South Mountain State Park Campground Review

A small family campground on the Jacob Fork River in Burke County, North Carolina.

Mike Rhodes | September 1, 2022

South Mountain State Park in Connelly Springs, North Carolina offers back country, equestrian and family camping. I don’t have a horse and I’m not yet in the physical shape needed to backpack camp, so I hit the family campground. The family campground sits along the Jacob Fork River in Burke County about 25 miles south of Morganton, N.C. It’s a pretty small campground with 18 sites. Like any campground, some sites are better than others, but nearly all of them worth the time to visit if you can get a reservation.

A few of my favorite things about the park itself include no cell service, a solid network of hiking trails, a beautiful waterfall, and of course the Jacob Fork River. The river is popular with trout anglers providing plenty of casting pools. Its banks are covered with rhododendron that hang over the river’s edges. It reminds me of many trout streams in north Georgia with plenty of access points yet plenty of room so nobody feels crowded as they cast their lines. There is a short trail that runs along the river leading up to the waterfall and backcountry campsite areas. This is easily accessed at the end of the parking lot in the family campground.

All but two of the campsites here are standard non-electric. The two with electricity are pull-throughs of about 50 feet in length. The others are large enough for two medium-sized tents, and you can pull your vehicle right up to the sites. They are an easy walk to the bath house where you will find flush toilets and hot showers. I don’t know how recently these facilities were redone, but they are clean and well maintained. Each site has the standard amenities of a fire ring, picnic table and lantern post. The camp hosts visit after a group leaves to be sure when the next group arrives the campsite is clean and welcoming.

After stopping at the visitor’s center to check in, it is only a few miles to the campground. You’ll pass the equestrian campground as well as several trail heads and trail crossings as you wind your way to the family campground. The campground entrance is on the left side of the road.

Once you are settled you have plenty of options to stay busy. There are more than 40 miles of trails for biking, hiking or horseback riding. If you only do one thing outside the campground, make it the hike up to High Shoals Falls. It’s an 80-foot waterfall with several viewing points ideal for pictures. It’s a doozy of a hike with lots of stairs, but without question it is worth it. I’ll tell you about that hike in an upcoming blog. The loop from the campground is just over 4 miles there and back. You’ll pass some of the 24 backcountry camping areas along the way. When you get back to the tent, stroll over the river and soak your feet in that cool mountain water. Your feet will thank you.

It’s always great to get outside and enjoy some time sleeping under the stars. The family campground at South Mountain State Park is the perfect place to do just that. It’s a small campground and weekends book early so plan far ahead if you can’t get there during the week. We raised our boys by taking family camping trips at least three times each year. The memories we have made will be remembered forever. I encourage you to make the time to get our there and experience it yourself.

When you are ready to plan your trip you can make reservations through Reserve America. Here is the campground map, so you can get a better feel for which campsite is best for you and your family.


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