Height: 50 feet
Trail Type: Asphalt, dirt, and rock
Hike Distance: 2 miles round trip
High Shoals Falls is the key feature in South Mountains State Park. The majority of the land inside the park is protected and much of the land hasn’t been fully developed for park use yet. A look over a topo map indicates several waterfalls within park boundaries, but at this point they’re all inaccessible unless you want to risk getting busted for trespassing – and this is the part of the world where you get shot on site for trying that.
The falls presents a little optical illusion. From the main view point, it almost looks as if Jacob Fork flows upward at the top of the falls before dropping straight down into the pool below. A little farther downstream, the creek flows in, around, through, and under several large boulders, which is a unique site in and of itself.
From Exit 104 off of Interstate 40 in Morganton, drive south on Enola Road for about 6.5 miles to its intersection with old NC highway 18. Turn right and drive a little over 5 miles and turn right onto Ward Gap Road. Drive another 1.4 miles and bear right onto South Mountain Park Road. Take this road all the way to the parking area.
The trail starts off paved before turning to gravel and then dirt. As you get closer to the falls, the trail gets more rugged and requires you to walk over several stone steps (i.e, huge rocks scattered in such a way that it looks like a path, but they aren’t married to the ground). The closer you get to the falls, the steeper the trail gets until you get to the boardwalk at the base of the falls. If the water levels are up, the sound of the falls roaring over the edge is almost deafening.