It had been a few years since I'd hiked to the summit of Stone Mountain. The last few times I went I spent my time hiking on the other side of the valley on Wolf Rock and Cedar Rock, a couple of cliff/summits just across from the main peak. In the interim, the State Park Service had installed a very extensive, and obviously very expensive system of stairs and cables and graded trails to the top of Stone Mountain.
In the old days the trail was rudimentary after the first half mile or so. After that one just followed a faint but rugged trail through the pines and scrub oaks. Then, after a bit, the trees gave way to vast expanses of exposed rock where you then had to either find a route to the top or--if you were paying attention--follow the painted blazes on the rock that would lead you to the summit and the trail beyond.
Now, though, all of the chance is taken out of the experience. These days you merely have to walk up the steps and stairs and cables. No guesswork at all is involved. It's still a tough--but brief--pull to the top. I haven't decided if the experience has suffered, though. Probably not.
This is the trailhead at the parking lot. If you need to use the rest room do it here. If you walk the entire loop, there's about five miles of hiking in front of you and naught but the woods to relieve yourself. Also, drink up here and take plenty of water with you. I will never be able to understand the idiots I always see on these hikes who don't so much as bring a single water bottle along. You are going to get dehydrated and pass out if you don't bring water. Also, if you have a dog along, bring water for them, or allow them to drink from the streams on the far side of the mountain. I see morons making their dogs suffer on the long hike on the summit--dogs who are obviously suffering for want of a drink of water.
As I said, the park folk have poured a tremendous amount of cash and effort into the new trail to the top of Stone Mountain.
There are a number of these very long staircases traversing what--in the old days--were just long walks up very steep thin-soiled slopes and expanses of bare granite.
Confusing sign at the summit. It only makes sense if you turn left to go to the homestead and right to the falls.
The first view from the very summit as you step off the trail and onto the clifftops.
(Coming later--Part II of the hike.)