Stone Mountain’s Secret Twin

I was driving home last week talking (hands free, mind you) to a friend over in Charleston who informed me that he was considering a getaway to Stone Mountain… in North Carolina. To a native Atlantan like me that last sentence didn’t make any sense because we all know that Stone Mountain is clearly in Georgia – I mean, it’s essentially a part of Atlanta, only 16 miles to the east of downtown.

Rising nearly 800 feet above the surrounding countryside, this dome of exposed granite stands out from the sea of surrounding trees and the quaint town of Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Stone Mountain has long been on the list of places where Atlanta families planned summer day trips. Once you’ve been to Stone Mountain Park and made the breathless walk/climb to the top you know that there is nothing else like it in the world.

Except that there is, and it’s apparently just a five and a half hour drive away.

Meet Stone Mountain, North Carolina.

Stone Mountain North Carolina - from NC state website

This should look pretty familiar to Georgia residents.

Stone Mountain (NC) is the centerpiece of Stone Mountain State Park, and is also a massive dome of exposed granite rising about 600 feet above the surrounding terrain.

Once you spend a good chunk of time comparing the Wikipedia pages of Stone Mountain (GA) and Stone Mountain (NC) you may realize how remarkably uninformed we are about the geology of our own planet. You could say that we really take this place for granite… get it??

Anyway, just take a look at these things side by side…

Comparison of granite domes

Georgia’s Stone Mountain is larger and is not engaged in a series of ridges like its cousin in North Carolina. The Georgia version is bordered by an actual city (named Stone Mountain, Georgia) and is part of a well developed park featuring a wide variety of attractions (

Aerial of Georgia's Stone Mountain

The North Carolina version is a more traditional state park, with limited hours and access (

Aerial of North Carolina's Stone Mountain

Each of these Stone Mountains are examples of a geologic feature known as a “plutonic monadnock”, which is just a fancy way of saying a really really big rock that was formed underground by crystalizing lava, which then solidified into a single mass (a “pluton“) and was eventually exposed to the atmosphere after the land (or mountain) above it eroded away, leaving it as the only giant rock in the surrounding landscape (a “monadnock”).

Monadnock is word from the Abenaki First Nation people, meaning a lone hill that stands above the surrounding area. These features are also referred to as an “inselberg” by geologists –  rabbit hole of geology unto itself, which you are welcome to dive down anytime you like.

Suffice to say that there are more of these geological remnants of ancient reservoirs of magma scattered around the planet, some of which are millions of years away from seeing the light of day.

One of the neatest things I ran across while trying to understand our Stone Mountain’s doppelgänger was a PDF of a book that was published by the State of Georgia in 1980, written by Robert L. Atkins and Lisa G. Joyce, of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The book is currently hosted on the Environmental Protection Division area on the State of Georgia’s principal website.

Cover art for "Geologic Guide to Stone Mountain Park"

I have made a mirror copy of that PDF available here for you to download and peruse on your own (Download PDF: GG4-stone-mountain-facts) – thank to all who originally made this book available!

Hope this helps widen your eyes about the world we all take for granted. Have you been to both parks? How do they compare? Got a line on other monadnocks in the southeast worth seeing?

One Comment on “Stone Mountain’s Secret Twin”

  1. Thank you very much. This is awesome !
    I will share this with all my friends !!
    I like hiking the Ga. version. It’s too bad they don’t allow dogs, but I know why. Sparky chases a bird, then falls off….tragedy.
    I remember back in the mid 70’s there was a VERY prominent Atlanta Realtor named Skipper Morrison. She fell off.
    On purpose.
    She left a note next to a bottle of liquor at the top.
    Also, the Native Americans consider it sacred…. Hwy 78 runs along an old Indian trail. Stone Muntain used to be a “Pilgrimage Site” for the pre-Columbus Native Americans . Story goes that they would leave a crystal rock at the top. I forget the name they used, but it meant “Crystal Mountain” or something like that, and the story goes that if the sun hit it right, the crystals sparkled and shone, and was visible for many miles around….
    Even today, there are some Pagan groups, like Wiccans, etc, that worship nature at it.
    It is a very special place for me….whatever it’s history. The Yearly pass is less than 30 bucks, and whenever I have a lot of problems and feel overwhelmed by life….a hike up to the top, and the incredible view puts everything back into perspective. Big problems seem so small in comparison. Thanks God !
    But it does seem like a crime that it has been defaced by State sponsored vandalism. I have respect for the rights of Civil war enthusiasts, but to diminish a whole mountain by carving people into it, just seems obscene.
    I wish we could take the pieces of rubble at the bottom of the carving and glue them back into place somehow. Same with Mount Rushmore. How dare we deface something millions or even billions of years in the making in that way. It’s ugly, egotistical, and narcissistic…and should be fixed, if possible.
    In my opinion.

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