Click the links below to view information about activities for this park.
Mountain-bike trails: South Mountains State Park is one of the few parks in the state parks system offering mountain bicyclists the chance to ride through the park. The 17-mile loop trail is strenuous, so riders should be in good shape before attempting it.
Camping: Sink gratefully into your sleeping bag after a day of hiking at South Mountains and fall asleep in the stillness of the forest.
Backpack camping: Twenty backpack camping sites are offered in six areas of the park. These sites are designated on the park map, and hiking distances to each backpack camping site vary. Each camping area has a pit toilet located nearby.
All supplies, including water, must be packed to the sites. To drink water from nearby creeks and streams, use a filtration device or boil the water for at least five minutes. Below is a listing of the backpack campsites and the distance between the campsites and the Jacob Fork parking area.
|Campsite Area||Distance to Campsites|
|Upper Falls Trail||1.4 miles|
|Shinny Creek||1.2 miles|
|Sawtooth Trail||2.5 miles|
|Jacob Branch||3.8 miles|
|Fox Trail||4.9 miles|
|Murray Branch||5.4 miles|
Family camping: Drive-to family camping is available a half mile east of the Jacob Fork parking area. Eighteen campsites include a picnic table and fire circle, and one site is wheelchair accessible. Bathhouse with hot showers and drinking water are located nearby. If you do not have a reservation, please stop by the park office for availability.
Group camping: Group camping facilities are available in some backpack areas.
Equestrian camping: The equestrian camping area adjacent to the horse trailer parking area consists of 15 campsites, a 33-stall barn (nine stalls are 5'x10' and 23 stalls are 10'10) and a washhouse with hot showers and flush toilets. Campers without reservations must confirm site availability with park staff before occupying a site. Only campers with horses can stay at the equestrian campsites. Proof of a negative equine infectious anemia (Coggins) test is required for horses using the barn.
Education and Events: Rangers hold regularly scheduled educational and interpretive programs about South Mountains State Park. Click the Events link on the Park Menu to the left to search our database of park events.
To arrange a special exploration of South Mountains State Park for your group or class, contact the park office.
Educational materials about South Mountains State Park have been developed for grades 4-7 and are correlated to North Carolina's competency-based curriculum in science, social studies, mathematics and English/language arts. The South Mountains program introduces students to stream and watershed ecology, focusing on the aquatic life, water quality, indicator species, biotic index, watershed and stewardship of Jacob's Fork River. Accompanying the program is a teacher's booklet and workshop, free of charge to educators. To learn more about environmental education or to search our database of upcoming workshops, click the Education tab, above.
Fishing: The park has many miles of streams where an angler can cast a line. Most of the streams are classified as wild trout water while approximately two miles are classified as delayed harvest trout water. While general trout regulations apply in this area for part of the year, only single hook artificial lures can be used from October through the first Friday in June, and every fish caught must be released. A special license is needed for trout fishing, and all rules and regulations of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission are enforced.
Hiking: Choose from a variety of marked hiking trails. The most popular trail, High Shoals Falls Loop Trail, travels one mile along the Jacob Fork River to the base of High Shoals Falls, a beautiful crystal-clear waterfall. The trail then continues to the top of the falls before looping around and returning to the picnic area. The terrain can be rugged, so be observant of the trail and wear sturdy shoes.
An easier trail, originating near the park office, is the Hemlock Nature Trail. This .74-mile wheelchair-accessible loop travels along the Jacob Fork River and through a forest. Eleven display areas along the trail explain the riparian environment of South Mountains State Park and describe its plants and animals. In addition, two kiosk areas provide information about watersheds and trout-stream ecology.
Another popular but very strenuous trail is Chestnut Knob Trail, a two-mile trail to Chestnut Knob Overlook.
Horseback riding: There are 29 miles of equestrian trails at South Mountains State Park. Ride horseback on the Dogwood Trail past Benn Knob, the second highest peak in the park at an elevation of 2,894 feet. The trailhead is located at the west end of the horse trailer parking area on Turkey Ridge Trail. All visitors with horses must be able to provide proof of a negative equine infectious anemia (Coggins) test while visiting North Carolina State Parks.
Picnicking: Dining in the out-of-doors is a special treat at South Mountains State Park. The Jacob's Fork picnic area is adjacent to the Jacob Fork parking area and is accessible for persons with disabilities. Facilities include 10 tables, two grills and a restroom.
The Shinny Creek picnic area is less than a half mile from the Jacob Fork parking area. Four tables and three grills. A 10-table picnic shelter with fireplace and two charcoal grills are available on a first-come, first-serve basis unless reservations are made.