Monday, October 1, 2018

Cedar Rock Mountain of DuPont

I see them on my Instagram feed constantly – the gorgeous shots taken from atop the world in spots like Max Patch, Clingmans Dome, Graveyard Fields, Sam’s Knob. What many of these places have in common is that they are mountain summits/crests covered primarily by thick vegetation of native grasses or shrubs (instead of forest growth), providing the Insta-worthy views. Known as balds, these scenic peaks occur at high elevations in the Appalachian Mountains in places where the climate is too warm to support an alpine zone (where trees can’t grow due to short or non-existent growing seasons), but instead are a result of heavy drainage or highly acidic soils, which complicate the growth of trees.

However, the balds of the Nantahalas, Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains are more than a couple hours’ drive from Greenville, and so are out of range for a casual day trip. Not so for another type of ‘bald’ that is more common in South Carolina – the granite outcrop. One of the most familiar is Bald Rock Heritage Preserve, a complex of granite outcrops with a view of the Upstate including Paris Mountain and Greenville. Another spot is Glassy Mountain in Pickens, with multiple exposed-rock areas along the 1.5 mile trail.

The “flat-rock granite outcrops” are composed of unbroken granite and granite-gneisses, and are implaced within Precambrian metamorphic rocks which are scattered on the eastern side of the Appalachian Mountains. These formations have been exposed due to the combination of uplift and erosion, and provide unobstructed, scenic views due to lack of trees – trees don’t grow on rock. Just over an hour from Greenville in the DuPont State Forest is an area with some of the most exposed granite in the region – Cedar Rock Mountain. Rising only 200′ feet above the surrounding plateau, hundreds of acres alternate between bare and moss/lichen covered rock.

The moderate, 2-mile round-trip hike to the summit of Cedar Rock Mountain on Big Rock trail rewards visitors with far-ranging views west, as well as a look at some of the interesting plant communities that call the granite outcrop home. A reminder to visitors to please stay off moss; the lichens, moss and other plants that eke out their existence on the bare rock are ultra-sensitive to human traffic.

To reach Cedar Rock Mountain, park at the Corn Mill Shoals Access Area of DuPont Forest and proceed on Corm Mill Shoals Trail on the east side of the road. Keep going past Longside Trail, and then take a left on Big Rock Trail. The trail heads steadily upward, crossing a small granite clearing and then emerging onto a large granite dome that looks over the Pisgahs. The view here is fantastic, but keep going up to the summit and through a forested segment to reach another granite area that is used as a helispot by the Forest Service. The coloring of the granite is fascinating, with Here is the intersection with Cedar Rock Trail, which forms a loop when combined with a section of Little River Trail (altogether about 4 miles from Corm Mill Shoals Access).

Peak fall color for DuPont and area is forecast to be mid-October until late October by Appalachian State University and the Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Prediction Map. While the foliage will not be as brightly hued as further north on the Blue Ridge Parkway (due to the high percentage of softwoods interspersed with the hardwoods), the views of the Pisgah Mountains are dramatic nonetheless, making this a perfect fall hike within easy driving distance of the Upstate.

For my post on DuPont’s waterfalls, please see my post here. A map of DuPont State Recreational Forest can be found here for download, although for extensive hiking/biking/riding I would suggest picking up one of the waterproof/tear-proof topo maps from the DuPont Visitor Centers or

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