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High Shoals Falls and Shinny Creek – South Mountains State Park, North Carolina

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
8.0 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
4 hours with 45 minutes of breakss
1,745 ft
South Mountains State Park
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Park at Jacob Fork parking area. 35.60246, -81.62908

By Trail Contributor: Zach Robbins (Contact Zach)

South Mountains State Park is the largest state park in North Carolina and has an extensive trail network. Despite the abundance of trails, this park isn’t heavily visited outside of its #1 attraction High Shoals Falls. The primary development and trail network begins at the east entrance of the park and covers the Jacob Fork River watershed. You won’t get many views on this hike, but you will get a lot of water.

From the parking area the trail gently follows Jacob Fork River towards the rugged gorge below High Shoals Falls. This narrow gorge is chock full of enormous boulders that requires an extensive staircase to navigate. High Shoals Falls is an impressive 50-foot drop over a wide cliff that draws a lot of visitors. Most people turn around and head back to the parking lot or take the loop trail on the other side of the river. Instead continue beyond the waterfall following the Upper Falls Trail along a ridge above Jacob Fork River before descending to Shinny Creek. A remote trail follows this beautiful creek back to Jacob Fork River, along the way passing a small gorge with multiple cascades. Once you near the parking lot make sure to follow the nature trail which closely follows the river and provides many displays about the environment and ecology of the South Mountains.

Late April
High Shoals Falls Hike Comments
Archived Comments

By: Christopher Boyce Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 9, 2016
After driving past this state park for years on our way to the big mountains in the western part of the state, my wife and I were finally drawn to this park for the South Mountains Half Marathon Trail Race. It's hard to convey in words how this place differs from the many other natural gems in the southern Appalachians, but pristine, primordial, and lush are a few that come to mind. None of the mountains in this isolated range exceeds 3000 feet and most are well less than that, but what they lack in height they more than make up for in their varied topography, steepness, and unusually rich ecology. Their lower slopes and stream valleys are thick with laurel, rhododendron, and hemlock.. Cascading streams are plentiful, the center piece of which is the High Shoals Falls that we ascended soon into the race. The streams themselves flow with crystal clear water, some of the cleanest I've seen outside places like the Great Smokies.

All of the trails were well marked. Though we were looking out for temporary course flagging, the trail marking system helped out. The trails down along the streams were rather technical with all the rocks. That said, these trails became more earthen and much easier to navigate as they ascended the mountainsides. This was especially so with the double track along the ridge lines. The mountains were socked in clouds and fog the day we were there, but we enjoyed ourselves just the same. If anything, it added to the character of this park's richness.

Could go on, but anyone reading this just needs to check it out for themselves!

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