A Tale of Two Stone Mountains
Did you know there are actually two Stone Mountains in the Southeast? The closest is Stone Mountain State Park in Roaring Gap, North Carolina, located about two-and-a-half hours from Raleigh and one-and-a-half hours from Charlotte. The largest is Stone Mountain Park in Stone Mountain, Georgia, about 20 miles northeast of Atlanta.
North Carolina’s Stone Mountain State Park consists of a sprawling natural wonderland featuring a massive, 600-foot granite dome. Long before its establishment as a state park in 1969, the mountain was settled by pioneering families from England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland and France who built log homes, mills, churches and schools in the area.
Georgia’s Stone Mountain, located six hours from Raleigh and four hours from Charlotte, is the largest single piece of exposed granite in the world. It weighs over a trillion pounds and covers 583 acres, according to the Stone Mountain Guide. The bas-relief Confederate Memorial carving on the mountain’s face featuring President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson is also the largest in the world, spanning a football field in length. The carving of Robert E. Lee is nine stories tall and Jefferson Davis’ thumb is the size of a sofa.
Despite sharing a name, both Stone Mountains offer unique delights for families to enjoy. Here’s a preview of what your family can expect to experience while visiting the parks.
North Carolina’s Stone Mountain
Photo courtesy of Stone Mountain State Park in North Carolina
North Carolina’s Stone Mountain State Park is located on more than 14,100 acres, so families can get lost in the beauty of quiet forests, abundant wildlife, cool mountain streams and spectacular mountaintop views. The historic Hutchinson Homestead, complete with a log cabin, barn, blacksmith shop, corncrib and original mid-1800s furnishings, offers a glimpse into the mountain’s past.
Hiking abounds with more than 16 miles of trails, including two family-friendly waterfall hikes, a half-mile hike to Middle Falls on Big Sandy Creek and a short walk to Widow’s Creek Falls. The hike down Stone Mountain also features a cascading waterfall.
The park offers 20 miles of streams for trout fishing, and experienced rock climbers are welcome in designated areas, but climbers must register and obtain a valid permit from the park office first.
Georgia’s Stone Mountain
Photo courtesy of Stone Mountain State Park in Georgia
Stone Mountain Park is Georgia’s most visited attraction, and for good reason. The park consists of 3,200 acres of forests, lakes, attractions and, of course, the mountain.
Hike to the summit or take the Summit Skyride, which was used to carry the Olympic Torch to the top of the mountain for the 1996 Olympics. The skyride features a Swiss cable car, which transports guests more than 825 feet to the top of Stone Mountain. Once there, visitors can take in the spectacular views of the Atlanta skyline and Appalachian Mountains, which are more than 60 miles away.
Learn how Native Americans and pioneers settled the area at Stone Mountain Museum at Memorial Hall. View the Confederate Memorial, carved between 1923 and 1972, and be sure to visit the picturesque covered bridge, quarry exhibit and century-old grist mill.
You can also tour Historic Square, a collection of original buildings built in the 18th and 19th centuries that have been carefully restored to preserve their historical value. They house one of the South’s most extensive collections of authentic period furniture and décor. Kids can enjoy the farmyard, where they can interact with animals and learn about livestock prominent in early Georgian life.
Enjoy a game of mini golf or embark on an adventure to new heights on the family-themed ropes course. Take a train ride around the park or learn about the history of Stone Mountain as you ride a “duck” — that’s right, a vehicle that travels on land and floats on water. Kids can try out a “duck lips” sound-maker during the ride.
Photo courtesy of Stone Mountain Park in Georgia
Stone Mountain, North Carolina
The park’s signature annual event is Old Fashion Day in September, which offers a chance to experience the traditions of yesteryear. Families enjoy displays of quilting, blacksmithing, basket weaving and knife-making. To complete the experience, visitors can clog dance to bluegrass music.
Stone Mountain, Georgia
From April 1 through Oct. 1, the park boasts a third “world’s largest” claim: its laser and lights show. Displayed on the face of the mountain, the show features a screen five times the size of an IMAX screen, as well as lasers, music, fireworks and fire cannon special effects. Visitors can enjoy Spring FUN Break in April, the Yellow Daisy Festival for arts-and-crafts lovers in September and the Native American Festival and Pow Wow in November. Come winter, families flock to Snow Mountain, which features a 400-foot tubing hill and snow play area.
Where to Stay
Both Stone Mountain parks offer campgrounds featuring water and electric hookups. Stone Mountain State Park in North Carolina offers 90 campsites, and Stone Mountain Park in Georgia claims 408, as well as six yurts.
If roughing it isn’t your idea of a restful vacation, opt for a bit of luxury at the Atlanta Marriott Evergreen Resort located within Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park. The resort overlooks the lake and is nestled among the trees, so it feels like an extension of nature. Its massive, paved patio area features a pool and spa, giant-sized checker and chess boards, a bar and lounge chairs surrounding brick fire pits. In addition, onsite restaurants offer lakeside dining.
Kyla Steinkraus is the author of 25 children’s books. She loves reading, photography and board games. Learn more about her at kylasteinkraus.com.