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 Campground
With a window of good weather opening up, my sister and I made a last minute 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.
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.
A small herd of deer also visited the creek that runs along the 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)
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.
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.
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
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.