Charlotte, NC: South Mountains—High Shoals and Headquarters Trails

Hike to a beautiful waterfall and go for a swim in South Mountains State Park near Charlotte.
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Hike to a beautiful waterfall and go for a swim in South Mountains State Park near Charlotte.

The High Shoals Trail of South Mountains State Park is a hike through beautiful woods, with a great opportunity for a waterfall view...and swim if you don't mind a bit of a scramble and some really cold water. In this hike, we pair it with the Headquarters (HQ) Trail to get some more distance and better views. So round up your friends and bring a camera and swimsuit. BY MATT CLAPP

Trip Details
Hiking Distance - 5.25 miles
Hiking Time - 2 hrs
Distance from Uptown - 1:15 hours
More Info

Prepare
1. Enter "South Mountain State Park" into Google Maps.
2. Stop at Visitor Center to pick up a free map. Ask a ranger to highlight the trail for you.
3. Drive to end of road and park at the parking lot.

Explore
Mile 0.0 - Start at end of parking lot at High Shoals Trail. Walk along the asphalt trail, which becomes a wide dirt trail.
0.5 - Go left at the trail sign for High Shoals Falls Loop. After a few hundred feet stay left again.
0.8 - Walk by the beautiful falls. Stop and climb around the rocks and take photos.
1.2 - At the top of the waterfall continue following the blue dot blazes on the Lake Shoals Trail.
1.4 - At the Trail intersection, turn right onto Headquarters Trail.
1.6 - Turn left onto Headquarters Trail.
2.05 - After working your way up a steep hill, pass by a great overlook of the forest.
2.6 - Turn right downhill to stay on Headquarters Trail.
4.7 - Turn left and head back to the parking lot.
5.2 - Arrive back at the parking lot.

Reward
1. Go for a swim at the waterfall!
2. Smile and listen to some great music on the way home. You just went on an absolutely beautiful hike and life is good.

My Day
Weather: 71, clear
Drink: Moscow Mule (back at home)
Song: Lights On by Big Grams, "Whoever thought that I would be the one, the golden child, even in the darkness I can see the sun"
Water: 32 oz

Trail Facts

  • State: NC
  • City: Charlotte, NC
  • Distance: 5.3
  • Contact: (828) 433-4772; http://www.ncparks.gov/south-mountains-state-park
  • Land Type: State Park