This past Sunday my wife and I took the drive up to Hanging Rock State Park, about 2.25 hours from Raleigh. We arrived mid-morning and after checking out the Visitor’s Center, we hiked three of the waterfalls. These were short hikes from the main parking lot that offered some great views and allowed us to get in the mood to scramble around the mountain.
After the waterfalls there were a few things we needed for the night, so we headed out to find a grocery store. If you are planning a trip to Hanging Rock, just know that it is in a rural location and you will have to do some driving to reach the closest grocery store. Also choices for restaurants and bars very limited for post adventure brews.
After returning to Hanging Rock we still were too early to check into our campsite so we decided to hike the famous Hanging Rock. This being the paramount attraction to the park it sees the most traffic going up and down.
The climb is a 1.3-mile slog up the mountain covering about 1,500-feet of climbing. The second half got more technical as you climbed. Around this point, we encountered a woman who had become over-heated while climbing. She was lying on the side of the trail, the couple in front of us gave her a bottle of water and we gave a Clif Bar. She had declined any further help.
The top of the mountain was crowded as people vied for a great place to sit and take in the view. We sat for a while, with our back to the wind, looking East. The better view is to the West with the Blue Ridge Mountains on the horizon. Finally, after more and more people arrived at the top, we decided to head back down.
We made our way back down the trail only to divert onto a side trail that led to Wolf Rock. Once we were headed to wolf rock we had the trail mostly to ourselves. We got to again see the view to the East as we made a loop towards the lake. After a look at the lake we returned to our truck and checked into our campsite
We had a decent campsite location wise. The camp host actually lauded my choice, as the site was one of her favorites. What she could not predict was that the campsites next to us had toddlers who repeatedly woke up during the night and started screaming at the tops of their lungs. It was a rough night with little sleep for us.
The next day I got up and forced myself to out for a run. Starting around 8 am, when the park opened, I found myself racing the first hikers of the day to the top of hanging rock. I made it to the top and got to spend a few minutes in solitude enjoying the brisk morning air and views. Next, I was off to revisit Wolf Rock. I had built a decent loop in my head that I figured to be between a 6 and 8-mile run. From Wolf Rock, I continued south along a ridgeline to House Rock and finally Cook’s Wall.
After reaching Cook’s Wall I made my way down the mountain past Magnolia Springs and towards the lake. A quick climb later I was back at the campsite to dry off and change for a hike with the wife.
To close out our trip we decided to hike Moore’s Knob which is opposite of Hanging Rock. Being that it was Monday we had the trail to ourselves as we climbed the eternal, stone staircase that leads up to Balanced Rock and Moore’s Knob Lookout Tower. While the view from the Tower allows a 360-degree view from the mountaintop, you are only treated to a Western view from Moore’s Wall. We enjoyed the view for a bit before another set of hikers arrived and we headed out to complete the loop. While stairs were absent it was a steep, technical descent.
It’s been a long time since I have camped in a State Park. I would say outside of the screaming toddlers, the facilities were excellent and we look forward to exploring more of North Carolina’s state parks.
Do you have a favorite state park in North Carolina? Where should we explore next? Please leave comments and questions below.