A leg-pumping incline to the top of Stone Mountain gives way to a gentle and serene walk back down. The smooth granite face of Stone is one of the greatest fall watching spots in central Carolina. And the calm, rocky pool at the bottom of the towering Stone Mountain Falls is an excellent rest stop on a hot summer day.

What Makes It Great

Standing on an expansive, sloping granite face with an unobstructed 180-degree view at 600 feet above the forest floor is one of the most dramatic experiences available to the North Carolina hiker. Stands of oak, hickory, red maple, and dogwood fight for valuable real estate on endless waves of mountaintop and valley, carpeting the view with brilliant greens in the summer and an otherworldly collection of reds and yellows in the fall.

And that’s less than two miles into the 4.5 mile Stone Mountain Loop Trail. Another mile along the path and you’ll reach Stone Mountain Falls. The trail descends along the falls, offering multiple glimpses of the cascade as it tumbles 200 feet below.

With less than a mile of the loop remaining, you’ll walk past the base of Stone Mountain and an historic recreation of a typical early homestead. Look up and spot climbers surmounting the granite face of Stone Mountain. Look around and get an idea of what life was like for the hearty families who settled here.

Several smaller trails depart and reconnect with the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, providing options for additional mileage and alternative viewpoints.

Who is Going to Love It

Climbers flock to Stone Mountain in cooler months for one of the best examples of friction climbing in the South East. The 4.5-mile loop gets very steep, very quick. Some beginner hikers might have a little trouble. The State Park has, however, built steps and bridges to make the top a little more accessible. For those that can make it, Stone is one of the best hiking locations in Central Carolina

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The park office is located at the entrance, but most hikers park at the Lower Trailhead parking lot. The trailhead here is well marked with a map kiosk. Both the main office and the Lower Trailhead lot have bathrooms. Registration is not required for day hiking. Leashed dogs are allowed on the hiking trails.

Featured image provided by Rob Glover