Monday, September 18, 2006

Stone Mountain Falls: Stone Mt State Park

Stone Mountain Falls Photo Copyright © 2006 G. Kiser

Stone Mountain State Park is located in Roaring Gap, NC and is home to four waterfalls. This park is not too difficult to find thanks to signs from the major roads. Detailed directions can be found at their web site. For those coming from Hwy 421, you would want to exit onto I-77 North to Elkin. After you pass Elkin, you need to branch off to the left onto US 21. The next turn will be a left onto Traphill Rd (SR 1002), followed by a right onto John P. Frank Parkway. The Parkway will take you into the park.

Once to the park gate, you will follow the main road to the first parking area to the left. There will be a marked trail that winds its way along a small stream and through a field. Of interesting note, there are often deer along this field. They don't seem to be too apprehensive about people, but they sure don't like the sound of a camera bag opening. Anyway, you continue along the trail until you come to a split. On the right will be the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, a strenuous hike, but with a wonderful view of the summit. To the left you will find a trail leading to the falls. After a short distance you will come upon several warning signs advising of the dangers of the rocks, and that there have been deaths in the past from accidents. Do be careful, as the rock floor is not the best surface to walk on.

You have made it to the top of Stone Mountain Falls. You can see the water pouring down the rocky slope and then disapearing below. This is only the beginning, to really see the falls for what they are, you must climb down around 300 steep steps along the side of the water slide. According to Kevin Adams in his book North Carolina Waterfalls, A hiking and photography guide, the steps were built over several months at a cost of $100,000. After climbing up and down these steps, I think the smarter decision would have been to put in an escalator, or elevator for a few dollars more. These steps are a necessary evil as they provide a safe passage from top to bottom of the falls.

I would suggest an alternative route, however.  To avoid the hellish stair climber feature, I would suggest going to the main parking area/trailhead.  From here you will follow the marked trail for the Stone Mountain Loop Trail.  The signage is a little confusing, but you are going for the middle trail ultimately.  You will start off by taking the right fork going toward Wolf Rock Trail.  You will follow the access road leading the Hutchinson Homestead for a ways.  You can also see the rock outcropping for which the park is named.  Continue on this trail and you will come to another split.  Take the left split this time...away from Wolf Rock.  You will pass the Cedar Rock Loop Trail as well as the trail to the Lower and Middle Falls.  You will end up at the base of the Stone Mountain Falls.

Stone Mountain Falls, is classified as a water slide, because the water just flows down a very steep slope. Towards the bottom, there is some diversions to its path which add a little interest, but for the most part this is a very plain waterfall. It is also very difficult to get a full shot of the location because you are shooting up into the sky. As I quickly discovered the trip down the steps was not a wasted trip by any stretch. As in most of the locations I shoot, there is usually something else in the area that is oftentimes overlooked.

 Rocky Seat Photo Copyright © 2006 G. Kiser

Just a short distance downstream from the Stone Mountain Falls you will find sections of the stream that I think are much more interesting than the main falls. This is a very active stream with lots of rocks in the path of the water creating white water effects. Access to the stream is very simple and for the most part, you are walking right along side of it while on the trail.

This is a visit once type of waterfall though.  It is impressive for its size, but lacks a lot of character that can be found in most other waterfalls in the state.

***UPDATE, 12-04-2010***

Stone Mountain Falls

After putting off a return trip to this waterfall for some time, I finally decided to give it another try.  One thing that I would like to start out by saying is beginning the hike at the main trailhead in the lower lot is the way to go.  It is a rather simple hike from this direction and doesn't include nearly as many steps as coming from the other side.  I happened to visit in the winter and had a surprise snow event which worked out great for photographs.  I also applied another waterfall techniqe to this waterfall which worked very well.  I picked out a segment and isolated it.  As you can tell from the 2006 photograph, most of this waterfall is just a straight drop with no real drama.  Add to that the fact that you have to include the sky and it is not a pretty waterfall to photograph.  However, if you isolate the bottom section, you will have a change in direction, as well as some foreground interest.  In this case, the snow covered trees and rocks gave the perfect setting for the image.

While I still am not all that fond of the waterfall, under the right conditions, and with the right frame of mind a decent photograph can be taken here.


jlocorriere05 said...

I love the Rocky Seat one, the foliage softens the effect of the water and rocks. Another wonderful shot! Jeannette.  

rickardfoghorn said...

Greg beautiful pictures as usual... Helen

bgilmore725 said...

Hi Greg! Me again... Stone Mountain State Park has been our #1 favorite place to visit over the years ever since we first met (1974). We were visiting the park before it had paved roads... it was a bit wilder in those days. But it still has all the great views you wrote of here... you can do some serious muscle burning hiking up the sides of the falls... it was a bit easier when we were first married. Thanks for bringing back the fond memories. Bea

rjet33 said...

You have GOT to go to Colorado at some point and time and photograph some of the falls there.  I think Hanging Lake would be a good place to go.  The water is a real pretty color there as you will see in some of these online photos.

All My Best,


constancemkapp said...

We were quite disappointed in not being able to climb the rock like we use too.  By adding the stairs and widening the paths, it takes the nature out of the park.   It would be nice to have had a choice in using the stairs or the original rock path.