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High Shoals Falls Loop Trail



2.3 mile 3.7 kilometer loop
79% Runnable


Ascent: 524' 160 m
Descent: -516' -157 m
High: 1,867' 569 m
Low: 1,343' 409 m


Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 33% (18°)


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A wonderful loop trail with magnificent falls and lots of geological interest.

Charles Pulse

Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Waterfall

The ruggedness around the High Shoal Falls can be deadly. It is advised that visitors stay on the designated path all the way to the top of the gorge.


While this loop, is short at only 2.3 miles round trip, it has several steep and tricky sections that make it a more moderate run. Starting from the Hemlock Nature Trail parking area, follow the Hemlock Nature Trail until it intersects the High Shoals Falls Loop. Follow the loop, and then head back to the trailhead via the H.Q. Trail.


From the Jacob's Fork parking lot, find the well-signed trailhead for the Hemlock Nature Trail. Take this trail for about a third of a mile. This trail runs beside the Jacob's Fork River through a variety of trees and flowers and has educational displays posted periodically along the trail. The Hemlock Nature Trail ends at the beginning of the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail.

The High Shoals Falls Trail continues on for another third of a mile alongside the river to a fork in the trail. This fork marks the beginning and the end of the trail's loop. To the right is the longest distance to the top of the gorge but the slope is not as steep as to the left. Park Rangers recommend the right fork direction for those backpacking to the many backcountry tent camps throughout the park.

To the left is a steeper trail. Its path is boulder-strewn and much of the trail is stair-stepped in order to allow passage through the rugged terrain. Views are excellent. First, there is Jacob's Fork River, then multiple smaller falls, followed by the main, 80 foot falls. A platform exists at that point to provide better viewing of this set of falls. From the platform, take the stairs upward to the top of the falls. From there the trail levels and looks down upon Jacob's Creek.

Eventually, the trail merges with the Upper Falls Trail. Veer off to the right on the combined trail. The combined trail travels upward for another quarter of a mile. The High Shoals Loop then splits to the right. The remainder of this trail travels downward through a hardwood/pine forest to the bottom of the gorge where the loop is completed.

As a bonus, the High Shoals Falls Trail has educational displays along the trail giving information about the various geological formations that make up the gorge.

Flora & Fauna

Pines.hemlocks, oaks, maples, beeches, rhododendrons, and mountain laurels. Several species of birds.

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Jul 16, 2017
Cassie Sheets

Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 18 votes


  4.1 from 18 votes
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37 Views Last Month
1,134 Since Mar 29, 2016



Looking towards the top of High Shoals Falls
Jul 30, 2018 near Salem, NC
Upper Fall on High Shoals Fallls Trail.
Mar 30, 2016 near Salem, NC
Falls at the top. Worth the climb.
Mar 24, 2019 near Salem, NC
High Shoals Falls, South Mountain State Park
Oct 12, 2018 near Salem, NC
High Shoals Falls
Feb 12, 2016 near Salem, NC
Several small falls along the hike to High Shoals Falls
Oct 12, 2018 near Salem, NC


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