Dad and I were in Durham, NC doing some other things and we decided to take a “side trip” to Stone Mountain on a whim. I say side trip lightly because it’s about a 2.5 hour drive west from Durham.
Stone Mountain State Park is located in the Northwest potion of NC about 40 miles east of Tennessee and 20 miles south of Virginia.
|Note: Stone Mountain State Park, NC is often confused with the more famous Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, GA.
The particular hike we did on Stone Mountain is a moderate hike with fantastic views. Chances are you have never stood on a bigger piece of rock than this in your life. We did not see any wildlife on this hike.
However, we wished we had brought a better map and done our research ahead of time. Turns out, we didn’t do the actual Stone Mountain Loop Trail hike to summit Stone Mountain.
First before I get talking about this, here is the link for Stone Mountain State Park trails pdf:
Although we wore sneakers, light hiking-boots would have been nice on this trail. The trail is fairly wide, well-used hard-pack dirt with sections of large granite slabs to walk over – there is no rock climbing or scrambling needed on this hike (unless you want to).
We did not have time to do the Stone Mountain Loop Trail itself. Instead, we did The Wolf Rock Trail & Cedar Rock Trail (red) and returned using the (orange) Hutchinson Homestead trail through the valley and meadow, creating a 2.9 mile loop, which took about 2 hours. Add-on more time for leisure on the summits.
We parked at the Lower Trailhead Parking lot and then turned right towards the Wolf Rock-Cedar Rock Trails. By using these trails, you get a good view of Stone Mountain, however you do not summit Stone Mountain itself. (Turn left to do the more difficult summit trail.)
If you have a handicap sticker/license plate, there is a road you can take to go the Homestead & meadow with spectacular views of Stone Mountain from the valley. This route is wheel-chair accessible. At the Lower Trailhead Parking lot, while facing the restrooms, to the left there is a gravel road that you can take to the Hutchinson Homestead.
The top of Wolf Rock is probably about 5-acres or more. You can easily hang-out up here, and have lunch. But remember, there are no trash cans, so you must Pack-it-In & Pack-it-Out!
Even though the views are great, you are on the other side of the ridge and cannot see Stone Mountain from this big-ol-boulder.
What’s neat about Wolf Rock is you see the rain channels along the rock. They are usually grey or bluish in color. The other thing we saw were potholes, also caused by rain. These neat hole were scattered about (watch your step!).
After you have played on top of Wolf Rock for a while, then it is a short hike over the top of the ridge to the other side where you can now play on the summit of Cedar Rock.
Note: It is important to follow the RED CIRCLE DOTS along the top of Cedar Rock to stay on the path.
Hutchinson Homestead & Meadow
As you follow the Red Dots off of Cedar Rock, the trail becomes apparent once again. You will continue down into the valley and join up with the Stone Mountain Loop Trail (View Side). Here you want to turn left back towards the parking lot.
Once you have reached the beautiful meadow, you come upon the historical Hutchinson Homestead, which dates back to approximately 1855. There are several buildings on the homestead with plenty of historical markers to help explain what you are viewing. (This is also the location of the handicap parking lot I mentioned earlier.)
In fact, here is one of the best views of Stone Mountain itself and the famous “Great Arch,” which happens to be one of the nation’s classic rock climbing routes. You may even see climbers working this route if you’re lucky.
An important message from the official Stone Mountain State Park website (accessed Sept 23, 2021):
“Stone Mountain State Park now routinely reaches capacity by 10 a.m. on weekends. Once parking areas are full, the park will be closed to all incoming traffic. Weekdays are the best time to visit. If you must visit on a weekend, plan to arrive early in the morning, and be prepared with a backup plan if the park is full when you arrive. Keep in mind gate hours, which are posted at entrances. Currently, the park is open from 7am to 8pm. The only exception is Christmas Day, when all park facilities are closed.”
We went during the middle of the week on a Thursday, and the parking was ample…there were only 14 other cars in the lot, making it only half full. When we left, there were even fewer cars.
Stone Mountain State Park Info
There are no fees to enter the park.
There are several other trails and campsites you can reserve.
For more info and details check out the Stone Mountain State Park’s website.
Stone Mountain State Park is located at: 3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap, NC 28668 located within both Wilkes & Alleghany counties.
We had a cell phone signal at the top of Wolf Rock and Cedar Rock and were able to text and place phone calls. However, it would be wise to print out your directions and maps ahead of time just in case.
Directions from the Stone Mountain’s website:
From I-77 North, take Exit #83/Hwy 21 North/Sparta/Roaring Gap (you will exit from the left lane). Go north about 13 miles to Traphill Road/state road 1002, (you will see a brown state park sign) and turn left. Go about 4 miles to John P Frank Parkway (you will see a brown state park sign) and turn right. Follow the parkway to the park, about two miles.
From the west, take NC 16 to NC 18 in North Wilkesboro and then turn right onto Hwy 268 East. Go about 3 miles and turn left at Airport Road. Go about 3 1/2 miles and turn left this becomes Traphill Rd (SR 1002). Follow Traphill Rd to John P. Frank Parkway about 11 miles and turn left, follow the parkway to the park.
Next Time – Future Trip
Of course, we didn’t realize where we were and wasted a lot time since we did not have a good map. In fact, everyone we ran into didn’t know where the trail was or where they were either. We did not pre-plan this trip and paid the price for it. Regardless, we enjoyed this impromptu hike.
Next time, we plan on doing the actual Stone Mountain Loop Trail itself, which apparently has a waterfall.
I will update this posting with that information if we ever get a chance to return.