A very popular and worthwhile hike on Pine Mountain is to Chained Rock. This is an actual chain which many years ago, as a publicity stunt, was attached to a gigantic boulder to keep it from falling onto the town of Pineville, over which the the rock hangs.
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
On the grounds of the park, they have a very small 9-hole mini golf course. To play, it costs $3 and you rent a club and ball from the front desk at the lodge. This is not going to be an adventure golf sort of place. It's simply designed, using the green astro-turf. It looks like it has seen many, many better days though.
I can't imagine you'd ever run into a crowd here - only people staying at the lodge would likely be playing. It took all of 15 minutes to play the course, so we ended up playing it a second time before turning the clubs in. A quick time-killer for sure. Is it worth $3? Close, I guess. The kids enjoyed it, but anybody older would likely be pretty disappointed.
Honeymoon Falls Trail
The first trail we decided to tackle was Honeymoon falls. As we left the lodge past the little amphitheater, we saw a sign pointing the way. We slogged up the hill for 10 minutes, cursing the narrow path and the uphill climb, only to pop out onto a road and realize we hadn't even started the actual trail! We had a date with crafts, so after that, we started again, this time just walking up the road to the trailhead. This time, we were on the real path, and even though we still had to deal with a modest change in elevation or two and the same overgrown path, after about 1/3 of a mile, we hit the falls. Since this was mid-summer, the falls are likely not in peak strength, but they hadn't dried completely. Continuing along the path, the total loop is about 1 1/4 miles, and is one of the more difficult hikes in the park. Because this is a state park, the trails are not in the best shape - they are much more narrow and rocky than you might expect. Still, the solitude is incredible. Bring some bug spray, but you probably won't need the sunscreen.
Laurel Cove Amphitheater
If you enter the park from the north entrance on 25 (the Laurel Cove entrance), you end up coming up to the Lodge from the back. Along the way, there are a number of other sites and trails that are of interest.
The first stop is for the Laurel Cove Amphitheater. Obviously, this boasts a larger parking lot, as it is used for concerts, plays and weddings. There is a picnic facility right as you enter, as well as a few trailheads to trails through the park. There are actual seats for a number of rows, followed by natural looking benches.
Even if you don't have a function to attend, this is worth a stop - the set-up is quite a sight to behold, especially the "stage" area behind a pretty pond. If you're inclined, the Azalea trail passes through here, which is a half mile loop. We were tired from other hikes we had already taken, so unfortunately I can't comment on the trail itself.
This is the shortest trail in the park, but there is some significant elevation changes. Parking is available in the Upper Shelter Picnic area, the trailhead is across the street. You descend down a short trail and end up near a large rock overhang (Longhunter Cave), and can view a Civilian Conservation Corps bridge that you just drove over. The path goes under the bridge, then you need to hoof it back up to the parking lot. This is a very quick little path - it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes or so to do. Worth that small time investment.
Chained Rock and Lookout Point
In the far northeastern section of the park, there is a small parking lot that marks the trailhead for Chained Rock, probably the most famous destination in the park. From the parking lot, you need to follow a trail about a half mile out. The trail itself has some decent elevation changes to it. At the end, you need a light scramble across a rock face to land at your destination - chained rock. The placard tells you of the history - the rock was chained to the mountain so that it wouldn't roll down the hill and crush the town of Pineville. The story is neat, and the views of the valley are nice here as well.
After you make the 1/2 mile (15 minute) trek back, take a very short detour to Lookout Point - which again provides some nice panoramic views of the valley and town of Pineville below.
Living Stairway Memorial Trail
From the Trailhead near the lodge, this trail is a half mile loop trail that cuts through the forest. Like most of the other trails in the park, the trail itself is narrow, and has plenty of modest elevation changes. The highlight of this trail is the former living stairway - a huge tree in a ravine that had fallen down and had a stairway carved into it by the park employees. At the time, the roots still were connected, so despite the stairway, it still would spring leaves and was thus living. In it's place today (it passed on about 10 years ago) is a tall metal stairway you can use instead.
Note again this is a loop trail, and it hooks up with the Fern Garden and Lost trails. Where it connects with the Lost trail, it can be hard to follow the trail a little - keep your eyes peeled for markers along the stone pathway.
Hemlock Garden Trail
This half mile loop trail starts at a stairway just behind the north end of the lodge. It is one of the easier paths to follow - in that its a little flatter, but it is also in my opinion one of the worst marked. There were at least three times where we said "I think it's this way..." Luckily, we did find the right way to go each time. Lots of cool forest around to look at. Perhaps the highlight of this one is the path cuts through "tall-man's misery" type of rock formation. There is a sign for an alternate way around if you so desire, but we all made it though. And eventually found our way back to the lodge. Note there is an optional spur trail to "meditation point", however with some of the difficulties we had following this trail, we opted out of that.
The trailhead for the Lost trail is close to the Lodge. At the start, it was a fine walk, until we passed a couple of large rock overhangs. While not 100% sure, we think there were bears sleeping in there. Rather than finding out for sure, we pressed on. Eventually, the trail comes out to some exposed rocky areas where you climb up to hook up with the Living Stairway Memorial. Unfortunately, right in the middle of the trail was a rock with a den of snakes hanging around it. We were able to get around this by climbing a little off trail, then scampered back to the lodge. Overall, it was only a half mile long, but too much wildlife to make it enjoyable...
Cedar Creek Hollow Trail
The last trail we took - it's at the south end of the park area, near the Bible school. The parking lot is on the east side - and if you take the trail east, it's a nice, flat quiet half mile along a creek. You're not really up against the water, but you can hear it behind the trees. It dead ends into a private property area - this is an excellent place to run if you are looking for somewhere not too steep. There are a few old railroad trestles you cross. If you cut back across the road to the west, the trail continues through the school and back towards the woods. This is by far the easiest trail in the park - no elevation changes...just a peaceful walk.