Last Updated on September 7, 2021
Last Updated on September 7, 2021
If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.
Hiking to Stone Mountain Falls is one of the most popular things to do in Stone Mountain State Park, and for good reason! This 200-footer is easily the tallest waterfall at Stone Mountain State Park and one of the coolest attractions in North Carolina, in our opinion.
Of course, that isn’t the only reason that this place is on our NC Bucket List. The waterfall is reachable via a massive set of wooden stairs built by the park’s thoughtful stewards. You can also get to the falls without taking the stairs and we’ll share more info on your hiking options below.
We’ll also share some background info on Stone Mountain Falls, where to park, when and where to start the hike, safety tips, and more.
Here’s how we’ve organized this guide, in case you’re looking for something specific:
- About the Falls
- Driving Directions
- The Stone Mountain Falls Hike (Multiple Options, Plus Our Personal Preference)
- When to Visit to Avoid Crowds
- Photography Tips
- Safety Info
- More Things to Do In and Around Stone Mountain State Park
About the Falls
Stone Mountain Falls is a 200-foot waterfall that flows down a steep rock-face into a shallow pool. Surrounding the pool to make a beautiful scene are boulders, branches, and rocks.
There are wooden steps leading down from the top of the falls and an overlook along the way. If not for these stairs, this waterfall would not be an entirely safe place to visit.
Speaking of safety, please don’t climb the barriers and fences, and do not ever stand at the top of this waterfall. Injuries and deaths have occurred here, so please follow these warnings.
Driving Directions (Where to Park)
To reach the Stone Mountain Falls hike, you have two parking options. Both parking areas have restrooms and water fountains, with the latter turned off during colder months.
Upper Trailhead Parking Area
If you’re arriving from the main access point (3042 Frank Pkwy, Roaring Gap), you’ll see a fork after the Visitor Center. Here is the first option for parking—the Upper Trailhead Parking Area.
Turn left towards the Upper Trailhead Parking Area and nearby Picnic Area. There should be ample parking if you’ve arrived early enough.
As it is the closest parking spot to Stone Mountain Falls, this is the most popular lot. On busy holidays or weekends, the parking lots can fill up as early as 10:00 am. We suggest arriving as early as possible or visiting during a quieter weekend.
Lower Trailhead Parking Area
Continue past the fork into Wilkes County, where you will eventually arrive at the Lower Trailhead Parking. This parking lot is further from the waterfall, as it follows the Stone Mountain Loop.
If you’re going straight to Stone Mountain Falls along the “View Side” of the loop, you won’t have to worry about ascending the stairs again after going down from the Upper Trailhead Parking Area.
We’ll share more info about hiking options from these parking lots in our “Stone Mountain Falls Hike” section below.
The Stone Mountain Falls Hike (Multiple Options)
Just as there are multiple options for parking, there are also numerous options for hiking to Stone Mountain Falls. We’ll share our personal preferences after describing the different routes you can take.
As we mentioned, the Upper Trailhead Parking and Lower Trailhead Parking are the two most popular access points.
Anyone already hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail can also reach Stone Mountain Falls. The state’s longest trail runs through the Stone Mountain Loop from the north via the Widow’s Creek Trail (near Widow’s Creek Falls) and from the south via Middle Falls/Lower Falls Trail and the Bridle Trails.
Below, we’ll describe the Stone Mountain Falls hike from the main two parking areas.
From the Upper Trailhead Parking Area
The Upper Trailhead Parking Area is fairly close to the falls, necessitating just a 0.2-mile hike. Along the trail, you’ll encounter a fork marked by an old stone chimney.
Keep left toward the falls, and you’ll soon reach its top, marked by the first of many warning signs. Use the fence to catch your balance as you walk along the sometimes-slippery rocks before approaching the 300 wooden steps that run alongside Stone Mountain Falls.
From the Lower Trailhead Parking Area
From the Lower Trailhead Parking Area, you’ll encounter a fork where you can hike the “Summit Side” or “View Side” of the Stone Mountain Loop to the waterfall.
Either way will take about 2 miles one way before you reach Stone Mountain Falls. The entire Stone Mountain Loop is 4.5 miles and takes about 2.5 hours, give or take, depending on your speed and need for occasional stops.
Hiking the “View Side” is a more leisurely walk if you’re only interested in seeing the waterfall. It will first take you by the Hutchinson Homestead and the iconic granite dome that gives Stone Mountain State Park its name.
Hiking up the “Summit Side” of the dome begins as a tough climb but begins to flatten out before arriving at the top of Stone Mountain Falls. You’ll then descend the 300 stairs and make your way back to the parking lot via the “View Side” of the loop.
Our Stone Mountain Falls Hike Preference
We prefer starting at the Lower Trailhead Parking Area and hiking the “Summit Side” first, reaching Stone Mountain Falls from its top. That way, you can follow the waterfall from top to bottom and avoid ascending the massive staircase.
There’s still a climb to reach the top, but you can reward yourself with a stop at the top of the dome before continuing!
When to Visit to Avoid Crowds
As we mentioned, Stone Mountain Falls is very popular during the summer, warmer months, and holidays. If you plan on visiting during these times of the year, we recommend going early in the morning before it gets crowded.
Weekdays are considerably less crowded times for Stone Mountain, though we’ve still seen people there as early as 9:00 am!
Another option is to visit during the winter, though you won’t be greeted by the beautiful green scenery surrounding the falls characteristic of other times of the year. However, during winter visits, we’ve been one of few people hiking to Stone Mountain Falls, even on weekends!
For photography purposes, you’ll want to visit after periods of rain and when the sun is not directly above the falls. However, the falls are still relatively strong even during dry spells.
The sun faces Stone Mountain Falls pretty early, but you can still get some great photos on sunny days. While cloudy days are best for waterfall photos, we prefer blue skies for Stone Mountain Falls as the peak runs right against the sky.
Note that you must stay on the Stone Mountain Loop trail, especially when at the top of Stone Mountain Falls. While it is tempting to climb over the fence to get a better picture or view, the rocks here are often slippery, and it’s a treacherous fall to the bottom.
Injuries and deaths have occurred at Stone Mountain Falls, so please exercise caution.
Ready to Visit Stone Mountain Falls?
Stone Mountain Falls is a major attraction on one of our favorite hiking trails. Hopefully, we can all keep this place beautiful by leaving no trace so that future generations can enjoy it!
If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit Stone Mountain Falls, then we’d love to know about your experience in the comments section! If you’ve never been to this special spot, please feel free to share your first experience in our Facebook Group.