Stone Mountain State Park

Date of Adventure:  9/10-11/2011
Type of Adventure: Hiking/Camping/Trout Fishing
Total Distance Hiked: 6.2 miles
Location:  Stone Mountain State Park, Roaring Gap, NC
Those in Attendance: Brittiany Andrews, Luke Teague, Christina Voncannon, Daniel Luther, Ashley McMasters, Maycie

Just 100 miles (1 hour and 38 minutes according to Google Maps) from Asheboro, Stone Mountain is one of my favorite places to go for the best stairmaster workout you can imagine. This place can easily be made into a day trip (and I have on several occasions) or a nice two day adventure (which is what this particular blog is about). And if you ever catch yourself in a conversation with me about this State Park, rest assured that I will pull out a picture of this granite dome that protrudes about 600 feet above the terrain around it. And rest ever more assured that I will give my disclaimer, “the picture doesn’t do it justice, it is so much bigger in person…” Well, because, it is.

Explore a literal mountain made out of rock.

The Intent
Low and behold, at the time of this trip I was just beginning to find out and become interested in the Linville Gorge wilderness, which I had heard was some pretty difficult terrain.  I wanted to backpack it.

You might say that the Stone Mountain trip was planned as a bit of a “trial run” to do a little backpacking, test out some new equipment, and hopefully discover what we might need when we embarked on Linville. This trip was anything but.

The Plan
According to the Stone Mountain website, there are only 6 primitive campsites that can be backpacked to, and you must “self-register” for them. These sites are first-come first serve.

Upon arrival at the Ranger Station, we were told that due to a small bridge washing out, camping was not allowed in two of the primitive sites because they didn’t want people having to cross the stream. (Here comes a short rant:  You can cross, play, fish, throw rocks in many of the streams at Stone Mountain State Park, but quite frankly, I could not understand why they had closed two primitive campsites because you had to cross them to get to said sites. I frankly asked if we would get in trouble for camping in those sites if the other 4 were already taken, and they said yes. Plus our vehicle could be towed from the parking lot overnight. Now I have not seen this “creek”, but unless there is one hell of a ravine, I thought this was quite ridiculous. Okay, that wasn’t too bad of a rant.)

Since these campsites were on “first-come first-serve” status, I assumed that the first explorer to lay claim to the land held the rights for the night. However, I did not want to backpack 3 miles up this trail, set up camp, and sit there all day at our campsite guarding our new claimed territory, because, well I wanted Daniel, Ashley, Luke and Christina to see the main attraction of this park, the “Stone” that would give this park it’s name.

Therefore, the plan was to get to the park, quickly explore the dome by hiking to the top, eating a quick lunch, letting Daniel try to catch some trout with his fly fishing rod, then head into the primitive sites to set up camp.

The Trip – Saturday
Just like it is impossible to see both sides of a sphere at the same time, so it is with Stone Mountain. You can’t see the top from the bottom, nor can you see the bottom from the top. Therefore, for the best experience, visit both.

On Saturday, we hiked from the main parking lot to the top. Trust me, this will be one heck of a workout. If you get excited like I do, you want to run to the top. This is not possible here. Remember, you’re making an almost 600′ vertical accent. Take your time, take breaks often, take a snack and plenty of water, and you will eventually get there. The park has done a lot of work to build stairs up the the side of the mountain. I have mixed feelings about this. It does streamline, but discourages exploring. Choose whichever route you fancy.

Views from the top are nice, but I suspect the most spectacular thing is what you are standing on. Rock. It’s everywhere.

You will have to do a little searching to get to the true summit. It is kind of hidden in the trees that somehow found dirt to grow. But if you find it, it is hard to resist snapping a picture like so:

This particular trip, we cooked lunch (noodles) and some snacks on top of the rock, which was a rather refreshing little break. Total round trip was just under 3 miles, but I will mention again, this is not an easy 3 miles.  Here is a look at our trek.

After finishing our summit hike, we attempted a little fly fishing (trout stamp required with fishing license) in the South Prong of the Roaring River, however we had no luck.

Primitive Camping
As mentioned above, we had spent the majority of the day in a bit of a rush, trying to balance exploring the park with hurrying to backpack in to claim one of the 4 primitive campsites in the park.

As we pulled into the trailhead parking lot to the campsites, there were several cars already parked, and one couple rushing to get their things together. Then I see it – on a post near a sign – a registration form with spaces to claim the 4 campsites. No, first-come first-serve did not mean the first ones in to the campsite, it is the first-come to the parking lot, and the first to serve their name and license plate number upon a dotted line. For such a primitive campsite, the claiming methods were not so…primitive.

The last campsite had just been claimed by the couple hurriedly packing things together from their minivan. No backpacks, no hiking equipment, just a woman holding some grocery bags, and a man trying to figure out how to carry a cooler and pop-up tent.

Although we had been defeated, and our whole purpose of the trial backpacking run was ruined by a wrong assumption and couple ill-prepared to be so primitive, I couldn’t help but to chuckle at the words I could only imagine this man would be uttering when he discovered the campsite he had just signed up to carry a cooler and popup tent to was almost 4 miles in the woods. Touche my friend…touche. Off the to campground with running water, toilets, and hot showers.

The Trip – Sunday
The second most popular spot in this park, in my opinion, is Stone Mountain Falls. It is just off the first parking lot on the left once you enter the park. It is a short easy walk to the top of the falls, but if you want to get to the bottom, be prepared for more stairs (and a lot of them).

The falls are pretty neat. The water doesn’t “fall” as much as it slides quickly down the rock face, but who is getting all technical about it? Be careful around the falls however, because this place has occasionally killed people who thought it would be fun to walk out onto wet rocks and slip and fall.

From the falls, walk back to the mountain and visit the little farm at the base of the rock.

Remember when I said that you can’t see the bottom from the top? Well here is where you get what I mean. There is this whole plantation near the base of the mountain that you would have never known was there from the top of the mountain.

Go check it out.

Posted in Adventures, Hiking, Mountains and tagged , , , .

2 Comments

  1. My daughter and I backpacked up to one of the primitive sites up Windows Creek last summer for 2 nights, at one of the camps on the wrong side of the stream – the bridge still hasn’t been replaced. The fella with the cooler and bagged groceries was going to be surprised not only because it was a 4 mile hike in, but also because the first half mile is STEEP and on loose footing. We did it with good internal frame packs and treking poles, I can’t imagine trying to drag a cooler up that hill =-)
    I’ve got GPX files for that trail along with some of the MST trail near the camps if you want them – just email me.

  2. Pingback: Wolf Rock to Cedar Rock Loop Trail | Explore NC Outdoors

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