It was kind of on a whim when I texted my dad to see if he wanted to join Granger and me on a hike last weekend when TJ had to work. See, hiking was a huge part of my life when we lived in Washington State, and we just haven’t had the time to really explore the mountains since moving to North Carolina. My dad lives in the foothills in a cute little cabin, so I knew he’d know a good first-time hike to take Granger on, and that’s pretty much how we ended up at Stone Mountain.
Just a disclaimer here before we go any further: we’re dog people. I mean, cats are OK, too, don’t get me wrong, we just prefer dogs. Now that we’ve all taken sides here, Bosco, our pup, of course tagged along for the hike. He’s always a risk when you take him hiking, because he’s scared of everything. A stick? Must attack it with no mercy…just in case. A sound? Speeds up just enough so it’s not obvious he’s running away from literally nothing. Running water? Stops him dead in his tracks.
Mind you, Bosco isn’t a newbie when it comes to hiking. He’s been up and down several trails in Washington, but experience never curbed his initial response to these things. To my pleasure, though, he did wonderful on this trail! Dogs are obviously allowed on this trail, as long as they are leashed, and there were several dogs participating on this hike. I’d stay away if you or someone in your group was afraid of dogs. It’s a known spot to be a dog-friendly trail, for sure.
Although we didn’t hike the entire loop onto the top of Stone Mountain (there had been a recent wildfire and part of the trail was closed off), it was still breathtaking. If you’re wanting a shorter hike but still see some pretty views, parking in the upper lot would probably be your best bet. We were there for the long haul, so we parked in the lower lot. We started on the Stone Mountain Loop trail and hiked a little ways in, probably about 1/2 a mile.
From there, we entered the Hutchinson Homestead, which was a great stopping point for Granger. This had some small cabins and informational stands about the history of this area. The big attraction for us was there was a wide open field for little man to stretch his legs. There’s a pretty large tree about halfway into the homestead between the small shelters and where the trails continue. This allowed us to take a load off, get some snacks and water, and just relax for a little bit.
We then packed up our things and headed over to the waterfalls. There are two separate waterfalls, and the trail clearly forks to each of them. We didn’t end up going to the middle and lower falls portion. We decided to tackle the main waterfalls where there’s a 200 foot waterfall to see. From the Hutchinson Homestead to the waterfalls, it was a slightly longer hike – nearly a mile – but still very doable to carry a 20+ pound kid on my back.
I’d like to stress at this point that this is a pretty easy trail to hike. There are some ups and downs, but there aren’t any major elevation drops or gains during this part of the trail. I was able to comfortably carry Granger and talk to my dad without feeling like I couldn’t breathe. Once we got close to the waterfalls, you do have to climb some stairs, which is probably the most strenuous part of the entire trip.
But y’all, when you get up those stairs, the waterfall is beautiful. It’s coming right off the mountain, which is just a really neat thing to see. The water makes a shallow pool at the bottom where you can get your feet wet or let your dogs grab a drink. You can make it across the water over the rocks, but a little bit of climbing is involved in that. There isn’t a nice bridge to walk across or anything like that. There were quite a few people here at the falls when we went, so we went ahead and crossed the rocks so we could have our own space.
We let Granger out of the backpack to walk around. That was pretty neat to see him walking and splashing around. It was the perfect depth where he could have fun and I wasn’t worried as long as someone was right there with him. Even the rocks that were wet, weren’t super slippery either. I never felt like I was going to slip while we were out there playing, which really helped to put my mind at ease as Granger definitely wanted to be down and wanted everyone around to know that he wanted d o w n to play.
***Pro Tip!! There’s a side trail across the rocks where you can hike up a little ways, and there’s a small ledge jutting out of the mountain where you can stand and look down on everyone else. We didn’t do this, but a few others did while we were there, and it looked like a cool photo opportunity, for sure!***
Once we decided we were done with the falls (because, lunchtime), we decided to head on back to the homestead to eat under the tree. Again, perfect place to relax and have a good ole time between hikes. My dad ended up packing our lunches, and he just brought some chicken salad with pretzel thins, turkey and cheese bites for Granger, and apples! Super easy, and didn’t take up a bunch of space. We got real fancy at this point and laid down a blanket to have a real picnic.
When we looked at the time, we’d been at Stone Mountain for close to three hours now, and it was past Granger’s nap-time, so we packed up everything and headed back to our car before driving home. All in all, it was a wonderful hike. It was the first one really since Granger has been born, and I can’t wait to go again! I would highly recommend Stone Mountain to anyone living or traveling in North Carolina as a destination – all types of fitness levels welcome!
This hike reminded me why I fell in love with the outdoors in the first place. My list is starting to grow with hikes I’m planning in the next few months – stay tuned!