I've been to South Mountains State Park many times. Most times I've hiked to the falls, which are really beautiful. There are lots of stairs involved in this hike and generally lots of people. Not so good for my two pups and my peace of mind.
This past spring, a friend and I wanted to do something different so we stopped at the Visitor Center and bought a topo map. We wanted a hike of about 5 miles, so the ranger told us the Possum Trail was very pretty and might suit our needs. We started at the parking lot, went past the first set of picnic tables and the bathrooms and took the trail up to the Shinny Creek Campsites. This section of the trail follows Shinny Creek, a nice tumbling little stream.
Once past the campsite, we started on Possum only to find that the creek crossing was a little too deep due to some recent rains. We turned back and using the map, decided to take the Headquarters Trail up to the Upper Falls Trail and go back down the Jacob Branch Trail. The Headquarters Trail was quite steep, but a good workout. Given the time of year, there were some really nice views. Once the leaves are on the trees, you wouldn't see quite so much.
The Upper Falls Trail follows the top of a ridge so we got some great views on both sides of the trail. The Jacob Branch Trail is very steep. Be careful descending as it's easy to slide on the leaf covered rocks and I got the bruises to prove it. This was a surprisingly beautiful hike so don't be afraid to try some of the less heavily travelled trails. There are many more things to see in South Mountains than the falls and all have their charms.
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