It’s hard to believe 6,000 acres this diverse and scenic are only an hour from Winston-Salem and Greensboro. Hanging Rock State Park has a lake for fishing and swimming, a number of waterfalls, 18 miles of hiking trails, a cave, steep ridges and two miles of cliffs for climbing.
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The hiking and scenery alone make this one of those spots every outdoorsman should visit at least once. Encompassing the highest spots in the Sauratown Mountains, it’s home to more than 300 species of plants. Animals you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of include whitetail deer, gray fox, raccoon and even the Wehrle’s salamander, found only here in North Carolina.
The hikes vary in length and difficulty, making it a great destination for virtually everyone interested in the outdoors. The longer routes include Moore’s Wall Loop trail at 4.2 miles long that takes you around the lake, ultimately to Moore’s Knob. At an elevation of 2,572 feet above sea level it offers some spectacular views of the surrounding area and piedmont below-which averages only 800 feet in elevation. Hanging Rock Trail is 1.2 miles in length and Cook’s Wall Trail is 2.2 miles long. Indian Creek Trail winds 3.9 miles down to the Dan River.
If you want something truly spectacular, consider Tory’s Falls and Tory’s Den. Total length of the hike is 4.2 miles, one way, but once you’re get there you’ll be treated to a 240-foot waterfall. Don’t despair if you’re not up to an 8.4-mile round-trip, moderate-rated hike. Drive out of the park, turn left onto Moore’s Springs Road, left onto State Route 2011 and take the second Charlie Young Road you see. Once at the parking lot the falls are only about 1/2 mile away.
Other less strenuous hikes in the park, which still feature incredible scenery, include Lower Cascades Trail, a .3 mile hike that leads you to a gorge that overlooks a series of falls that cover 120 feet. The Upper Cascades Trail is only .2 miles in length. It has an observation deck above the falls and it is handicapped accessible. Window Falls and Hidden Falls Trail start at the parking lot and after a moderate hike of .6 mile that again, gives you a spectacular glimpse of even more scenic cascades. You can also take a leisurely stroll on the self-guided nature trail.
Camping is allowed at Cross Cascade Creek, which has 73 sites, each with a picnic table, grill and pad. Tents and trailers are welcome and one of the sites is handicapped accessible. There are no RV hookups or dump stations, though. Hot showers and laundry sinks are found at the wash house and potable water is nearby. If you’re not quite ready to rough it under the canvas or nylon, there are also 10 rustic, family-style cabins that have a living room, kitchen and a pair of bedrooms you can reserve.
If you enjoy fishing, the spring-fed lake, which covers 12 surface acres, is within walking distance of the campground. At the lake you’ll find a pier that’s wheelchair-accessible, although most anglers fish from the shore or rent one of the canoes or rowboats available during the summertime. If you need to cool off during those lazy and hot afternoons, swimming is also allowed in the lake.
Moore’s Wall and Cook’s Wall attract dozens of climbers every year and they feature a series of cliffs, with a few of them reaching heights of 400 feet. Routes are found along the ridges for nearly two miles, offering something challenging for novice and advanced climber, alike. Permits are required and are available at the State Park’s headquarters. Climbing is not allowed on Hanging Rock and some routes are closed periodically for biological concerns, such as peregrine falcon nesting. So check with the park’s headquarters before gearing up and make sure you get your permits.
The park has a history as rich as its scenery. The Saura Indians originally lived in the region, giving the Sauratown Mountains their name. A donation of 3,096 acres to the state of North Carolina in 1936 started the park and in 2000 its size was expanded to 6,921 acres. The dam that impounded the lake was built in 1938 and many of the facilities were originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps decades ago, including the bathhouse, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
To get to the park from the Winston-Salem, Greensboro area, take U.S. Route 52 north from Interstate 40. At exit 122 you’ll exit on RJR Moore Road, turn left and in slightly more than 15 miles follow the signs to the Hanging Rock State Park. For more information you can call (336) 593-8480.