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South Mountains Game Land

South Mountains is a large block of unfragmented forest.

Open to the Public


Things To Do

Hunting / Hiking / Fishing View All

Plan Your Visit

Please check hunting schedules before visiting.  You can also visit South Mountains State Park, located adjacent to the game lands, where there is hiking, horse trails, and camping available. View All

Get Directions

Burke, Cleveland, McDowell, and Rutherford Counties






Benn Knob, Dysartsville

Topographical maps are available by contacting:
NC Geographical Survey.
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1612.
(919) 715-9718


N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
1701 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1701
(919) 733-7291


A partnership of public and private conservation groups, including The Nature Conservancy, the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, worked for four years to acquire the Rollins Tract and establish the South Mountains Game Land. In 1998, The Nature Conservancy purchased the tract for $13.4 million from the McDonald Investment Corporation and transferred the property to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. The Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, a regional land trust, played a decisive role in this victory for landscape-level conservation.


The rugged South Mountain range is a reminder of the wilderness that once characterized North Carolina’s Piedmont. The mountains rise abruptly over the landscape near Morganton, reaching elevations of almost 3,000 feet. This large block of unfragmented forest covers parts of Burke, Cleveland, McDowell, and Rutherford counties. The South Mountains Game Land, formerly known as the Rollins Tract, comprises 17,829 acres that span more than 14 miles along the spine of the mountain range and border the 12,725-acre South Mountains State Park.

The N.C. Natural Heritage Program considers the South Mountains to have national biological significance. The land harbors many rare natural communities, including rocky summits, rich cove forests, and old-growth forests. The property is home to wildlife species such as black bear, bobcat, mink, brook trout, and migratory songbirds. Botanist Bill Moye conducted the only extensive botanical survey of the tract and documented the area’s rich flora. Twenty-two rare plant species thrive in the South Mountains, including one of North America’s rarest orchids, the small whorled pogonia.

The Rollins Tract contains the headwaters of the First Broad River, which supply the city of Shelby and upper Cleveland County water systems.

Hunting / Hiking / Fishing are available.  *Please check hunting schedules*

You can also visit South Mountains State Park, located adjacent to the game lands, where there is hiking, horse trails, and camping available.  Please check hunting schedules before visiting.


The South Mountains Game Land is open to the public for outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, and hunting. You can contact the Wildlife Commission in Raleigh for information on access to the game land.

You can also visit South Mountains State Park, adjacent to the game land. The park offers hiking trails, bridle trails, and camping. The park is located 18 miles south of Morganton; leave I-40 at exit 105 and take NC 18 south about 10 miles. Turn right on Sugar Loaf Road (SR 1913), go four miles, turn left and take SR 1924 for two miles. Turn right on SR 1901 and drive 1.5 miles, then turn right onto SR 1904 and drive 3.6 miles to the park entrance.


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