We are, slowly but surely, trying to knock out every North Carolina State Park! It’s taking some time, but the list on my laptop is very slowly getting more black check marks. Thankfully for us, there are actually quite a few state parks within driving distance of us, making them the perfect day trip from Charlotte. We’ve been trying to take advantage of that and get out when we can! One of our faves so far has been South Mountain State Park.
We super randomly had a beautiful day in January. It was literally the second day of 2021. I remember specifically because apparently January 1st is a big “get outside day”, and I was worried it would have been pushed to the second with the gorgeous weather.
I digress. We took advantage, packed tons of snacks (as you do with small children) and hit the road. We live just west of Charlotte, and it took us about an hour to get there. I *think* we go there close to 11am, and it was packed. It’s a fairly large parking lot, and it was for sure filling up. If you are wanting to visit, I suggest planning on getting there earlier (especially if visiting in a nicer month than January).
What we hiked in South Mountain State Park
We hiked High Shoals Falls Loop- although you can make it a loop, we did it as an out and back trail. I believe it was close to 1.5 miles round trip, but don’t quote me on that! (It’s May when I’m writing this, so we did this hike a while ago and my memory is not the best. Not my greatest blogging self.) We also hit Big Bear Trail on our way back. This is .2 miles roundtrip, so literally almost nothing to add it on.
High Shoals Falls was a beautiful hike. It was along a river. I think hikes along rivers are always beautiful, and as a complete bonus, it keeps the kids very entertained. A short ways in, there’s a pretty open space at the river. Lots of really big rocks, and this made for the perfect place to stop for a snack and take in the beauty. I’ll tell you- I was not exactly thinking that a January hike would be the most beautiful. Thankfully for myself, I was wrong. This hike was so, so pretty! More green than I expected for winter, and the river sound was so calming and peaceful.
I love hikes that are scenic throughout. While I’m great with the big view pay offs, it’s something special to have some gorgeous sights on the way. There’s a multi layer mini waterfall on the way, with a wood boardwalk that goes across. I’ve seen photos of this in fall and it’s stunning, but let me tell you- it’s not too shabby in the winter, either. The boardwalk is narrow, though, so just be prepared to leave time for people to come through.
High Shoals Falls did culminate at a beautiful waterfall. In case you’re new here, my kids and I LOVE waterfalls. The promise of one keeps the kids hiking, which is a massive win. This one did not disappoint. It was tall, and loud, and beautiful. You could view via an observation tower, and I would definitely be prepared to be spritzed! If we had visited in July, I would have thoroughly enjoyed this. It was a *bit* of a more crowded day, but we managed to eek out a minute without other visitors to grab a photo. I would say that the deck would not be big enough to hang out for a snack or anything like that.
(This is also the portion where you can continue hiking above the waterfall to make the hike a loop. We choose to turn around and hike back to keep it more manageable for the kids.)
One of my favorite parts of this hike was how child friendly it was. It’s a big trailhead with lots of picnic tables and plenty of room to explore the creek. I’m already planning on bringing the kids back during the summer and just hanging out at the creek. We’ll for sure be heading back as a fam to check out some other hikes at South Mountain State Park!
We loved this park so much and area already really looking forward to being able to get back! If you’re looking for another NC state park + day trip from Charlotte, check out Lake Lure + Chimney Rock!