Monday, October 26, 2015

Waterfalls of Hanging Rock State Park

You can see them from the distance--solitary peaks rising from the the valley north of Winston-Salem. Quartzite remnants of old Sauratown. Monadnocks, or lonely mountains.

The dome of Pilot Mountain (foreground), with Hanging Rock and Moore Knob in the background

Two such mountains in the old Saura Range are Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock, both of which are now state parks. We were familiar with Pilot Mountain through a previous visit. But we knew little about Hanging Rock. Only that it had a waterfall.

We were wrong. It has five.

Since we were unfamiliar with the park, we stopped at the visitor's center, a building which fit perfectly into the mountain landscape.

Hanging Rock Visitor's Center
A ranger there provided me with a map and directions. The trailheads for three of the falls are conveniently located off the parking lot.

Upper Cascade Falls is an easy .3 mile stroll over a wide path to a boardwalk that leads to the falls.



Visitors can view the falls from the walkway or pick their way down stone steps to the base. If you choose the latter, please be careful. The steps are wide but steep and uneven. Even this adventurer wasn't willing to risk a fall that might have caused me to miss out on this.


We had the place to ourselves on this visit, and after basking in the scenery, we headed to the opposite side of the parking lot to the Indian Creek Trail and our next two stops.

The Indian Creek Trail itself is a 3.6 mile hike, but according to the ranger with whom I spoke, the round-trip hike to Hidden and Window Falls was approximately 1.2 miles. Indeed, Hidden Falls as listed as an easy .4 mile hike on the map, and Window Falls is listed as a .6 mile moderate hike.

We quickly learned moderate at Hanging Rock generally means climbing a lot of steps. But it was worth it.

Hidden Falls, Hanging Rock State Park


Next, we backtracked through the park's main gate to visit Lower Cascade, located off Hall Road. The ranger's claim that it was the prettiest in the park was no understatement. But it is called Lower Cascade for a reason, and we walked down several sections of wood and then stone steps. Though it was a workout to reach the cove, our persistence was rewarded with a breathtaking view of a foamy white cascade falling into a shallow pool of water beside a massive rock face. Photos do the scene better justice than the video I took. Click on the image to see a larger version.


Once again, we had the place to ourselves. We stayed for a while and then headed to our final stop--Tory's Den and Falls.

If you're hiking with children, I wouldn't recommend this waterfall. Not only is it difficult to see given the angle along the cliff behind trees, the trail ends at an bumpy boulder that slopes down to a drop off. This is the great outdoors, so there is no railing to break a visitor's fall. The path is narrow as well, so there isn't much room. 

This is still a great stop though, as the opposite side of the trail leads to Tory's Den, a cave of historical significance. As Samwise, Pippin, and Merry learned in Fellowship of the Ring, if one is hiding from someone, one ought not light a campfire. As the story goes, in 1778, a band of Tories learned this lesson after they raided the house of a Whig colonel. They escaped, but a campfire gave away their position. Today, you can walk in the cave, which is more like an alcove. Lighting conditions were difficult given the bright sun shining outside the cave and the darkness inside, but I managed to take one rather bright photo that caught it all.

Tory's Den
In addition to hiking trails and waterfalls, Hanging Rock State Park offer bridal and mountain-bike trails, rock climbing, fishing, rowboat and canoe rentals, and vacation cabins and camping, seasons and weather permitting. I'm told the place stays fulls, so book early.

For more information, including fees, go to http://www.ncparks.gov/hanging-rock-state-park

For more about our camping trip at Pilot Mountain, click here and pop on over to my personal blog.

4 comments:

Ane Mulligan said...

Such beautiful places! I'm going to have to plan a trip. Thank you for sharing these!

Kimberli Buffaloe said...

Well come on over! You'll love it :)

Dana Koogler said...

Very nice trip and blog entry describing it. I still need to get Kenny back there. He has never been. Moore's Knob Tower is on my CMC Lookout Tower Challenge which motivates me to move it up the short list. I also found out there is another off the beaten track waterfall located within the boundaries of the state park! Don't know if there is any way to visit it.

Kimberli Buffaloe said...

Thanks, Dana! There is so much to explore in that park and at Pilot Mountain. It's a great trip. If you find that waterfall, let me know!

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