The 10 Best Things to Do in Hanging Rock State Park

Last Updated on October 22, 2021

Disclaimer: This site uses demographic data, email opt-ins, display advertising, and affiliate links. Please visit our Disclosure and Privacy Policy pages for further explanation.

If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.

Hanging Rock State Park is filled with interesting geological features and stunning views of rolling mountains. We’ve explored this 7,869-acre state park more than just about all the others in North Carolina, and want to share our favorite things to do in Hanging Rock State Park and outside its gates.

More than 20 miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, a scenic lake for swimming and boating, and camping.

Hanging Rock is one of the state’s easternmost mountain ranges, making it the perfect day trip or weekend getaway from quite a few of North Carolina’s busiest cities.

For example, we’ve been taking day trips from Durham (also, from Raleigh) to Hanging Rock State Park for years. However, it’s closest to Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

Regardless of where you’re coming from, we hope these things to do in Hanging Rock State Park convince you to visit at least once. Of course, you’ll see that the first visit is just a start.

Read More: Unique Things to do in North Carolina

Things to Do in Hanging Rock State Park

Looking for an adventurous place to stay nearby? Some of the coolest Airbnbs in North Carolina are within a short drive from Hanging Rock State Park.

Leave NO Trace and Respect the Park

When you exit the park, we ask you to PLEASE leave no trace. That way, we can all enjoy Hanging Rock like you did. And if the parking lots are full, plan to visit another day and do not park outside of designated areas.

Know these Fun Facts

Hanging Rock State Park is just 30 miles north of Winston-Salem and is reachable via Hanging Rock Park Road and Moore’s Spring Road. Most directions will take you through the beautiful town of Danbury, just four miles south of the park.

The park’s peaks pop out of the surrounding countryside with an elevation ranging from 1700 to 2500 feet. Due to its distance from the Blue Ridge as part of the isolated Sauratown range, Hanging Rock’s nickname is the “mountains away from the mountains.”

The park sits in Stokes County, technically closer to Central North Carolina but we and others lump it in with Western North Carolina. That’s largely thanks to the 700 species of mountain flora that reside in the park.

That creates some interesting pairings, as Hanging Rock is one of the few places where both Canadian and Carolina hemlock grow harmoniously.

The Blacksburg salamander (formerly classified as Wehrle’s) also resides in the park’s streams and forest beds, and peregrine falcons have been known to nest here.

Read More: The NC Bucket List

Know Where to Park

Someone in our Facebook Group asked this question and I’m so grateful that they did. A few of the things to do at Hanging Rock State Park Right are spread out, so it’s easy to get confused about parking. Here are the lots that we use when at Hanging Rock.

  • The Visitor Center (1005 Visitor Center Drive, Westfield, NC 27053): Outside the visitor’s center is where you’ll park for the Hanging Rock trail (back aisle away from the road). Step inside and ask one of the helpful staff for a recommended itinerary. They’ll tell you which trails to take based on how far and how long you’re willing to go. You can also take in views from the back porch before starting your day in beautiful Stokes County.
  • The Lake (2847 Hanging Rock Park Road, Westfield, NC 27053): Drive past that for the boathouse and lake-based trails like Moore’s Wall, Cook’s Wall, and their offshoots.
  • Lower Cascades (2143 Hall Road, Westfield, NC 27053): Lower Cascades Falls is outside the park gates. It’s a short hike to reach and I’d recommend it first since it quickly fills up with people. And honestly, if you head that way, I recommend adding Lower Cascades to your GPS first because service is not so great around the park. The road that leads to them is right outside the gates and you can backtrack to the park entrance from there without much of a problem.
  • Dan River Access (1258 Flinchum Road, Danbury, NC 27016): This access is where you’ll go to launch a boat on the Dan River. It’s also where we go to start hiking the Indian Creek Trail and the shorter Riverbluffs Trail.
  • Tory’s Den Parking Area (1185 Charlie Young Road, Westfield, NC 27053):

There are two more parking areas outside the main Hanging Rock entrance:

  • Climbing Access: 1035 Climbing Access Drive, Westfield, NC 27053
  • Mountain Biking Access: 2568 Moores Spring Road, Westfield, NC 27053

Hike Hanging Rock Trails to Peaks and Waterfalls

Hanging Rock State Park

There are 13 hiking-specific trails at Hanging Rock, with over 20 miles to explore. A few of them lead to amazing peaks and even some time for cooling off at one of the park’s five beautiful waterfalls.

They include the popular Lower Cascades Falls (one of the best waterfalls in North Carolina), Hidden Falls and Window Falls (Indian Creek Trail), Tory’s Falls, and Upper Cascades.

Swimming is NOT recommended at these falls, but the distinct nature of each makes them all definitely worth seeing!

For mountain biking, please scroll past this section and you’ll find what you need after “Climbing.”

Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina

Cook’s Wall Trail

2.2 Miles (White Diamonds)

Cooks Wall Hanging Rock State Park NC Image

Cook’s Wall is Moore’s Wall’s sister peak, but vastly different. While the 4.40-mile trail is less trafficked than the others, it’s still a spectacular place to catch views of soaring eagles and fall foliage.

Also, you can admire North Carolina’s iconic Pilot Mountain from this peak!

Hanging Rock Trail

1.3 Miles (Orange Circles)

As the namesake trail of the park, it’s the most popular. The 2.6-mile roundtrip trail starts out slow and hilly but ends with some huffing and puffing to the top.

The views make the Hanging Rock trail‘s short, steep climb worth all the trouble. You’ll have plenty of selfie and #instaworthy spots with the iconic “hanging rock” if you’re brave enough to scale out to the end of the rugged rock.

Indian Creek Trail

7.2 Miles Round Trip (Red Squares)

Hanging Rock State Park Window Falls

Another Visitor Center-starting hike (along with Hanging Rock) is the Indian Creek Trail. You can also start this one from the Dan River Access, which we prefer because the way back is more downhill, as opposed to what you’d deal with when starting from the Visitor Center Access.

This is a long and strenuous one but will lead you through shade and along the namesake creek.

You’ll also be rewarded with two of the park’s five waterfalls while hiking this trail. Hidden Falls is 0.4 miles from the parking lot with Window Falls another 0.2 miles away from there, 0.6 miles from your starting point.

In my experience, you’ll see more people between the Visitor Center and the waterfalls, but there are some really cool things to do see along this Hanging Rock trail.

Lake Trail

1 Mile Loop (White Hexagons)

The Lake Trail starts behind the bathhouse and is an easy hike that’s a mix of pavement, natural surface, gravel, and boardwalk. You’ll spend much of the walk along the water, making this one of the more serene hikes at Hanging Rock.

Many folks fish from the pier, or from benches and other spots along this trail. Wish them luck as you pass by.

Lower Cascades Trail

0.8 Miles Round Trip (No Blaze)

Hanging Rock State Park Waterfalls Lower Cascades Image

Lower Cascades Trail is the most popular outside the main park entrance and for a good reason. Once you reach the stairway, it’s 170 steps down into the valley.

You’ll end up at the base of this beautiful rushing water, which drops 35 feet into a nice-sized pool. There’s plenty of room to sit down or stand and take it all in.

While we always urge caution when hiking, Lower Cascades is one where we will again recommend that you stay on the designated path. Serious injuries have been reported here.

And as we discussed earlier, this trail gets very busy, especially on weekends. Please arrive as early as possible or plan to come at another time.

Magnolia Springs Trail

0.4 Miles One Way (Blue Squares)

Magnolia Springs is a connector trail that joins Moore’s Wall and Cook’s Wall trails. Along this short path, you can listen and look at various natural mountain springs as long as there’s been enough recent rain to support them.

Moore’s Wall Loop Trail

4.7 Mile Loop (Red Circles)

NC State Parks Moore's Knob Hanging Rock Image

Moore’s Wall is a 4.70-mile loop that starts at Hanging Rock Lake. It’s one of the longer and more strenuous trails in the park. Moore’s Wall also happens to be the highest point in the park at 2,579 feet and features a stone observation tower with 360-degree views.

On clear days, it’s said you can see Mount Mitchell Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain (home to Rough Ridge Trail, one of our favorites!) from the historic tower.

Read More: The Best NC Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

Riverbluffs Trail

1.3 Mile Loop (Red Hexagons)

Riverbluffs Trail Hanging Rock State Park

This short loop begins at the Dan River Access lot and is fairly easy. You’ll walk along the river and on mostly flat land. “Matrimony Point” rocks and locally known “play waves” are a couple of landmarks, including the site of an old home.

Rock Garden Trail (Accessible)

0.2 Miles Round Trip (No Blaze)

The Rock Garden Trail is completely paved and level, making it wheelchair-accessible. You’ll cross the main road and head through a forest to huge boulders from days long before humans roamed these paths.

Ruben Mountain Trail

5.5 Miles Round Trip from the Lot (Orange Triangles)

You’ll need to be about one mile into hiking Tory’s Den Trail (next) to reach Ruben Mountain. This is a multi-use path that’s open to horseback riders, as well as hikers.

It’s an interesting hike that’ll lead you to a view of Brown Mountain, best seen on clearer days.

Tory’s Den Trail

4.8 Miles Round Trip (Blue Circles)

Torys Falls Hanging Rock State Park NC

Tory’s Den is reachable via Moore’s Wall Trail or Tory’s Den Parking Lot that we mentioned earlier. If you start from the Tory’s Den Parking Lot, you’ll have a quicker walk to Hanging Rock’s tallest waterfall.

Tory’s Falls drops 240 feet and is wonderful to watch when it’s rained recently. The difficult, steep terrain around it makes getting into the water impossible. Please don’t try to prove me wrong and please stay on the path.

Upper Cascades Trail

0.4 Miles Round Trip (No Blaze)

Upper Cascades Trail starts across the road from the Visitor Center and paved, eventually turning to gravel. A set of stairs will lead you down to the very tight viewing area for the falls. You can dip your feet in here and cool off on hot days, if you get there early enough.

Wolf Rock Trail

3.4 Miles Round Trip (Blue Triangles)

Wolf Rock Trail starts behind the Lake Bathhouse and ends when it meets the Hanging Rock Trail. It’s a nice diversion from the park’s most popular trail and the namesake rock offers lovely, clear views of land to the south.

Five Peaks Challenge

If you’re up for a real physical test, try the Hanging Rock “Five Peak Challenge!” Through this fast-paced 10.1-mile loop, you’ll conquer Moore’s Knob, Hanging Rock, Cook’s Wall, Wolf Rock, and House Rock.

Most hikers recommend completing it counterclockwise, starting with Moore’s Knob and ending with Hanging Rock. The Hanging Rock trail does get busy, so the earlier you start, the better.

Climbing

Best Trails at Hanging Rock State Park Moores Knob Image

Experienced climbers can enjoy Hanging Rock State Park, too! For an extra thrill, you can hang onto both Cook’s Wall and Moore’s Knob’s cliffs, up to 400 feet high. Just a reminder, a permit must be acquired by the park office before climbing.

Mountain Biking Trails

There are 9 Mountain Biking trails at Hanging Rock State Park.

With the exception of the Copperhead Connector Trail (2700 Moores Spring Rd), the Mountain Biking trails leave from 2568 Moores Spring Rd. All except the Rattler Trail (Advanced) are rated as “Intermediate.”

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

  • Black Racer Trail: 0.90 Mile Loop, Green Triangles
  • Copperhead Connector Trail: 3 Miles Round Trip, Yellow Triangles
  • Hognose Trail, 1 Mile Loop, Blue Triangles
  • Kingsnake Trail: 3.6 Miles Round Trip, Red Triangles
  • Land of the Lost Trail: 3.4 Miles Round Trip, White Hexagons
  • Major Tom Trail: 2.8 Miles Round Trip, Orange Hexagons
  • Original Loop Trail: 3 Mile Loop, Blue Hexagons
  • Ratter Trail (Advanced): 1 Mile Round Trip, Black Diamonds
  • Ring-Necked Trail: 6 Miles Round Trip, White Triangles

Water Recreation

Dan River inside Hanging Rock State Park NC

Swimming (see fees below) and boating ($7/hour) are popular activities during the summer at Hanging Rock State Park’s 12-acre lake. Private boats are not allowed, but rowboats and canoes can be rented to use on the lake.

Those with a North Carolina fishing license can fish from the lake for bass, sunfish, and catfish. And if you’re hungry or need a break from the water, there’s even a well-maintained snack bar and lounge area next to the beach access.

From the park’s north side, you can access the Dan River, which is popular for kayaking, canoeing, and tubing.

Swimming Fees: $6/day for 13-year-olds and up. $4/day for children from three to 12 years old.

Picnicking

Picnic at Hanging Rock State Park Image

The town of Danbury is nearby (see below), but the park has 60 well-maintained and shaded picnic sites. There are also picnic shelters available for reservation for larger groups.

We like to pack some sandwiches, fruit, and chips to chow down when we get down from the peak on one of the picnic tables you’ll find at the visitors’ center or near the lake entrance.

One picnic table is wheelchair-accessible and both drinking water and restrooms can be found near the picnic sites.

Hanging Rock State Park Camping Sites

Tent and RV Camping

Around the lake, Hanging Rock State Park offers 73 campsites that can accommodate up to six people and two tents, with one that is wheelchair accessible. Each of those campsites also has a grill, picnic table, and tent pad.

Bathhouses and drinking water are centrally located in this cluster of campgrounds.

Group Camping

Five group campsites sit closer to the main entry gate and can accommodate six to 16 people and come equipped with picnic tables and a fire circle. Drinking water and accessible vault toilets are near this section of campgrounds.

Vacation Cabins

Finally, you can also book a vacation cabin at Hanging Rock State Park. These cabins are located near the tent and RV camping spots and two are wheelchair accessible.

Each has a bathroom, kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms that can accommodate up to six people. Except for service animals, pets are not allowed in the cabins.

For booking info and availability, please visit the Hanging Rock State Park reservations page.

Explore Danbury

Priddys General Store Danbury NC

You’ll likely pass through Danbury on the way to Hanging Rock, but even if you don’t, please try to spend a little bit of time here. It’s home to local shops, including the bakery known as Artists Way Creations in town and JE Priddy’s General Store a couple of miles down Sheppard Mill Rd.

Another fun thing to do in Danbury is to visit Moratock Park, especially during hot summer days when the Dan River is calling tubers to come and float!

Ready for Hanging Rock State Park?

We mentioned earlier that Hanging Rock State Park is near Winston-Salem, Greensboro and other spots in the relatively flat Triad region. The park is also only two to two-and-a-half hours from Triangle cities Durham and Raleigh.

Being close to so many of our state’s busiest places really makes this an enticing drive, and why we can easily call Hanging Rock State Park our favorite mountain away from the mountains.

More Hiking in North Carolina

Leave a Comment