Charlotte: Upper Falls Loop

Hike a 6.9-mile loop past raging waterfalls to the lonely ridges of North Carolina's Upper Piedmont for sky-high views in South Mountains State Park.
Publish date:
Updated on

Mapped by Tim Johnson

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 10.4


View from Upper Falls Trail

Location: 35.5978012084961, -81.6453247070312

©Tim Johnson

Crossing Shinny Creek

Location: 35.6059494018555, -81.6446762084961

©Tim Johnson


Location: 35.6022415161133, -81.6294937133789

Head W on paved trail through picnic area to old gravel roadbed


Location: 35.6000900268555, -81.6365432739258

L @ Y; in 30 yds., go L @ Y onto High Shoals Falls Loop Trail through forest dotted with foamflower and trillium. Rock on R was exposed in 1989 after Hurricane Hugo's rains


Location: 35.5957908630371, -81.6349563598633

Cross Jacob Fork River footbridge, then scramble S through boulders past hillside dotted with hepatica and ginseng


Location: 35.5949211120606, -81.6351470947266

Quick R leads to 80-ft. High Shoals Falls. Climb stairs; cross Jacob Fork above falls, then pick up roadbed on R. Moonshiners once worked in cave at base, hidden by spray


Location: 35.5950508117676, -81.6387634277344

R @ T onto Upper Falls Trail. In .2 mi., L @ Y, staying with Upper Falls Trail roadbed heading NW


Location: 35.5980110168457, -81.6460800170898

Views S to Nettle Branch and Jacob Fork Valleys, and 2,894-ft. Benn Knob


Location: 35.596248626709, -81.6523971557617

Straight @ T onto Headquarters Trail. In .6 mi., stay straight on HQ Trail


Location: 35.601921081543, -81.6652526855469

R @ T onto Shinny Trail for steep descent to Shinny Creek


Location: 35.6093292236328, -81.6521301269531

Hard R along Shinny Creek, then follow footbridge across Dark Creek


Location: 35.6071586608887, -81.6488494873047

Cross Shinny Creek; stay with Shinny Trail @ T ahead


Location: 35.6068305969238, -81.645881652832

Cross Shinny Creek on log footbridge.


Location: 35.6064186096191, -81.6450271606445

Cross creek again


Location: 35.6040916442871, -81.6438674926758

L @ T on HQ Trail. Pass Shinny Creek campsites (permit required) on .8-mi. walk back to WPT 2; return to trailhead

Stairs on HSFLT

Location: 35.5936241149902, -81.6354141235352

©Tim Johnson

Shinny Creek Campsites

Location: 35.6039886474609, -81.6424102783203

©Tim Johnson

Lower Falls

Location: 35.5959396362305, -81.6349639892578

©Tim Johnson

Lower Falls wide

Location: 35.5959892272949, -81.6351623535156

©Tim Johnson

HQ Trail

Location: 35.6035842895508, -81.6425094604492

©Tim Johnson

Shinny Trail - Lower

Location: 35.6078605651856, -81.6500549316406

©Tim Johnson

High Shoals Falls

Location: 35.5949821472168, -81.634765625

©Tim Johnson

Shinny Trail - Upper

Location: 35.6037368774414, -81.6621322631836

©Tim Johnson