hiking
1 day ago

TL;DR: Great hike, amazing views.
This was a fantastic hike! As a previous reviewer noted, the entire loop trail is now open. On that note, it is awe-inspiring to see the damage done by powerful storms from last October, you can really see the trail of damage where trees have been snapped all over the place.
I started at the upper parking lot, and started the loop headed to the left, away from the summit. You quickly come up on the falls, and it is quite beautiful against a distant mountain backdrop. There are a lot of stairs in this area for a quick descent into the woods, and the trail follows a stream for a good bit. I took a detour in this area to go down the Lower and Middle Falls Trail (out and back) which was nice, but there are two stream crossings that require rock hopping to get across, and I did get my feet wet! Back on the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, I quickly reached the Hutchinson Homestead area, which has great views of Stone Mountain and its own little trail. Looked like there was an area for rock climbing at the base of Stone Mountain that could be accessed from the open field area here. From here, I decided to branch out and make an extra loop by taking the Cedar Rock and Wolf Rock Trails, and boy am I glad I did! Both Cedar Rock and Wolf Rock offer tremendous views of the surrounding mountains, and were high points on my trip. Wolf Rock trail rejoins Stone Mountain Loop trail and quickly descends back towards the lower parking lot area, before turning towards the summit. From there it was a fairly quick but strenuous hike up to the summit, with seemingly endless stairs and a few steep rock faces. But you are rewarded with an enormous area of bare rock with near 180 degree views of the mountains around you. It's a great place to sit or lie down on the rock, have a snack, and take it all in. Cedar Rock can be seen from here as well. It turned out this first area, though impressive, wasn't the actual summit. A short hike and some additional steps later, and I was at the actual summit, a similarly impressive setting. From there the trail slowly meanders back down, passing through a few more open rock areas with neat views.
Adding on the Falls, Cedar Rock, and Wolf Rock trails increased the loop length by about three miles, but it was definitely worth it. There were more mucky, muddy areas along this trail than most trails I've been on in State Parks, but not too bad. My only trouble was that I was recording the hike with the AllTrails app, and there was no service at all which seemed to effect the tracking accuracy of the recording.