South Mountains State Park

Quick Facts

South Mountains State Park

North Carolina

(828) 433-4772

Map Directions

Things To Do


Nestled deep in the woods, South Mountains State Park is the perfect place to enjoy nature. Here you can see a majestic mountain range peeking out from the gently rolling landscape of the piedmont.

The park includes elevations up to 3,000 feet, a waterfall dropping 80 feet and more than 40 miles of trails. From equestrian camping to trout fishing, mountain biking to picnicking, a number of activities are available at South Mountains State Park.

Visit one of the state's most rugged parks. Hike the trail to High Shoals Falls to witness the roar of the waterfall as it pours into a large pool. Backpack through the woodlands for primitive camping. Fish for trout in miles of mountain streams, or bicycle along the 17-mile mountain-bike loop.

Map of South Mountains (NC)

Latitude, Longitude: 35.601200, -81.626709



  • Bicycling

    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

    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. Group camping facilities are available in some backpack areas.

    Primitive family camping is available a half mile east of the Jacob Fork parking area. Eleven campsites include a picnic table and fire circle, and one site is wheelchair accessible. Pit toilets and drinking water are located nearby.

    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.

  • Fishing

    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

    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 is the Hemlock Nature Trail. This .74-mile wheelchair-accessible loop travels along the Jacob Fork River and through a forest. Interpretive displays provide information on the riparian environment, plants and animals.

    Another popular but very strenuous trail is Chestnut Knob Trail, a two-mile trail to Chestnut Knob Overlook.

  • Historic Sites

    Rangers hold regularly scheduled educational and interpretive programs about South Mountains State Park.

  • 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

    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.



South Mountains State Park is located in Burke County, 20.5 miles south of Morganton. From I-40, turn south on NC 18, travel 11.1 miles and make a right turn onto SR 1913 (Sugarloaf Road). Take SR 1913 to Old NC 18 4.3 miles and turn left. Travel 2.7 miles and make a right turn onto SR 1901 (Ward's Gap Road). The park is 1.4 miles off SR 1901 on SR 1904 (South Mountains Park Avenue).

Travel one mile from the beginning of South Mountain Park Avenue to the South Mountains State Park gate.

Phone Numbers


(828) 433-4772