"South Mountains State Park" Connelly Springs Off The Beaten Path Tip by etfromnc
Connelly Springs Off The Beaten Path: 1 reviews and 0 photos
If you are into nature, this is a place that you should visit. When you get this far west in North Carolina, you know that you are transitioning from the Piedmont to our mountains. As an example, if you are in Charlotte, you will only be about 700 feet above sea level. The peaks in this park range up to almost 3000 feet, not huge but getting there. The land is thickly wooded with several streams running through it. The 80 foot drop at High Shoals Falls is probably the most singularly spectacular site in the park but nature and rugged challenges abound. Just about the only mechanized things in this park are motor vehicles; i.e., no rides, bungee jumping, etc., but the range of "natural" activities is remarkable. You can hike up to 40 miles on finished trails, camp in over 50 sites in eight different areas, fish for outstanding trout, picnic (on those trout if you are good enough), ride horseback (but you have to bring your own horse), and this is one of the only state parks in North Carolina which even allows mountain biking. There is a rather strenuous 18-mile loop designated solely for mountain bikers. It is also one of the few places that I know of where you can camp with your horse nearby but not confined to its trailer.
The park is located 18 miles south of Morganton. From I-40, take NC 18. Go south nine miles and turn right on SR 1913 (aka Sugarloaf Road). At the end of 1913, turn left on Old NC 18. Four miles south of this turn, turn right on SR 1901 (aka Ward's Gap Road). About a mile west bear right on SR 1904 to the park. Signage is not real good as you travel toward the park.
The park was also the site of one of America's earliest gold rushes. In 1828, some men caulking the logs in a new home noticed that the mud had sparkles in it. The rest, for about 80 years, is history as gold was mined here until early in the 20th century.
Before and during World War II, the Civilian Conservation Corps did significant work here building roads, cleaning stream beds, and building a forest observation tower. There was talk of making the area into a park as early as the '40s but funds did not begin to be available until 1974. Initially, there was just under 6,000 acres but now there are almost 17,000