Directions: South Mountains State Park is located 18 miles south of Morganton NC. From I-40, Exit 105, go south on NC 18 for 11 miles. Turn right onto Sugarloaf Rd. Turn left onto Old NC 18. After 4 miles, turn right onto Ward’s Gap Rd. Finally, turn right onto South Mountains State Park Ave.
Misc. Info: No entrance fee. Restrooms are located at the Visitor Center and the Picnic Area. We had good accommodations at Quality Inn, 2400 South Sterling St, Morganton (I-40, Exit 105). We enjoyed eating supper at Abele’s Family Restaurant, which is just on the other side of I-40 from the motel.
Date of Visit: Late April 2013
Conditions: Sunny
Time of day: Late morning and afternoon
Photography: My wife and I had a very enjoyable first time visit here. We saw a large variety of wildflowers including Dwarf Crested Iris, May Apple, Common Blue Violet, Yellow Lady’s Slipper (see above), Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and Red Trillium. There was an abundance of Iris and May Apple along the beginning of the Hemlock Nature Trail between the picnic area and the river. Red Trillium (also called Wake Robin) were common along the eastern section of High Shoals Falls Loop Trail from “Hugo Rock” to the first steps to the 80-foot high High Shoals Falls. The Hemlock Nature Trail and the eastern section of the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail offered a number of access points to Jacobs Fork River, which would provide additional photo opportunities with overcast light. High Shoals Falls is a nice waterfall to photograph (see above). Including some green vegetation to the right will help keep images from resembling black-and-white shots. One cautionary note: The High Shoals Falls Trail is rated as moderate to strenuous, primarily because of the number of steep steps that must be ascended/descended to reach the platform view of the falls.