Stone Mountain Loop Trail
Frankly, you won’t find the best hiking on the 16 miles of official hiking trail that prod this rugged 14,100-acre park at the base of the Blue Ridge. To be sure, there’s some great hiking on the trails at Stone Mountain. But the best hiking here is that lead by the Triad Hiking Explorers, a Triad-based hiking club devoted to off-trail adventure, much of it at Stone Mountain. They hike regularly, no two hikes are said to be the same. You can find out more about their adventures here.
For on-trail thrills, it’s tough to say which is your best bet. The 5-mile Widow Rock/Cedar Rock/Black Jack Ridge loop takes in some of the best scenery the park has to offer, while the 6-mile stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that runs through the park gets you away from the crowds ever-present elsewhere. For sheer “Wowwww”-factor, though, it’s hard to overlook the 4.5-mile Stone Mountain Loop Trail.
This popular trail begins from a trailhead about a mile down the road from the Visitor Center. Not long after hitting the trail you’re in a vast meadow at the base of Stone Mountain, a meadow that’s home to the Hutchinson Homestead, a restoration that’s available for your inspection. Next you’ll climb up a wooden staircase alongside a 200-foot waterfall, a climb that deposits you on Stone Mountain’s forehead. Stone Mountain is a vast, exposed granite dome that attracts rock climbers who are into friction climbing. The slope at the top is gentle, ideal for a picnic or for catching some rays, but beware that the farther you venture out the more pronounced the slope becomes. It’s a progression that happens quickly and can take you unaware. Return, carefully, down the steep westernmost face of the mountain.
Whether you go on trail or off, Stone Mountain is a special place to explore.
More info: Stone Mountain State Park
Maps: Downloadable here, also available at the park.
Getting there from downtown Winston-Salem
Distance: 1 hour, 15 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem.
Time to complete: 2-4 hours
Address: 3042 Frank Parkway
City: Roaring Gap