North Carolina’s Stone Mountain State Park: A Camping and Hiking Adventure

East of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a massive monadnock dome towers 600 feet over the surrounding land in its namesake park, Stone Mountain State Park. Another gem in the North Carolina State Park system, Stone Mountain makes for a glorious camping and hiking adventure – even in the dead of winter.

Stone Mountain State Park
GPS:
36.3873 -81.0273
CATEGORY:
State Parks

With a window of good weather opening up, my sister and I made a last minute overnight camping trip to Stone Mountain State Park. To take full advantage of the shorter winter daylight hours, we arrived early for our camping and hiking sister trip.

Stone Mountain State Park Campgrounds

Tent camping in the family campground at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina

Our first winter camping trip, we picked Stone Mountain State Park because it is one of the few North Carolina campgrounds with fully-functional restrooms open during the freezing weather.  The daytime temps had been in the mid-50’s but with the clear skies, the nighttime temps dipped down to 28F! Only the B and C loops are open all year.  

We camped in the family campground and had our choice of campsites. Normally, we'd pick an outer edge but we chose one close to the heated bathhouse. A friendly ranger checked us in and we prepared for a long winter's nap. Just to show you how quickly the weather can turn, we've included before and after shots of the campground. We woke up to a thick, sparkling layer of frost.

Sunny day tent camping in the family campground at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina
Frosty winter day tent camping in the family campground at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina

A small herd of deer also visited the creek that runs along the family campground.

Creek in the family campground at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina

Stone Mountain State Park Family Campground

The Stone Mountain State Park family campground has 90 campsites, accommodating both tents and RVs within three loops. Summer and winter seasonal rates apply. Seniors and military qualify for $6 discounts off nightly rate. Wood and ice are available for purchase and a dump station is located near the campground.

  • A Loop: hot showers/flush toilets; no electric/water for hookups. Closed for winter.
  • B Loop: hot showers/flush toilets; electric/water hookups available(20, 30, 50 Amp)
  • C Loop: use B loop restroom; no hookups
  • Dishwashing sinks at restrooms (closed during winter season)

 

 Stone Mountain State Park Group Campground

If you have a larger group, Stone Mountain State Park also has four group sites available. Each site can hold 25 people and has its own restroom with showers.

Stone Mountain State Park Backpack Camping

Four backpack camping sites are available along Widow's Creek (campsites E & F permanently closed). Distance for hike-in ranges from 1.5 miles to 3 miles from the parking lot trailhead. Must self register and pay at backpack camping parking lot.

Read about our Stone Mountain State Park backpack camping trip- it was a favorite!

Stone Mountain State Park Trails

 Stone Mountain State Park has over 18 miles of hiking trails, including a 5-mile bridle trail. Choose from a variety of hiking experiences from summit views to tumbling waterfalls, ranging from moderate to strenuous in difficulty. Exercise caution at the peak of Stone Mountain and near the waterfalls.

Stone Mountain Loop Trail (and Highlights)

  • 4.5 mile strenuous loop; follow orange blaze
  • Two access points: Upper Trailhead parking lot  and the Lower Trailhead parking lot
  • Restrooms at each parking lot

Stone Mountain Summit

Stone Mountain Trail summit at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina

We started the Stone Mountain Loop Trail from the Upper Trailhead parking which lengthens the hike to 5.2 miles because of the additional 0.3-mile connector trail. At the old chimney, we went right -- we would regret that decision later when we found ourselves trudging up 500 steps from the waterfall. However, our strenuous climb to the Stone Mountain summit was rewarded with sweeping views on a wintry day. A series of switchbacks and steps took us down to the Lower Trailhead parking lot with a convenient restroom break.

Warning: Definitely follow the blazes – what looks like flat ground on the stony summit, quickly turns steep and can leave a hiker stranded on the cliff -- or dead.

Stone Mountain Trail summit view with stairs at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina
Stone Mountain summit view at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina
Rocky ground on Stone Mountain summit view at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina

Historic Hutchison Homestead

Historic Hutchison Homestead at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina
  • Open May – October weekends only; closed rest of the year
  • Walk through the grounds anytime

From the Lower Trailhead, we headed to Stone Mountain State Park's historic Hutchison homestead, a restored 19th century mountain farm which includes a log cabin, blacksmith shop, barn, and corncrib. From the homestead, eat lunch and enjoy the epic view of Stone Mountain. Look closely and you’ll probably see climbers attempting to scale the cliffs – we did!

 

Stone Mountain Waterfall

Stone Mountain 200 foot waterfall at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina

Walk only a little further to arrive at the spectacular 200-foot Stone Mountain waterfall, perfect place to splash around in the warm summer months. Catch your breath here because you’ll need to climb roughly 500 stairs. Close to the top, walk out on the platform to view the waterfall from above.

Warning: Do not walk out off the observation deck – fatalities have occurred here.

Finish up the trail at the Upper Trailhead – we finished up in about 4 hours (lunch and an extra spur trail).  My sister’s fitbit: over 20,000 steps, 100 plus flights

 

TIPS for Stone Mountain Trail Loop:

  • If you’d rather end with a downhill, start at the Lower Trailhead parking lot. If you start at the Lower lot, consider the summit side first so you can walk down the 500 steps by the waterfall.
  • If starting at the Upper Trailhead, consider hiking the waterfall side first, for the same 500 step reason.
  • Study the trail map to construct your own loop hike - easy to add more mileage with side spurs - or to shorten the loop to make a one-way trek to either the summit or the waterfall.

Other Stone Mountain State Park Hikes:

Widow's Creek Falls

Widow's Creek waterfall at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina

It's not much of a hike, maybe 50 yards from the Widow's Creek Falls parking lot, but an absolutely picturesque 25-foot waterfall. Definitely the place to cool off in the summer months with a large pool at the base.

Watch the video and don't leave Stone Mountain State Park without seeing the real thing!

Middle & Lower Falls Trail

Middle Falls at Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina
  • 1.0 mile one-way moderate hike; follow blue blazes & signage
  • Access these waterfalls from the Stone Mountain Loop Trail. Be forewarned – multiple water crossings. We skipped the Lower Falls, but reached the Middle Falls – a smaller cascade with a pool at its base.

Cedar Rock Trail

  • 1.0 mile one-way moderate trail with a red blaze
  • Off shoot of the Stone Mountain Loop Trail - takes you to the peak of Cedar Rock with great view of Stone Mountain.

Wolf Rock Trail

  • 1.5 miles one-way moderate trail with a red blaze
  • Start at the Lower Trailhead parking lot and easy to combine with Cedar Rock Trail
  • Great views of Blue Ridge Mountains

Stone Mountain State Park Visitor Center

Moonshine still exhibit in the Stone Mountain State Park Visitor Center
  • 3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap, NC 28668
  • Hours: 8am -5pm daily; closed weekends December – February; closed state holidays

The Stone Mountain State Park Visitor Center makes a great first stop to pick up the trail map and talk to the rangers about the best hikes for your needs.While you are there, take the time to browse the exhibits on the local history of the area. The Mountain Culture Exhibit shows how the mountain settlers provided food, clothing, and shelter for their families. Also, look at the old-time still and learn why Wilkes County was the considered the “Moonshine Capital of the World” as well as one of the birthplaces to Nascar stock-car racing. And yes – the moonshine relates to stock-car racing.  Go ahead and get a stamp in your NC State Parks Passport.

Stone Mountain State Park Picnic Area

Located near the entrance to the park and the visitor center, the picnic area includes 75 picnic tables and three picnic shelters. Shelter reservations are available for a fee; otherwise free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Additional picnic area amenities: restrooms, water fountain, and grills.

Stone Mountain State Park Climbers

  • Climbers need to possess a (free) permit from the Stone Mountain State Park self-registration kiosk.
  • Climb in designated areas only and at your own risk

Stone Mountain State Park Garden Creek Baptist Church

Historic Garden Creek Baptist Churchat Stone Mountain State Park, North Carolina

Continue driving past Widow's Creek Falls and look for another historic building, the Garden Creek Baptist Church. This church is one of the last original churches in Wilkes County that has not been remodeled. An active church, it holds services every Sunday, May through October. Services for the rest of the year are only on the first Sunday. Visitors are welcome to walk the grounds at all times.

Winter or summer - Stone Mountain State Park should be on your bucket list!

Gear we used on this adventure:

COOKING

Coleman Stove - $43.88

12" Fry Pan - $32.08 (We cut the handle down on ours to fit in the kit)

HIKING

Darn Tough Socks - $24.49 - $31.00

Keene Hiking Boots - Prices vary depending on size and style

Cascade Mountain Trekking Poles - $22.95

SLEEP + SHELTER

Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Sleeping Bag - $104.95 - $169.95

Thermarest Sleeping Pad - $34.95 - $44.95 - Prices vary depending on size

Regarding the items listed above you need to know a few things:
1) We've used each of the items listed extensively on our travels. We consider them battle tested.
2) If you choose to purchase any of the items for yourself or as a gift, we really appreciate it. Thank-you! If you make a purchase, Campfire Delight receives a small compensation at no added cost to you which helps us keep the lights on and the kittens fed.

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Elevation
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2306
Check-in/out
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4:00p / 3:00p
Cost/Night*
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$15-33
Showers
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Hot
Restroom
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Flush
Max People / Vehicles
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6 / 2
Visitors Center
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Yes
Camp Hosts
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Yes
Best Site
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# Sites
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90
Open Year Round
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Yes
Laundry
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No
*Tent campsites only; accurate at time of publication
3042 Frank Parkway
Roaring Gap
NC
28668
Contact:
stone.mountain@ncparks.gov
/
336 957 8185
Loop A & C tents; loop B for RV. Also available by permit only are six backpack camping sites along Widow’s Creek - distance to sites range from 1.5 to 3 miles from trailhead. (Primitive Campsites E & F currently closed due to storm damage). Firewood available to purchase.
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