.net/twoheeldrive/index.php/2011/10/17/two-loops-at-stone-mountain-state-park/), I had an idea that taking a right on the Summit Loop Trail from the Upper Parking Lot access would get me to the summit without encountering steps...if you choose to access the Summit from the Lower Parking Lot, you will enjoy an ascent to the summit of Stone Mountain by way of 555 steps....ouch?!
Following Tom's advice we turned right at the Chimney.... and began our 4.3 mile loop trail with an easy walk along a wide switchback trail 1.4 miles to the summit....we still had 555 steps but they were all down hill!
This loop hike will surprise you as it is a moderately strenuous 5.1 mile hike from the Upper Parking Lot. But that was not the biggest surprise....I never expected the scenery on a winter hike at Stone Mountain to be so good....so we got in a great workout and got to see some wonderful sights......first the view from on top of the Mountain...
On the way to the summit, there are a few nice
views. The Blue Ridge is just a few miles to the west.
The summit faces south and we could watch as the sun began to burn off the fog on the smoky Blue Ridge.
|Solitary Pine grows in the rock face summit of Stone Mountain|
On the trail off the summit there are many opportunities to explore side trails and take in other views. I found one on the north side and was treated with a look north toward the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Getting off the summit is assisted by some very sturdy cables which would be much appreciated if the rock was wet.....
But then you begin the 555 step descent....boy I am glad I did not have to climb up this way! Thanks Tom! The trail down is very pleasant walk through mountain laurel. Took a shot of a small rhodie with sunlight peaking through the leaves like a Christmas ornament.
The trail passes the access to the lower parking lot and turns toward the base of the mountain and in about 1.5 miles you come upon a remarkable historical reproduction of a mountain homestead....with a back drop of Stone Mountain...a photographer's delight.
You could spend an hour or more exploring the farmstead but if you are like me it is the Mountain that draws your attention.
Imagine waking up every morning to this view. I tried to think what the mountain reminded me of and finally I decided it looked like a giant scoop of fudge ripple ice cream.....What can you say....only a Fat Bald White Guy would be thinking about fudge ripple ice cream on a hiking trail!
In the category of things the Fat Bald White Guy would never do, chalk up rappelling down the face of Stone Mountain! We watched these three guys rappel down and then climb back up the rope and do it again....amazing!
Proving that some of the best views on a trail are behind you, I turned around as I was leaving the farmstead and caught one of the best views of the day.
About 3/4 mile up the loop trail we began to follow a mountain creek upstream toward the Stone Mountain falls....and if you follow this blog you know how much the FBWG loves to play in a creek.....what I found might be some of the best creek views I have seen.
|Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely Rev. 22:17|
Soon we came to the Stone Mountain Falls which is a 200 foot waterfall which looks like some kind of super slide at Emerald Point Water Park.
Of course to get back to the upper parking lot access we had to climb the trail from the bottom to the top of the falls.....and how do you think we made that climb.....you guessed it....STAIRS!
This was a great hike. It was not easy but a nice 5.1 mile heart thumper with some really great views. The trail is an 8...too many steps for a 9 but one of the best maintained trails I have seen....the scenery is an 7.... access off Route 21 about ten miles west of 77 is an easy ride from the Triad is a 9...overall a solid 8 hike
Oh by the way....since it was Sunday we did try to go to church....seems that folks have service here every Sunday from May-October and on the first Sunday of the other months....we were a couple weeks early but one of these days we are going to visit with the good folks at Garden Creek Baptist Church!