The 4.5-mile Stone Mountain Loop in Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina, is a hike of changes. I chose to park at the lower trailhead parking lot because I know the park. Joining the loop at this point is the easiest on my knees. From this point, the mountain of stairs up the side of Stone Mountain is the first mile of the trip. The stairs range from uneven stone steps to wooden stairs. There is also a section of the trail where a cable is available to use as a handrail. This is not a difficult hike, but the terrain does change.
Once you’ve reached the summit there are wonders to explore. There are various places to stop and take in the views (which are fantastic), and much to investigate. Walking on this mountain always makes me think of the moon. At one point, we stopped to enjoy the show as hawks circled above and below us searching for food.
The descent down the other side of the mountain is mostly wooded, a blessing on a hot and humid September day. Because North Carolina has had a very wet summer, mushrooms, lichen, and moss made for a lovely day on the trail.
As the trail approaches Stone Mountain Falls, a new set of stairs (wooden with handrails) come into view. These stairs are the reason I walk the trail from the lower trailhead clockwise. There are a large number of stairs. The steps parallel the falls and provides breathtaking views. My knees don’t care. At the bottom you can sit in the cool mist and watch the water cascade over the stone. It is also when I give thanks that I don’t have to climb the stairs back up to the waterfall parking lot.
Leaving the falls, you take the left fork and walk beside the creek for a while. There’s a bit of up and down and a few areas where stairs once again appear on the trail, but nothing strenuous. Bridges have been placed over most of the creek crossings, but you can walk through the creek if you so desire. Once you pass the Hutchinson Homestead, reenter the woods for the last leg of the journey to return to the lower trailhead parking lot.
[Note: Through a technology fail of epic proportions, I lost over 90% of my digital photos. Three backups failed at the same time. This was a pic of Stone Mountain taken with my phone.]
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