Stone Mountain Loop Trail is your ticket to Stone Mountain View, Stone Mountain Falls, and the summit of Stone Mountain. The loop takes you through a valley and past the south face of the mountain. After entering the woods, you will hike a ridge to the falls. The last part of the trail takes you across the dome and down the other side to the parking area.
Stone Mountain View is a grassy meadow at the base of the south face. A plaque describes the dome as a registered natural landmark. Spread a blanket or relax on the bench. Watch the climbers struggle up routes with names like "Sufficiently Breathless" and "No Alternative," while wild goats effortlessly traverse the exposed sloping rock.
Stone Mountain Falls, a 200-foot sheet of falling water, slides down a near-vertical, broad granite slab. The falls are on Big Sandy Creek, which actually drops a total of 500 feet. Be sure to walk out to the pool at the base before starting the hike up the side of the waterfall.
Over 300 steps make up the elaborate staircase adjacent to the falls. Built in 1991, this man-made segment of trail ascends the east shoulder of Stone Mountainalongside the falls and all the way to the top. Before the trail was improved, hikers went from tree to tree, climbing eroded switchbacks.
Controversy arose about this improvement. It seems some people didn't think a wooden staircase was particularly attractive in the woods. The park service claims the construction wasn't damaging. In fact, "it was quite a feat." Vegetation is now protected from the inevitable trouncing of visitor's footsteps.
You reach the summit of Stone Mountain (2,305 feet) about 2.7 miles into the hike, after a half-mile, steep incline. On top, there are sections of bare rock, lined on the edges with pine and cedar and sparsely covered with mosses and lichens. Follow the yellow blazes on the exposed rock. Look north to view the Blue Ridge and southwest to view Cedar Rock.
From the Park entrance, follow the main road for 2 miles to the large parking area on the left. A 0.6-mile, single-lane gravel road leads to a small picnic areawalk if you can because parking is limited to about 25 cars. When it is crowded, a ranger directs traffic. The trailhead is beyond the information board, at the base of the wooden staircase.
© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication