Hanging Rock State Park is over 9,000 acres of preserved nature in North Carolina and one of the best state parks in North Carolina. It’s home to many types of terrain and wild wonders, from towering peaks to cascading waterfalls, to dense forest. It was created in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Set in one of the easternmost mountain ranges in the state, the Sauratown Mountains, Hanging Rock is a popular place to explore the stunning surroundings of the Southeast. Known for its many remote and rugged rock walls, its eponymous geological feature is an impressive quartzite craggy cliff that hangs out over a verdant valley below.
About Hanging Rock State Park
Its nickname is “the mountains away from the mountains”, and some peaks reach staggering heights of over 2,500 feet above sea level. Trek the trails, go for a refreshing swim in the sparkling lake, and take in scenic views that stretch out over vast landscapes as far as the eye can see. It’s home to an abundance of rare flora and fauna, as well.
Over 700 special plant species flourish here, such as rhododendrons, azaleas, and mountain laurel. It’s also a thriving ecosystem for uncommon animals, like Blacksburg salamanders and peregrine falcons.
There’s an array of outdoor adventures to be had here, including camping, paddling, biking, and climbing. Discover all the native wilderness of North Carolina has to offer with this guide to Hanging Rock State Park.
Where Is Hanging Rock State Park?
Hanging Rock State Park is centrally located for a scenic day trip from many major cities of the state. It’s nestled in Stokes County, North Carolina, exactly four miles from the quaint hamlet of Danbury. It’s only 30 miles north of the happening and historical towns of Winston-Salem and Greensboro, so about an hour’s drive.
It’s one of the closest natural recreation attractions in Western Carolina to the hustle and bustle of the heavily populated Triad, also known as the Raleigh-Durham area, at about two and a half hours away.
Hours and Admission
The hours of the park depend entirely on the season. For the colder months of November to February the land is accessible from 8 a.m. to76 p.m. It stays open later as it gets warmer so in March and October it’s until 9 p.m., and May through September until 10 p.m. The visitor center is open every day (besides Christmas) from 9:00am to 4:45pm.
Hanging Rock State Park is open every day besides Christmas . There are no entrance fees to enjoy the picturesque park. However, be aware that certain activities do require fees, permits, and registrations, such as climbing, fishing, swimming, camping, and boating.
The nature areas around Hanging Rock can be quite spread out, so it’s good to know ahead of time where exactly you want to park. The Visitor’s Center at 1005 Visitor’s Center Drive is the best place to go for the Hanging Rock Trail.
Also at the main entrance you’ll find Climbing Access at 1035 Climbing Access Drive and Mountain Biking Access at 2568 Moores Spring Road. The Lake Lot at 2847 Hanging Rock Road is a great jumping off point for Moore’s Wall, Cooke’s Wall, and their surrounding offshoots.
Lower Cascades at 2143 Hall Road offers super easy access to the falls of the same name. Dan River Access at 1258 Flinchum Road is perfect for any boat launching you may want to do on the river, and for the Indian Creek and River Bluff Trails.
Tory’s Den parking area at 1185 Charlie Young Road is close to Tory’s Den Trail. Remember to map out your plan ahead of time as the GPS signal isn’t always the strongest once you get close to the park. If the lots are full, do not park in an undesignated area, it’s better to simply return earlier another day.
Facilities at Hanging Rock
The Visitor’s Center offers an exhibit room, an auditorium, a park office, restrooms, a gift shop, and a classroom. At the lake, there is a boathouse that rents canoes and rowboats during the summer months. There are two expansive picnic areas available for use, with 60 tables in total and 15 grills each.
There’s drinking water and restrooms available at both. One is at the main entrance and the other at the lake. On the beach of the designated swimming area there’s a snack bar, lounge area, and bathhouse.
Picnic Spots at Hanging Rock State Park
There is plenty of lush nature and secluded shady spots to relax the day away with a packed picnic while exploring the park. This is especially stunning from any of the parks overlooking peaks. One of the designated picnic areas mentioned is located at the trailhead for Window Falls and Indian Creek, nestled amongst the spectacular hardwoods.
The other rests on a terraced hillside near the sparkling lake. Individual sites are available for reservation for a small fee, and they’re otherwise free on a first come first serve basis.
Camping Spots at Hanging Rock
Hanging Rock State Park has two loops around the lake with 73 camping sites for tents and trailers. There are also ten vacation cabins available for rent for more of a glamping experience. They can host up to six people each and include two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen.
There are basic furnishings and appliances, including heating and air conditioning, but no linens. No pets are allowed here and check the season for the minimum stay requirements as they can alter depending on demand.
Within the Family Campground there’s a picnic table, tent pad, and grill standard at every site. Water is available and there are bathrooms with hot showers, vaulted toilets, and laundry. These areas are pet friendly. It’s important to note that there are no RV hookups, some sites are better at accommodating large trailers than others so reserve carefully.
Those with RVs may be better off at the nearby Greensboro KOA. Any of the sites can be reserved ahead of time, which we do recommend, and otherwise they operate on a first come first serve basis.
For an alternative, there are five primitive group campsites near the park entrance. They can accommodate up to 16 people each, and come with only a large fire circle, drinking water, and toilets.
Best Hiking Trails at Hanging Rock State Park
There are over 20 miles of scenic trails to traverse in Hanging Rock State Park. Each of the 13 paths provides its own unique allure for exploring the local landscape of North Carolina, including flowing waterfalls, verdant forests, craggy peaks, and dazzling vistas of rolling hillsides and surrounding mountaintops.
Remember the Leave No Trace policy and keep the park as pristine as you found it. The main excursions are as follows.
Cook’s Wall Trail
A 2.2-miles each way. It offers plenty of stunning views from its summit, see if you can spot the impressive Pilot Mountain from the top. It’s a moderate level of difficulty, and as such, can be less crowded than some others for more of a peaceful experience. You will pass the iconic House Rock along the way.
Hanging Rock Trail
Hanging Rock Trail is one of the most popular picks, as the namesake of the area. It’s 2.6-miles round trip and leads you straight to the top of the famous outcrop for plenty of Instaworthy photo ops. It’s a moderate hike, and while the trail starts off slow enough, it turns quite steep toward the end as it quickly gains elevation. There are wooden stairs to finish the journey, and the payoff is well worth the effort.
Indian Creek Trail
One of the longer scenic sojourns around. It’s 7.2-miles in total and starts off from the Visitor’s Center or Dan River Access point. Most of the trek is shaded and runs alongside the tranquil creek. You’ll encounter two of the majestic waterfalls early on this route, Hidden Falls and Window Falls. It’s a strenuous adventure so be sure to come prepared.
A simple and striking one-mile loop that goes around the breathtaking lake. Great for a leisurely stroll, there are plenty of benches and even a pier to stop and soak up the beauty as you go.
Riverbluffs Trail is easy and a mostly flat 1.3-mile loop. It begins at Dan River Access lot and meanders past matrimony point and play waves rock formations before passing through an old homesite. Enjoy interesting scenes like a vibrant tulip poplar forest taking over old tobacco rows.
Lower Cascades Trail
Right outside the main park entrance and is just under a mile round trip. The moderate hike takes you down into the valley to the base of the rushing cascades which fall 35 feet into a cool clear pool. Hike with caution here and always stay on the designated path.
Upper Cascades Trail
Leads to another small viewing area for a section of the famous falls. It’s only 0.4-miles out and back down a gentle slope and then a set of stairs.
Moore’s Wall Loop Trail
This is 4.7-miles and starts off from the lake. It’s one of the more strenuous treks in the park due to length and elevation change. It’s the highest point around at 2,579 feet and offers an observation tower with uninterrupted and unparalleled views. On a clear day you can even see Mount Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain in the distance. You will pass Balanced Rock, the endless staircase, and a small creek on your trek.
Tory’s Den Trail
A 4.8 miles round trip from Moore’s Wall Trail or Tory’s Den parking lot. The highest waterfall in the park, it has a drop of 240 feet plummeting powerfully over a series of rocky terraces. There’s also a natural cave that’s 20 feet deep and home to a rich local history. If you wish to extend your hike you can take the Ruben Mountain Trail from here for another 5.5-mile loop, which winds around the bluff through boulder fields for a beautiful vista of Brown Mountain.
The Five Peaks Challenge
The Five Peaks Challenge is not for the faint of heart. It’s a 10-mile loop that traverses Moore’s Knob, Hanging Rock, Cook’s Wall, Wolf Rock, and House Rock all in one wild ride. It’s sure to leave you breathless in more ways than one.
Other Things to Do at Hanging Rock
Climbing is permitted at both Cook’s Wall and Moore’s Wall, but not at the namesake summit. However, a free permit is required from the park office beforehand. There are routes here for all skill levels, and at an elevation of over 400 feet, it’s quite the thrill. It’s a bring your own gear affair.
There are nine established mountain biking trails in the park. They all leave from 2568 Moore’s Spring Road. They are mainly at an intermediate level of difficulty, aside from one advanced path called Rattler Trail. The lengths range from a 0.9-mile loop at Black Racer Trail to the six- mile round trip Ring-Necked Trail.
Swimming is a popular pastime in the summer season. While it’s not recommended at any of the falls, the 12 acre lake created by Cascade Creek allows visitors to frolic in its calm waters from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The fee for this cool activity is $6 per day. The soft and sandy swim beach is only open on certain days during the week so be sure to check the schedule.
Private boats are not permitted in Hanging Rock State Park. Rowboats and canoes are available to rent by the lake during the warmer months from 10 a.m to 4:30 p.m. The rental fees are $7 per hour and the vessels can fit two or three people each. At the northern end of the park there is access to kayaking, canoeing, and tubing along the Dan River.
Fishing is allowed either from the shores of the lake, the end of the pier, or out in the middle of the waters. You must be over 16 years old and possess a valid North Carolina fishing license to act as an angler here. Bass, sunfish, bream, and catfish are all plentiful.
The rangers of the park often hold educational and interpretive programs on the fascinating ecology of the area. They’re easy to arrange for a private group with the park office, as well. If you’re an educator, there are even free booklets and workshops available. The Visitor’s Center provides hands-on exhibits exploring the natural and cultural history of Hanging Rock.