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South Mountain State Park MTB Loop


A great workout. Strenuous/hard climbs and fast descents on washed out forestry roads.

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2,786' 849 m


1,343' 409 m


2,342' 714 m


2,343' 714 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (16°)

Dogs Unknown

E-Bikes Unknown

Must walk bike through first picnic area. Recommended registration at box located at corner of parking lot in case of emergency.


This loop utilizes several trails & old forestry roads: High Shoals Falls Loop Trail, Headquarters (HQ)Trail, Upper Falls Trail twice, Lower CCC Trail, Benn Knob Trail and Raven Rock Trail. This is a very strenuous ride with nearly 3500 feet of climbing. This is not a singletrack mountain bike trail but is a great endurance workout. The old washed out forestry roads make for some good downhill. Unless you have a heart like a horse plan to walk-a-bike.

This area really functions as a single trail, be aware no other trails are open to bikes. Only the loop.

Need to Know

There is a mile of paved road after you turn on to Raven Rock Trail (keep going straight). You'll see a few houses and water tank on this road. There is one creek crossing around 13 miles in.


The ride is approx. 17 miles. From trailhead, walk your bike through the picnic area continue ahead on High Shoals Falls Loop Trail for 1/2 mile, this trail will continue on to the falls. You must turn right on to Headquarters (HQ) Trail.

HQ is the first climb and is a good example for the ride to come. You'll be along the ridge line and the trail will continue with moderate climbs and descents. At the T intersection with Upper Falls Trail go right. Right is the most used direction for the loop.

Continue straight on Upper Falls Trail for 1.9 miles. You'll pass a few trails, keep going to Lower CCC Trail intersection.

Turn left on Lower CCC trail and continue 2 miles to Benn Knob Trail intersection.

Benn Knob Trail will continue straight ahead for 2.9 miles to crest of Benn Knob . Go around the gate, soon the trail will intersect with Raven Rock Trail.

Take sharp left turn onto Raven Rock Trail, Part of Raven Rock Trail is paved. Other paved roads will lead down mountain to your right however these are very steep and are a dead end. Stay on Raven Rock Trail. Continue 3.1 miles, after pavement stops you'll pass Saddleback Trail on your right. You'll come back to Upper Falls Trail on your left. Take a left onto Upper Falls and continue straight.

After 0.5 mile, you'll have a wet river crossing. Then pass through Upper Falls Campsites. Just past the campsites, the trail will split 45 meters ahead.

The High Shoals Waterfall will be to your right and bikers can park and walk down to the top of the falls. Continue left on Upper Falls for 1.2 miles. This is the hardest climb of the ride. As you are coming to the crest of this trail you can look to your left to see Benn Knob and the ridge line you just came across. Soon you'll come down a grade to the intersection with HQ (Headquarters Trail).

Turn right onto Headquarters Trail descending 2.4 miles back down to the Jacob Fork Parking Area. This descent will be steep for 1.2 miles.

History & Background

Benn Knob is one of the highest points in the park. There used to be a fire tower located here but was removed in the early 90s. High Shoals Falls - 80 foot waterfall. In the late 1800s, there was a corn mill and homestead located above the falls, nothing remains. For many years, the Falls was a nesting site for ravens. High visitor activity has led to the decline of nesting. The park and forestry roads were originally built by Civilian Conservation Corps but is now a N.C. State Park.


Shared By:

Freddie Carpenter with improvements by Mitch Tucker

Trail Ratings

  3.9 from 9 votes


  3.9 from 9 votes
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in North Carolina


109 Views Last Month
8,027 Since Nov 12, 2013



There are about 4-5 views like this on the ride. This is the first, and a welcome one, finally getting up the first couple miles of ascent.
Jul 12, 2015 near Salem, NC
Raven Rock Trail doesn't get a lot of use. Beautifully overgrown and secluded on this back side of the long ride. Lot of loamy sand though; careful for wash outs.
Jul 12, 2015 near Salem, NC
Jacobs Fork Crossing
Nov 3, 2013 near Salem, NC
Mile or so of blacktop with some pretty steep hills.
Jul 12, 2015 near Salem, NC
Benn Knob
Nov 3, 2013 near Salem, NC



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Feb 14, 2021
Michael Burrows
Ice storm at higher elevations.
Mar 29, 2019
Oct 31, 2018
Dick Hertz
Tough never ending climbs. Fun, fast descents. Just not enough of them to fully recover before climbing again. 18mi
Jul 11, 2015
Jason Robinson
Quite a bit of hike and bike on some of the 15+ degree ascents. — 2h 43m