Stone Mountain Falls
Thank you to everyone that suggested I visit Stone Mountain State Park. I can't believe I hadn't been here before this since these are the closest waterfalls to the Triangle area after Hanging Rock. If you want to visit, check a map for the best way to I-77 north of I-40. From the Triangle or Triad areas, take I-40 west to Hwy 421 north, then head north on I-77 once you reach it. Hwy 21 north splits off of 77 past Elkin, so look for this exit. It's after the Hwy 21 business exits. Once on Hwy 21 north, go about 10 miles and look for a brown and white Stone Mountain State Park sign pointing to the left on Traphill Rd. Sorry I didn't get an exact milage, so you might want to start looking after 5. Go 4.3 miles on Traphill Rd and take a right on John P. Frank Parkway. This road goes right into the park just over 2 miles up.
The first thing I would suggest is to stop at the visitors center on the right just a little ways up and get a map of the park. Where you park depends on what you want to see. If you just want to see Stone Mountain Falls and want the shortest route, park in the area on the left just past the visitors center, take the spur trail up to Stone Mountain Loop Trail, then head left down to the top of the falls. There's a big set of several hundred stairs that lead to the base of this 200' falls. If you want to see more, drive past this parking area and park at #10 on the map. This is what I did and it worked out quite well for me. Once on the trail, it soon splits. Left goes up to the summit of Stone Mountain and this trail is extremely steep and very strenuous towards the top. Stay to the right. Not too far down the trail are the old buildings of the Hutchinson Homestead and a nice view of the south side of Stone Mountain. Here's a shot - I'd like to go back in warmer weather when things are greener.
Rock climbing is allowed here by permit only. The next shot is a close up of the section just right of center above and shows 3 climbers.
From here, the trail continues on towards the side trail to Middle and Lower Falls. Both are on Big Sandy Creek. This intersection is just under a mile from the start. The trail to this point and down towards the next 2 falls is fairly easy. There's a sign pointing towards Middle and Lower Falls and the blazes change from orange to blue. After 4 minutes hiking on this trail, I got to a creek crossing with a sign pointing straight ahead to Lower Falls. The sign for Middle Falls was broken, but the trail heads to the right and is fairly obvious. The falls is just a few minutes down the trail. If you're just going to see the falls, you won't have a problem, but if you want a photo, you might want to bring a rope. I always carry a 25' section of climbing rope and it came it pretty handy here. There might not have been a problem on a drier day, but the rocks I needed to scoot down were wet and the rope made it safer. The best vantage point is a big slab of rock just below the main falls.
The main falls is about a 20' slide into a good size pool. The creek then funnels under the rock and over a smaller cascades.
click here to see Lower Falls and more
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