Kings Mountain Field Report
Driving to the site of today’s expedition, I saw a union flag flying in someone’s yard. “Must be a loyalist encampment”, I though as I made my way towards Kings Mountain with a newfound confidence in today’s choice of destination. As I got closer, I began seeing signs that I was on the Overmountain National Victory Trail. Not far now.
Two Parks in One
I’m combining the two connected parks, one State Park and one National Military Park, into this one field report. One park road runs through both, although you can tell when you enter the state park because the pavement isn’t as nice. Two hiking trails run through both parks. And they both have the same name, and the National Military Park looks like it was carved out of a corner of the state park, although it was here first.
Kings Mountain National Military Park
Today’s first stop was the National Military Park, the site of the 1870 Battle of Kings Mountain. When I arrived at 9 AM there weren’t many cars in the parking lot. This may have been due to the recent run on gas, and people not wanting to travel anywhere unnecessary. Most of the people I saw on the trail looked like they were using it for their daily exercise.
The visitor center was still closed due to COVID, so I can’t comment on the inside. But a ranger was on duty outside to answer any questions people had. Like most national park rangers, he was knowledgeable about the park, the battle, and the Overmountain Victory Trail.
The Battlefield Trail loop starts right behind the visitor’s center, and turning right will take you around the battlefield from start to finish. The trail is about 1.5 miles long and paved for the entire loop. There are steep areas on the trail, so although it’s paved, wheelchairs or walkers might not be a good idea on the trail. There are a lot of benches, so even people with somewhat limited mobility can enjoy the trail.
Along the way there are a number of information kiosks pointing out important points along the trail as well as a self guided walking tour you can access by calling a posted phone number. The path takes you from the point where the Patriot forces first began their assault on the mountain, to the point where the first shots were fires, to the spot where Patrick Ferguson fell and was burred insuring the Patriot victory. There are a number of monuments along the way including a 90 foot obelisk near the top of the mountain erected in 1909.
Final Thoughts of the Military Park
Everything in the park is well maintained and easily accessible. The path is paved without any signs of neglect. The grass is cut along the trail around the monuments, and the monuments are clean. The 1909 monument looks almost new not over a hundred years old. An old amphitheater is a short distance from the visitor’s center, I was told that it hasn’t been used in years, but it too is in great condition. The park road on the national park side is also well maintained.
Kings Mountain State Park
After leaving the national park, I drove down the park road and into the state park. As soon as I entered the state park, the pavement changed from a nice smooth surface to a much rougher ride. But that’s OK, we don’t go to state parks for the roads. Turns out, that was just a sign of things to come.
Living History Farm and Lake York
The first stop and the highlight of the state park was the replica of a 19th century farm. Information kiosks tell about farm life in the early 19th century around buildings like the blacksmiths shop, barn, cotton gin, weave shop, and farm homestead. Horses and a donkey were in the pasture grazing. The entire area around the farm is well done and well maintained. The parking lot is a little small, but a short trail leads to a larger parking area at the main part of the park.
A short distance down the road from the farm is Camp York and Lake York. The gate along the road to the camp was locked, so I headed to the boat launch area for Lake York. The launch is small with a few boats to rent, but you can’t even get a good look at the lake from the landing. And there are no trails along the shore to the lake. So giving up on Lake York, I made my way to the main section of the park.
Lake Crawford and the Trading Post
After passing through the main gate of the park, I followed signs to the parks trading post. I passed lake Crawford and a large parking area to my left and a playground on my right until I got to a parking lot just outside of the main RV camping area. Picnic shelters and bathrooms are available from this area.
The trading post at the campground doubles as the parks visitors center. I was looking for information on the Civilian Conservation Corps buildings in the park, and found out it’s just the bathhouse at the lake and Camp York which was closed when I visited.
I made my way back down to the large parking lot at the lake to have a look. The stairs leading down to the bathhouse are large with some magnificent stonework that typifies CCC work. But the bath house was in horrendous condition. Paint is pealing, windows broken, some boards missing. The condition of the building made the entire area around the lake look run down.
The lake is small with some picnic tables scattered around. It’s not used for swimming anymore and I didn’t see any areas where someone would want to get into the lake. The swimming platform is still in the middle of the lake but it looks as run down as the bathhouse.
The shining star of this part of the park is the area behind the dam. It has the potential to be one of the nicest spots I’ve seen to have a picnic. As the water flows over the dam, it splits in two before coming back together, creating a small island in the stream. A wooden footbridge stretches over the stream where you can get a great view of the dam and island.
Before leaving the park I took a quick look at the equestrian camping sites. Each spot has an individual corral for your horses and I saw a number of RV’s and horse trailers. The road to the campground is a single lane however, so on a busy weekend, it might be a pain to get in and out.
Final Thoughts on State Park
The park was not very busy at all. I don’t know if that’s due to it not being a popular park or if people were just staying home due to the gas pipeline being shut down. The conditions of the CCC structure and the area around Lake Crawford really soured my opinion of what otherwise might be a really nice park. If you want to spend a relaxing day around a park lake, this probably isn’t the park for you.
But again the Living History Farm is really great, and if you’re visiting the Battleground Park, it’s a great addition to your day.
The trail system consists of either really short trails (as in less than a mile) to long trails at 14,16, and 17 mile loops with nothing in between. By the time I got to the park, I had already spent time at the Military Park and the farm replica and really didn’t have time for a long hike. If you want to hike the trails here, arrive early or camp out. There are a number of primitive campsites around the trails.