Saturday, June 25, 2011

High Shoals Falls at South Mountain State Park 6/25/2011

It is a one mile hike from the main parking area to High Shoals Falls.  If you complete the loop instead of backtracking the hike is 2.75 miles total.  At the start there is a choice of walking through the picnic area to the Headquarters Trail or following the more interesting Hemlock Nature Trail along the creek.  There are several informational signs on this .3 mile trail and places to access the creek.

The nature trail ends at the Headquarters Trail which is more of a dirt road then a trail.  Turning left the trail rises a short distance above the creek then drops down to a bridge where Shinny Creek joins Jacobs Fork.  This is one of our favorite spots to put our feet in the creek.  Shortly after this is the Shinny Creek Picnic Area which is a small area where several trails meet.

At the end of this area are the two ends of the High  Shoals Falls Loop Trail.  Taking the left side of the loop leads to the falls in half a mile.  This section of trail is much more natural with rocks and roots in the trail.  The trail is following the creek upstream but only climbs gently.  There are small cascades and several places to access the creek.

This is considered a geology hike and there are signs telling about the geological features of the area along the way. One of the signs tells about Hugo Rock.  The steep rock outcrop beside the trail had cracks in it when Hurricane Hugo came through in 1989.  You must now step over or around this large slab of rock that slid down during the storm and  rests in the trail. 

When you reach a combination of steps, boardwalk, and bridge crossing the creek you are almost to the falls.  This is an especially pretty area with the water falling over the rocks.  You can see the main falls above you through the trees.  The walk from here to the falls is short but steep.  There are stone steps and wood steps up to the observation deck for the falls.

To view the falls it is a right turn and a short distance along the side of the hill.  The viewing platform is large and gives good views of the falls.  There are signs warning of the danger of climbing on the rocks or playing in the water here.  There is a pool below the falls that looks tempting to play in.  We have seen people playing here but there are safer area for water play.  A young man died at these falls about a week ago.   The rhododendrons were still blooming along the trail especially near both the lower and upper falls.

 After viewing the falls we returned to the main trail and continued up more stairs to the upper section of the falls.  The upper falls are much smaller.  Another of the geology signs points out the potholes in this area.  Just beyond here the trail crosses the creek on a wood bridge.  We saw about 30 or 40 large minnows in the water near the bridge.

The trail leaves the creek and follows what appears to be an old road.  At .4 miles from the falls is an intersection.  A left turn leads downhill to the Upper Fall Camping Area.  This is primitive hike in camping but there is a pit toilet.  Water must be carried in or creek water can be treated.  There was a copperhead snake near the trail in the camping area.

We backtracked to the above intersection and continued uphill for a short distance to another intersection.  A left turn leads deeper into the park but we continued straight.  From here it is a steep downhill walk to where the loop portion of the hike began. 

This is a very busy trail during the summer months.  We passed many groups of hikers and families playing in the creeks.  Horses are allowed on portions of the trail but not in the area of the falls.  This hike is family friendly but children should be properly supervised as there are dangers to be aware of.

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