High Shoals Waterfall and H.Q. Loop Trail

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South Mountains State Park

High Shoals Waterfall and H.Q. Loop Trail is a 5.3 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Connelly Springs, North Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, fishing, and fly fishing and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 5.3 miles Elevation Gain: 974 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

camping

fishing

hiking

cave

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

Definitely not the easiest hike, but the waterfalls were totally worth it at the end! We went up HQ Loop first. It was mostly climbing but also mostly empty. We love it! Going this way made sure we went sown the stairs instead of having to climb them. Would recommend going this way again. Go early! We got there around 9:45 this morning and left around 2pm. Line of cars waiting to get in when we left.

This is a great trail with stunning views on the way up. I only did part of the High Shoals Trail then crossed over to other trails. Challenging in parts, particularly after the first waterfall. Man made stairs makes it more palatable but nonetheless heart pumping. “Slippery” so be careful when climbing. It rained the last few days so it gave me that tropical forest vibe but bugs weren’t too bad today. Trail was highly populated today with “social distancing” in order. I went early so I didn’t have to wait but there was a line on the way out due to Covid-19 guidelines. When the park hits their max capacity, one car leaves, one car enters so go early to avoid the lines. Definitely worth the trip but be aware “Tech Alert” your GPS won’t work in the park or anywhere nearby so bring your map for the ride. Bathrooms are open and are located at the beginning of the trail. Go Out and Play !!!

hiking
muddy
rocky
19 hours ago

Great hike! A good number of stairs and rocks (which may get slipper when it rains) to climb to get to the waterfall observation deck. The view was definitely worth it. The view from the top of the headquarters trail was also worth the elevation climb. I saw a handful of people on the waterfall high shoals trail and no one on the headquarters trail. Nice and peaceful.

hiking
muddy
rocky
2 days ago

This is a great hike. Trails are well maintained and easy to follow. Waterfalls and streams are worth the trip. Highly recommend.

muddy
5 days ago

hiked up to the falls today. not overwhelmed with folks on the trail. perfect temp for such an enjoyable time spent with my wife. thank you mother nature.

The top of this hike is pretty strenuous. Get ready for a lot of steps! (Imagine being on the stair stepper for a good 20 minutes,) but the top waterfall view is SO WORTH IT! Parts of this trail are narrow (tricky passing people). Bathrooms at the beginning of the trail are open again. We did not do the loop ( Is that where the other stairs lead? Near the top?) but rather there to the big waterfall in top and back. We like to catch our breath and play in the icy cold mountain water at the bottom. Great for hammocks, too! Note: I advise visitors to arrive before 10am! At limited capacity, the Rangers are letting people into the state park one at a time. I took the advice listed on the website stating an 11am arrival = waiting in line. We arrived at 10:10am and needed to wait for 6 cars to leave before we were allowed to enter (approximately a 30 minute wait.)

hiking
muddy
off trail
rocky
7 days ago

Great trail about an hour and a half from Charlotte. You can get through this fairly quickly, well under three hours but it’s hard not to stop at the waterfall for a little bit to hang out and rest.

hiking
15 days ago

Such a fun trail with a river and waterfalls! definitely one of our favorites, there are some pretty steep parts and huge boulders! we did it with a baby on our back, there were plenty of other children we passed on the trail as well!

rocky
23 days ago

everything at south mountains is great. there are easy flat trails for kids and beginners. plenty of places to get in the water. and the hike up to the falls is pretty strenuous.

hiking
1 month ago

Great trail! I’ve hiked this trail probably a dozen times and still enjoy it! The waterfall does not disappoint.

We hiked this trail counter clockwise so that we could encounter the traffic jam at the falls last. This is a great trail as it is wide and easy to navigate. It is a rolling trail which allows for max cardio output and the ability to track at faster speeds. The falls are beautiful but as I have said before, quite busy. We packed out a lot of trash from this area which was unfortunate but not surprising. Keep the trails clean and enjoy the outdoors!

Very nice trail. Pretty easy hiking. Beautiful water picture opportunity’s. Steam runs along side of trail all the way to top waterfall.

hiking
muddy
rocky
3 months ago

Very easy until you reach the falls, I made the climb up all the stairs and it was exhilarating and exhausting. Once up top it gains some slight elevation and overall is just a nice walk. I also camped at the upper falls campground. It’s an amazing space!

hiking
rocky
5 months ago

We hiked this close to sunset on a cloudy day in December. First part of the trail is a breeze, then it gets pretty technical. Would not recommend if you have mobility issues or nervous on slippery rocks. Most of the trail was wet and it’s a pretty steep ascent, even up the stairs. Incredible views of the waterfalls even if you don’t go all the way up (which is definitely worth the ascent!). It’s a short trail so if you’re a fairly regular weekend hiker, it doesn’t feel like much work despite the more technical spots. Definitely worth the trip!

Hiked this loop on a damp, cool, breezy day in late November. The ascent to the bottom of the waterfall was really pretty and scenic, but it is strenuous and not recommended if feeling unfit. Even with lots of stairs, there are some slippery portions when damp (but nothing too bad). In general this has been one of the best waterfall hikes we have taken. After that, we continued our ascent to the top where there were some additional views. At this point you can hike a little further and loop back down to the bottom for a shorter hike. We chose to continue over to HQ trail and enjoy a descent to the mountain top. This turned into a cloud hike for us today and we weren’t able to see any views as a result. However the trail is easy-going and the Forest is sublime. We still enjoyed our longer loop around and down. If you’re in the area, this is a top notch hike for those who like waterfalls, and a challenging ascent!

hiking
6 months ago

South Mountain is so beautiful year-round. Best views of the falls are after a heavy rain. I come up here every chance I get!

hiking
6 months ago

This is a great trail to explore. The stairs are the most strenuous part, but short lived. Definitely worth the time. The waterfall is beautiful.

hiking
6 months ago

Nice hike today which offered waterfall, mountain and river views. I agree that the trail is not hard but moderate and can be strenuous at times. The park is well maintained and beautiful.

hiking
7 months ago

I would not rate this trail difficult (more moderate) but it does have LOTS of high steps going up! You follow the waterfall up and the way back is mostly down hill through big, tall trees. My kids and I have done this hike many times and always enjoy it!

hiking
8 months ago

Good hike, but the waterfalls were the only views. made me less motivated to hike to the top of HQ/high shoals trail again

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

We love this trail, my kids and dog made the hike fine, but we have done it several times before.

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

Good hike. I don't consider it difficult. My almost 5 year old did it. There are a few places to swim.

Difficult hike but definitely worth it. Plenty of waterfalls, lookouts and places to play in the water!

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