Hanging Rock State Park – 11/10/12 – 7.5 Miles
A week home from Haiti, I was feeling antsy to get out on a trail and planned a hike at Pilot Mountain State Park. Jim asked to join me, a bit of a surprise since Saturday mornings are his prime cycling time, but I guess he missed me, eh? A little glitch…on Thursday the state park folks tried a little prescribed burn in Pilot Mountain SP and it got out of control, so the park was closed down while the fire people did their work. So what’s the next best thing? Hanging Rock State Park.
I’ve hiked through part of Hanging Rock SP previously – it’s one of the pearls of NC that the string of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail passes through – but I’d never climbed its signature point, Hanging Rock. Jim and I chose the route in Danny Bernstein’s book, “Hiking North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Heritage,” that includes Hanging Rock, Wolf Rock, House Rock and Cook’s Wall, all massive rock outcroppings from which to gaze out at the North Carolina Piedmont. Hanging Rock SP is part of the Sauratown Mountains.
I could take up space paraphrasing about the history of the park but their website is the best source for information: “Many facilities in the park were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) between 1935 and 1942. A concrete and earthen dam completed in 1938 impounded a 12-acre lake, and a stone bathhouse, diving tower and sandy beach also were built. Other facilities constructed by the CCC include a park road and parking area, a picnic area and shelter, and hiking trails. In 1991, the bathhouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places.” Admission is free (like most of NC’s state parks) and it is one of only two state parks that has cabins for rent (the other is Morrow Mountain SP).
From the impressive visitor center Jim and I followed Hanging Rock Trail, very wide and heavily used. I was a staunch critic of the stone work given my (scant hours of) experience on the Smokies Trails Forever crew a month ago.
A glimpse of Hanging Rock through the trees. Why is it so hazy and why is my throat so dry?
And thar she blows. How will we get up there? The trail winds around to the back side, of course.
Looking at Moore’s Knob, another awesome viewpoint in the park – and the smoky haze is due to the fire over at Pilot Mountain SP, still not contained.
Our perch on Hanging Rock. This is an easy to moderate hike, less than 1.5 miles from the parking lot to the summit. A thrilling spot for minimal effort. Lots of other visitors today so it was easy to get a dramatic photo.
We backtracked down Hanging Rock Trail and turned left onto Wolf Rock Loop Trail. From here it’s an easy stroll through pines and some hardwoods to Wolf Rock. Along the way we investigated a couple of side paths to smaller rock outcroppings.
More haze from Wolf Rock
Great signage every- where, but always carry your park map too. Now we headed toward Cook’s Wall, checking out House Rock along the way.
Looking at Hanging Rock from House Rock. I was surprised that there were only two other people at this expansive rock outcropping on this lovely Saturday, but then again, it does take a little more effort to get there (on the way to Cook’s Wall). It is not part of a loop and the trail dead ends at Cook’s Wall. You have to want to go here. Have you noticed that most people don’t venture very far from the parking lot?
Next stop, Cook’s Wall, an incredible rock face to stand on. There was a college age fellow parked there with his lawn chair and his lunch and he talked incessantly to everyone that walked up. Apparently he had camped in the park and set up court for the day at Cook’s Wall. I had to walk away after a couple of minutes when I realized that he was not going to stop sharing his voluminous information. I mean, I like chatting with hikers, but he had a monologue going. Jim and I found a space (almost) out of earshot to sit and enjoy the view.
View from Cook’s Wall
Looking at Pilot Mountain – white smoke on the horizon. Before it was brought under control the fire consumed 625 acres.
Jim and I backtracked to Wolf Rock Loop Trail and turned left for our descent. Here the map is necessary to decipher the way back to the visitor center main parking lot, as the trail runs concurrently with part of the Chestnut Oak Nature Trail and skirts alongside pavement. Altogether we hiked 7.5 miles. A nice way to spend a Saturday with my favorite fella.