Monday, August 22, 2011

South Mountain State Park

South Mountain State Park is the perfect place in the Carolina's to get a true feel of the Appalachian Mountains, but stay close to the Piedmont region of the Carolina's.  It is nestled in the foothills approximately 18 miles south of Morganton, NC.  Some highlights of this park include the 80 foot High Shoals Falls waterfall, the hike to High Shoals Falls that is next to a creek nearly the entire time and the outstanding views that can be enjoyed at around 3,000 feet above sea level.  

South Mountain State Park has more than 40 miles of trails (17 miles of which are open to mountain bikers).  It includes 11 car-camping sites (one is wheelchair accessible), six primitive back-country camping areas with 20 individual sites, and 15 equestrian camping sites that includes a 33-stall barn.  The trails are allowed to be used for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.  Mountain bike access is rare in any state park and should be appreciated.  If you do choose to enjoy the park via mountain bike please follow the rules and thank the rangers for allowing mountain bikers access.

My favorite aspect of this park is its proximity to Charlotte.  It is only about an hour and a half drive, which makes it doable as a day trip.  The larger mountains farther to the west are closer to a three hour drive from Charlotte.  This means if you are traveling from Charlotte you really need 2 or 3 days to get away and enjoy those mountains.

The best part of South Mountain State Park is the High Shoals Falls Trail.  This trail leads to the 80 foot tall waterfall.  The hike to this falls is short, but the end can be strenuous.  The very end of the trail includes a few hundreds steps along the creek finally leading up to the overview below the waterfall.  The steps than extend above the waterfall to an area near one of the back-country group campsites.

Because of these group campsites this area is an excellent place for a beginning backpacker trip.  There are two areas for primitive group camping.  Reservations are encouraged because this is a popular destination for scout groups.

South Mountain State Park has enough trails to serve as a one or two night backpacking trip, but it is also small enough that hikers can rest assured they are not going to get too lost out there.  Because of this South Mountain State Park can serve as a great way to get used to hiking, backpacking, and navigating in a back-country setting.  Getting your feet wet in the back-country here is a great plan for someone aspiring to venture out into more rugged back-country in other parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains.


This is my first blog post that is not in the immediate Charlotte Area.  I figured I would start with what is closest to home since it is what I see most often and in turn know the best.  In the future I plan to continue writing about the outdoor recreation opportunities in the Charlotte area, but also branch out to places throughout the Carolina's and the Southeast.

Don't forget to check out the Facebook page I have created to go along with this page to see hundreds of photos of the places I have written about.

Below are some websites where you can find additional information about South Mountain State Park.


  1. I proposed to Michelle right where Jessica is standing in her solo pic! I love this park!

  2. Woah! Awesome Cliff!!! I love this place too.

  3. I love this place too. This was the first park I hiked with my wife after our wedding in 2008.