Rocky Ridge and Stone Mountain Trails, DuPont State Forest

Tucked away in the northeastern corner of DuPont State Forest in Western North Carolina, Stone Mountain is the highest point in the state forest at 3,620 feet. Appropriately named for the exposed granite slab that traverses its summit, Stone Mountain offers a near 270° view of the surrounding terrain to winter hikers. Since the first time I went, nearly 12 years ago, the pines are taking over the summit, so views are harder to come by. Especially in summer, the leaf cover makes it even more difficult. This hike occurred on Monday, February 3, 2020 from 12:00 noon to 2:30pm. Our plan was to take the Rocky Ridge Trail to the Stone Mountain Trail, then on to the summit. Return would be back the same way.

Hike Length: 3 miles Hike Duration: 2.5 hours

Hike Rating: Moderate Blaze: No blaze, trails are easily navigable.

Elevation Gain: 660 feet Hike Configuration: Up and back

Trail Condition: Rocky Ridge is excellent, but Stone Mountain is poor, very rocky.

Starting Point: Located a couple miles beyond Guion Farm on Sky Valley Road.

Trail Traffic: We encountered six other hikers on the Stone Mountain Trail.

How to Get There: DuPont State Forest can be accessed from Hendersonville, NC via Kanuga/Crab Creek Rd., from Asheville/Brevard via US64 and Little River Rd., or from Greenville, SC via Cedar Mountain and Cascade Lake Rd. Sky Valley Road is in the northeast corner of the forest. Look for printed trail maps at public parking areas.

 

There are two ends to the Rocky Ridge Trail that meet up with the Stone Mountain Trail. The southern end is on Sky Valley Road, is a 3 mile round trip, and rises 660 feet to the summit. The northern end starts on the Old CCC Road very near the junction with Sky Valley Road, adds a mile to the total distance and 500 feet more elevation gain.

The southern Rocky Ridge trailhead has a parking area large enough for a half dozen cars on the left side of Sky Valley Road less than two miles up from Guion Farm. The trail is wide and pleasant, and sandy with an indistinguishable uphill grade. This northeastern section of the state forest is dense woodland with a delightful mix of deciduous and evergreen trees.

You will discover the DuPont State Forest trail system to be quite robust. We reached two trail junctions on the short 1.5-mile hike up Stone Mountain. The first is .4 mile in. The Rocky Ridge Trail bears left and eventually down to the Old CCC Rd. and the Stone Mountain Trail turns right. Then just another tenth mile later, the Switchback Trail bears right and Stone Mountain takes off uphill to the left.

The Stone Mountain Trail begins moderately steep climbing right away and continues uphill until the summit. Unlike the near perfect conditions on the Rocky Ridge Trail, this trail is rocky and rutted from drainage. Just a touch less than a mile in, the trail turns a decidedly northeasterly direction and climbs to a large grassy clearing perhaps two acres in size. Passing through the meadow, we climbed another tenth mile past several large boulders alongside the trail, then began the final climb to the summit.

Those boulders are a nice place to take a breather because the last tenth mile is the steepest. The good news is that it isn’t far as the trail climbs through laurel and rhododendron. Just about the time you think you’ve had enough, you pop out on the summit with large granite outcrops and gnarly wind-swept pines. The summit surface is quite large and flat and affords long-distance views in nearly every direction. Be sure to spend some time exploring the summit. You can walk several hundred feet left or right.

To the left is a northerly view toward Asheville with the Great Craggy and Black Mountains behind. Looking west is the high country of Pisgah National Forest, including the easily identifiable tower-topped Mt. Pisgah. Straight ahead is Pinnacle Mountain with its radio and cell tower. You can also see the clearings in the forest that are the horse farms along Pinnacle Road.

To the right is the most expansive view, stretching far and wide toward South Carolina. There are communications towers barely visible many miles away that sit atop Rich Mountain in Transylvania County. Below you is the southwestern area of DuPont State Forest. When you go, see if you can pick out some of the more notable landmarks.

If you packed a picnic lunch, there are numerous great spots on the granite to sit for awhile and enjoy the picturesque surroundings. The largest of these is to your left, about 200 feet from the initial summit. Just follow the path through the gnarly pines. Speaking of lunch, while on top, we enjoyed following the circuitous path of a lone buzzard hovering on the wind a hundred feet above. Fortunately, his eyes weren’t on us.

The return trip for us was uneventful, but you really must keep your eye on the trail. It is a steep descent with many, many hazards from washout. There are exposed rocks and roots seemingly everywhere, just waiting for their chance to trip you, or worse.

When we got back to the car, the thermometer read 70 degrees. Can you believe that for early February?

 

 

This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.

 

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