Rock climbing in the Southeastern USA


Photo by Chris Braund - Flatliner climbing tirp to Stone Mountain - Wayne Buch, John and Anita Fisher, Catherine Golden, Jackie Busch, Jim Waldrop, and Jeff Schwisow.North Carolina - Stone Mountain

Graphic - Sate of North Carolina with location of Stone Mountain indicated by a yellow starLocation

Stone Mountain State Park is located northwest of the town of Elkin, North Carolina, near the Virginia border in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I-77 and the Blue Ridge Parkway are close.

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Photo by Wayne Busch - Jim Waldrop and Anita Fisher on The Great Arch 5.5. Description

Stone Mountain State Park is tucked away in the mountains near the northern border ofNorth Carolina, only a few miles from Virginia. Easily accessible from a major north-south Interstate highway, and close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is popular with both tourists and locals. They come to hike the verdant forest trails, fish the clear stocked streams for trout, and of course, climb.

Stone Mountain hosts some of the cleanest friction climbing found anywhere on its' 600 foot granite dome, and has been a popular east-coast winter climbing spot for many years. Climbing at Stone Mountain is enhanced in difficulty by the featureless nature of the acres of white granite. Routes were established by traditional leading, with bolts drilled on lead by hand. This places them near solid stances and leaves crux moves unprotected. Opportunities for gear placements may be rare if they are present at all. The most popular routes may be polished and clean, but those less frequently climbed are still exfoliating with patches of "dixie crystals" - tiny loose flakes of rock that feel like sugar under your feet. Notorious for a scarcity of bolts, the featureless faces test a leaders composure as he ventures out on a smooth vertical sea of rolling white granite.20 - 30 feet to the next bolt is well protected, 40 to 50 feet relatively common. You will find runouts much longer. This is a serious place to lead even the easiest of climbs. The more difficult ones are an absolute thrill!

Enlarge photo of Great Arch

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Photo by Wayne Busch - Caption in yellow - View up the Great ArchDirections

Follow I-77 north as it leaves South Carolina, goes through Charlotte, North Carolina, and continues north to the town of Elkin. If you need food or supplies, take the first exit west onto US 21 through the town. Plenty of places to eat. Motels.Fair sized town. Otherwise, continue north to the next exit, #83. This will put you on the US 21 bypass and take you around town and towards the park. Once on US 21, watch for a sign pointing you to Stone Mountain State Park viaNC road 1002 on your left. Follow 1002 for a few miles until you come to the prominent John P. Frank Parkway on the right which leads you through the park gates. The gates are locked at night around dark and don't open until 8 in the morning. The Campground is gated and locked at night as well. You will pass the road to the small park campground on the right a couple miles beyond the visitor center.

[ Yahoo! Maps ]
Yahoo Scalable Map of Stone Mountain State Park

Logo - Topozone.comTopo map ( link)

Hickory Nut Gorge (map)

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Cliff Access

Photo by Wayne Busch - A climber tackles Rainy Day Women 5.10 on the face near The Great ArchFollow the main road into the park. Pass the visitor center, then continue on the paced road. You will cross a couple of one lane bridges as you wind around the end of Stone Mountain. Turn left into a paved parking lot, and find a space. It fills on holidays.

Hike up a graded road into the woods. Watch closely for the Stone Mountain Trail sign along the road on the left on your way in. It marks where the descent trail intersects the road, good to know if you hike down from the top. It's not unusual to climb to the top and hike the trail back down, especially on crowded days when rappelling against the tide can be a hassle.

You will come to a small parking area with a trail on the right leading to higher ground. A primitive homestead cabin and farm have been reconstructed here. Hike out into the big open field until you get your first good look at the rock. Follow the obvious wide mown path leading toward the rock and into the woods. Fill out the registration form and read the sign at the trailhead for most current info. Paths lead to the base of the mountain in the area beneath the Tree Ledge.

Park gates open at 8 a.m. Campground gate is opened at 8 a.m. It takes about 10 minutes to drive to the parking area and another 15 - 20 minutes to walk in on the gravel road to the old cabin, cross the field, and approach the base of the rock. No climbing when it rains.

Enlarge view of Rainy Day Women

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The Climbers Guide to North CarolinaSouthern RockGuidebooks

The Climbers Guide to North Carolina by Thomas Kelley.

Southern Rock by Chris Hall

Selected Climbs in North Carolina - Yon Lambert and Harrison Shull.

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Photo by Wayne Busch - Great Arch areas show with popular routes highlighted in color. Click to view large version.Routes

The Great Arch 5.5, No Alternative 5.6, The Great White Way 5.9, Mercury's' Lead 5.9-, Grand Funk Railroad 5.9, Rainy Day Women 5.10a, Storm in a Teacup 5.10a, Yardarm 5.8, Block Route 5.8, Crystal Lizard 5.10.

Guide Steve Longenecker ( has shared his comments and advice on climbing at Stone Mountain on the North Carolina Routes page.

Enlarge Photo of popular routes

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Land Manager:

Stone Mountain State Park
3042 Frank Parkway
Roaring Gap, NC 28668
Phone: 336 - 957-8185
FAX: 336 - 957-3985

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image - caduceus -  symbol of medicineEmergency Information:

911, you are in Wilkes County. Police Department - 336-835-9811

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image - carabinerGear:

Most routes suggest a light traditional rack. Many routes can be done with just a few slings and quickdraws. You will find a small assortment of cams useful, bring a few wired nuts. You can carry more gear, but you'll have little opportunity to use it. I found it helpful to use 60m ropes, as the pitches tend to be long.

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Photo by Wayne Busch - Stuart Estes out in the open ground near the top of No Alternative 5.6. The climb leaves the saftey and security of the ledge viewed below.Facilities:

The State Park campground has 30 sites. Gravel tent pads, water, picnic table, trash cans, bathrooms with hot showers, firewood for sale, gated 8 PM. - 8 AM. Max. 6 persons per site, 2 cars, 1 tent. $9 per site. No alcohol. Gate hours change with the season. Ph. 336-957-8185. There are also backpacking sites if you care to hike in and out, you need a permit and a map. The campground stays full on weekends, you may have difficulties getting a spot if you arrive late in the day without reservations. On holiday weekends, locals will post signs in front yards advertising campsites.

I have been chased out of the convenient spot to camp not far from the park gate in a small hidden field along the Parkway (Camp 4. It is park land, and is now patrolled. You may get away with it, but I'd rather not risk getting any bad blood going between the climbers and the rangers. If you're going to be arriving after the gates lock, or if you can't get a campsite within the park (common on holidays), you can almost certainly find a spot to camp for the night about 30 minutes away at Doughton Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Another alternative is to contact Stone Mountain Cabin Rentals. The Stone Mountain Cafe burned down. Too bad. You'll have to head into Elkin for gas or groceries.

Enlarge photo of Stu

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Stone Mountain faces south, which makes it's best season during the cooler weather. It's ideal on sunny winter days, but also good on summer mornings. Stone Mountain is closed to climbing when it rains.

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Photo by Jeff Braund - Wayne starts up the Great White Way 5.9Access Notes

Stone Mountain Rebolted

Stone Mountain was extensively rebolted in the winter of 1998. The Carolina Climbers Coalition, under the leadership of Dr. Aram Attarian, obtained permission from the NC State Parks department to pull the old bolts on most of the south face of Stone Mountain and replace them with new bolts.

Double ring bolt anchors were placed at a few popular natural belay stations which formerly required either scoring trees or abandoning slings to rap from. These include the top of the No Alternative flake and the top-out into the trees on No Alternative. Belay stations now have two big ring bolts, bolts between belay stations are standard, hangers and no rings. Fixed gear was replaced as needed. No routes were changed, no new bolts were added.

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Stone Mountain is no place for the inexperienced leader or the timid. Falls here will be long and serious. Nerve wracking runouts are the norm. Tradition has it that these routes are established and will be climbed as they are. The rangers are strict about enforcing curfews and locking the gates, be sure to be out by the specified times. The Park Service does not recommend starting new routes 3 hours prior to closing time. Stone Mountain is closed to climbing when it rains.

I would like to let climbers who go to Stone Mountain State Park know that there now is a small cabin for rent two miles from the entrance to the park.
Minimum rental term is two nights at a cost of $250 total.  The cabin can accommodate 6.
The beds are one queen, two twin, one trundle with two single mattresses. There is one bath.
It has a pocket kitchen, combined eating and sitting area, and a large wraparound deck.
Rental cabin two miles from Stone Mountain State Park: Cabin at Woodwind Hollow, Roaring Gap
Online see
June Piley, owner

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Stone Mountain Trip Reports

5/26/01 - The Edge of Nowhere: Climbing at Stone Mountain, NC May 26-28, 2001 - submitted by Charles Danforth - Charles and freinds make a first visit

1/19/01  Son of Sam & Great Arch in Stone Mtn, NC Submitted by sbegonia - Sam and Mike do a first trad lead on The Great Arch.

2/27/99 - A Quick Trip to Stone Mountain February 26 - 27th Submitted by Wayne Busch - Chris and Jeff Braund, Jason Hale, and Wayne Busch climb several routes including The Great White Way, Mercury's Lead, and other classics.

1/16/99 Stone Mountain, North Carolina January 16th - 17th Submitted by Wayne Busch - Gordon Swennes, Steve Longenecker, and Wayne Busch climb Rainy Day Women, White Way Direct, Closer to the Heart and other classics.

10/12/97 Wayne's Stone Mountain Trip Report October 11 - 12th. Submitted by Wayne Busch - Steve Longenecker and Wayne Busch climb Grand Funk Railroad, Storm in a Teacup, Crystal Lizard, and other classics.

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