With the new year now a week old, it became time to make good on some of those “New Year Resolutions”. More miles, more peaks, more waterfalls, better eating….some of the ones I have vowed to do this year. With this weeks nice warm up, it seemed to be the right time to get out and stretch the legs a little.
It was a day with temps in the mid 60’s, which is a true treat for January in the high country. I decided to start with a familiar place, The South Mountains State Park. It is a relatively short drive, with some great hiking trails, over 40 miles of them. The highlight trail, the one “must-hike” trail is definitely the High Shoals Falls Loop. This is a 2.7 mile loop that starts fairly flat as you leave the parking area. About 1/2 mile in you will cross a bridge with a beautiful shot of the stream and if you look way, way up, you will see the waterfall you are in route to view.(especially in winter when all the leaves are gone)
Once you cross the bridge, the trail goes up, rather steeply I might add. The trail does have a lot of rock steps in place to make this as easy as possible, and it is not a long distance to the falls. Before you know it, you will be huffing and puffing your way onto the well-built wooden observation deck right in front of the main waterfall. It is this point where you catch a breather and enjoy the falls. On this day, even though it was 65 outside, there was still some remnant ice from a very cold snap we had just come out of. Once we were rested, it was time to climb some more. High Shoals Falls consists of two waterfalls actually. There is the main falls ,and a second part just upstream that some label as “upper falls”.
Now to the top, this climb begins very steeply from the deck and is the hardest part of the hike I believe. Once you reach the top, there is a very picturesque view of a two-tiered waterfall and a deep, large pool. In the summertime, good pictures are hard to come by because of idiots who ignore the signs to stay out of the water. Just past the pool, begins the main falls where people have fallen….. On this day though the pool and it’s icy waters were perfect for the picture taking.
At the top of the falls, we cross the stream again on a bridge, then the trail leaves the stream for awhile. After a short, easy climb up to a ridge, you will come to a junction of trails. The High Shoals Loop turns right and begins a descent that is about twice as long as the ascent was, therefore it is not nearly as steep. Once down the mountain, the loop completes itself and it is about 1/4 mile back to the parking lot.