South Mountains State Park
Guide

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Introduction

South Mountain State Park is a rugged backpacker's paradise covering over 19,000 acres of land in the state of North Carolina. This beautiful state park is a part of the Blue Ridge Mountains that begins in Georgia and runs along the eastern states to southern Pennsylvania. The area became popular in the early 1800s due to the discovery of gold and was mined until the early 1900s. In the 1930s, the Conservation Civilian Corps (CCC) worked on what was then known as Camp Dryer, building structures and mapping out trails. By the 1940s, a proposal was made to have the camp become a state park, but it wasn’t until 1974 that the proper steps were made to officially purchase the land.

The total land acquired at that time was almost 6,000 acres. At a later date, additional land was purchased, bringing the total acreage to almost 20,000 acres of land. The park opened its gates in 1975 with over 40 miles of hiking trails and a beautiful waterfall standing 80 feet tall. South Mountain State Park offers fishing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, and many more activities for the entire family to enjoy during an RV vacation to the Carolinas.

The park has 91 spots, available for visitors who intend on camping or using the space for group functions. There are 34 campsites available for RV and trailer reservation, and many of the sites are equipped with electrical hookups. There is also an equestrian campground available with stalls and horse trails nearby. The park enjoys cool summers, moderate rain, and sunshine. The winters are cold with far fewer visitors but the park remains open all year except for Christmas Day. You can watch the leaves change color in the fall or go fishing in the summer, no matter what season of the year, there are plenty of activities to enjoy when you bring your RV to South Mountain State Park.

RV Rentals in South Mountains State Park

Transportation in South Mountains State Park

Driving

The park’s main entrance is located two hours away from Columbus. If you travel nearly one and a half miles off State Route 1901 then turn on State Route 1904, you will see the sign welcoming you to South Mountain State Park. There are other entrances to the park but all visitors must stop by the park’s office before departing to their assigned site. On your way to the park’s entrance, you can stop by Salem, Dysartville, Casar, or some of the other cities that surround the park. These towns offer movie theaters, shopping malls, restaurants, and boutiques. You can stock up on groceries or just walk around interacting with the locals and learning more about the history of the small towns that litter the area.

After you have checked in and found your site, you can wander around the park. It is important to note that the park does close its gates at night and reopens in the morning. You are not allowed to enter nor exit once the gates are closed unless it is an emergency. If you do have an emergency, then contact the rangers or park hosts, and they will do their best to help you. It is recommended that you either walk or ride your bike around the park. Keep in mind though that while mountain bikes are allowed in the park, they are not allowed in common areas.

Due to the park’s high elevation, flooding is not a big issue, but there may be mudslides due to heavy rains. Be sure to keep an eye on the forecast before you travel, as you don’t want to run into trouble on the road in your RV. In case of inclement weather, the park will send out an advisory to all its visitors. If you decide to go backpacking be sure to keep a phone on you and have backup methods of communicating in case of an emergency. The park enjoys warm summers with moderate rain and plenty of visitors. Winters are cold with the occasional snow that spreads across the mountain.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in South Mountains State Park

Campsites in South Mountains State Park

Reservations camping

Equestrian Barn Campground

There are 14 sites available for you if you have a horse and an RV. This campground requires for you to have a horse, and renting a stall is a separate cost from your reservation cost. You are to bring all the paperwork needed for your horse including a negative Coggins test. Your rig should be no longer than 83 feet long. There is only one site that is able to fit an 83-foot long trailer, the rest are around 30 to 40 feet in average length. There are electrical hookups available with a water spigot, but no dumping station is nearby. The campsites come with an option of gravel, dirt, or grass padding. You must have at least one horse in the stalls and are responsible for keeping your horse’s stall clean.

This campground is near the trails leading to the primitive sites and backcountry campground. Amenities included are picnic tables, a fire ring, restrooms, hot showers, and horse hitching posts. There is also water provided for your horse but you will need to bring your own feed for your horse. You are prohibited from bringing your own firewood and gathering firewood from your surroundings. The staff or hosts will direct you to where you can get approved firewood. You can stay a limit of 14 days at a time and may make a reservation up to 13 months in advance.

Family Campground

There are 18 sites available for RV camping. The average length of an acceptable RV or trailer is around 20 feet long. Electric hookups are available, but there are no water or sewer hookups available. Not all sites will have an electrical hookup so be sure to read the information about each site carefully before you make a reservation. If you need to cancel a reservation then you will need to call the park’s office to let them know about the change. There are a few water spigots near the campground and dump station is available.

The lots range from fully shaded to full sunlight, so there is a site for everyone. There are shrubs and trees between each lot providing a lot of privacy as well. Only six people and one car are allowed to stay at each campsite. If there is another car, it will be subject to an additional fee. Amenities included are hot showers, restrooms, picnic tables, and a fire ring. The gathering of firewood in the park is strictly prohibited, neither are you allowed to bring your own firewood from home. The park provides firewood near the park office. You are allowed to stay a maximum of 14 days at a time and can make a reservation up to 13 months in advance.

First-come first-served

Fist-Come, First-Served Options

There are no campsites that are set aside for first-come, first-served only at this park.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in South Mountains State Park

In-Season

Mountain Biking

South Mountain State Park is home to one of the few mountain bike trails in the state. There is a 17-mile loop ranging from easy to strenuous. It is recommended that each rider is in good shape before they try to complete this loop. If at any time you become winded or strain a muscle, take a breather and drink some much-needed water. Mountain bikes are also allowed on the hiking trails, just be mindful of other users.

Horseback Riding

South Mountain State Park is a prime destination for RV campers who love horseback riding. You have over 30 miles of equestrian trails to choose from when riding. You may bring your own horse but remember to read the trail information before you set off on your ride. Some of the trails are shared with mountain bikers and hikers so keep an eye out for other travelers. Each horse must have a negative Coggins test and you must provide their feed. Keep the stables clean by not riding when it has rained for a couple days.

Hiking

With over 40 miles of trails to hike, there is no doubt that you will always have somewhere new to explore. Some of the trails are shared with mountain bikers and horseback riders, so walking to one side rather than in the middle of the trail is highly recommended. The trails range from easy to strenuous, be sure to hike according to your own limit. You will need a sturdy pair of hiking boots and a water bottle. If you plan on hiking in the summer, then bring a map and some bug spray with you to make your journey easier.

Off-Season

Attending Interpretive Programs

There are interpretive programs for all ages. Each year, rangers lewd programs highlighting the ecosystem and history of the park. You can sign up for these programs online or by calling ahead. If no program is scheduled while you are visiting you can ask one of the main staff members for a brief guide of the interpretive areas. You may come across the 80-foot tall waterfall or look out from one of the mountain viewing areas.

Picnicking

There are two main picnic areas within a mile of each other, so you won’t have to always eat at your RV site. Jacob’s Fork and Skinny Creek are the names of the picnic areas. Jacob’s Fork picnic area is accessible for those who have disabilities offering 12 picnic tables, two grills, and a restroom area. The Skinny Creek picnic area is less than a mile from the Jacob’s Fork picnic area. This area has sheltered picnic tables with a fireplace and two grills. It operates on a first-come, first-served basis unless it is reserved in advance. You can use the picnic areas all year long and grill some of the fish that you may catch.

Fishing

If you plan to go trout fishing then you will need to remember to pack your valid fishing license and a special trout license in the RV. From October to the first Friday in June, you are only allowed to use single hook artificial lures and every fish you catch must be released. The fishing areas are marked on the park’s map, but you may want to ask a ranger or camp host about the best spots. Remember to pick up some bait and a rod if necessary, on your way to the park. You are not allowed to dig for worms in the park so please respect the rules.

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