Last Updated on September 7, 2021
Last Updated on September 7, 2021
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.
The Hanging Rock Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in North Carolina. Visitors from all across the state come to Hanging Rock State Park to hike this trail and explore the park’s namesake peak.
The trail is a relatively short 1.3 miles (2.6 miles roundtrip) long, but there are quite a few steep sections along the route. Another great thing about the Hanging Rock Trail is its warmer temperatures, meaning you can hop on this trail throughout much of the year if the weather cooperates.
Before checking out this trail, we have some important information to share with you! This article will cover info such as when to visit, where to park, and safety tips.
In case you’re searching for something specific, here’s how we’ve organized this guide:
- The Hanging Rock Trail at a Glance
- Driving Directions and Parking Information
- Hiking the Hanging Rock Trail (from Start to Finish)
- When to Visit (Daily and Which Seasons)
- Leave No Trace and Respect the Hanging Rock Trail
- Safety Info (Stay on Trail and Stay Hydrated)
- More Hanging Rock State Park Things to Do and Hikes (Our Picks and Related Posts)
The Hanging Rock Trail at a Glance (Hanging Rock, and the Sauratown Mountains)
The Hanging Rock Trail leads to Hanging Rock after a 1.3-mile hike. We made it to the top in about 40 minutes, but with multiple viewpoints and stops along the way, it can easily take an hour.
The peak sits at an elevation of 2,159 feet and is composed of quartzite, an erosion-resistant rock. Quartzite is also found at Moore’s Knob, Cook’s Wall, and other nearby peaks.
Speaking of its surrounding areas, Hanging Rock falls within the Sauratown Mountains, named for the Saura Indians. The Sauratown Mountains are North Carolina’s oldest and eastern-most mountain ranges and are often called the “mountains away from the mountains” due to their isolation from the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Driving Directions and Parking Information
The quickest access to the Hanging Rock Trail is via the Hanging Rock State Park Visitor Center Parking Lot (1005 Visitor Center Drive, Westfield, NC 27053). As of Summer 2021, the Visitor Center is closed due to renovation.
Portable restrooms are next to the trailhead, and there are additional restrooms a short walk away down the adjacent Indian Creek Trail.
Hiking The Hanging Rock Trail (From Start to Finish)
The Hanging Rock Trail starts on a paved descent for about 0.2 miles before changing to natural and gravel surfaces for the remainder of the route. The route then ascends downward until you reach a fork for The Wolf Rock Trail, a half-mile into the hike.
After another climb, you’ll reach the foot of the peak and a set of stairs. I counted about 170 steps in the first section, which flattens out before you reach a steeper set of sometimes thigh-high rock steps.
You can avoid the last set of steps by staying to the right on the way up, but I’d recommend utilizing them on the way down.
After climbing these steps, you’re just a short walk from the peak. As you continue on a rocky trail, the Hanging Rock will eventually come into view.
You can venture out onto the rock itself, though be cautious of the intense wind that may await you. As long as it’s not too crowded, you can usually find a place to sit down. Our “When to Visit” section will help you figure out how to avoid crowds.
Even if the Hanging Rock is busy, you can still enjoy some beautiful views before venturing back toward the parking lot.
The peak boasts views of Moore’s Knob across the valley and Indian Creek below. The vast valley surrounding Hanging Rock and its Sauratown neighbors will show you why this place is known as “the mountains away from the mountains.”
Returning to the Parking Lot
While your calves do the majority of the work up towards Hanging Rock, be ready to work your knees on the way down! The hardest parts on the return trip are the steep steps just after the peak and the final stretch of paved trail that ascends to the parking lot.
When to Visit (Daily and Which Season)
Even though there is a large parking lot, we highly suggest you arrive as early as possible to start the Hanging Rock Trail. That way, you can reach the top and enjoy some relative quiet with those epic views.
We’ve enjoyed the Hanging Rock Trail and the peak throughout the year. No matter when you visit, the views are always remarkable.
In the fall, the trail is beautiful, and the peak is especially stunning. The greens of spring bring blooming mountain laurels and rhododendrons that add to the journey.
When the summer heat arrives, so does the haze that somewhat limits the exquisite views from the top. I’m not complaining, though, as the peak is still a wonderful experience. The only issue is that summer is a hectic time for Hanging Rock State Park and all parks in general.
While winter tends to scare some folks off with the possibility of snow or inclement weather, it also offers some of the clearest views from the top. With each season adding something special, the Hanging Rock Trail truly is a four-season hike.
Leave NO Trace and Respect the Hanging Rock Trail
While hiking the Hanging Rock Trail, we ask you to PLEASE leave no trace. Trash doesn’t belong on our beloved Hanging Rock Trail.
If you’d like to lend a helping hand, bring a grocery bag of your own and pick up any trash that you see!
Safety Info (Stay on Trail and Stay Hydrated)
We always urge caution when hiking; the Hanging Rock Trail is one where we will again recommend that you stay on the designated path. There are signs along the way, but we’ll reiterate that serious injuries and deaths have been reported here.
During the middle of summer, the hike can be a hot and muggy one, even with the elevation and occasional breezes. We highly suggest packing more than enough water to get you through this hike.
We hope you’ll stay safe, stay hydrated, and enjoy this hike!
Ready for the Hanging Rock Trail?
We thoroughly enjoy hiking the Hanging Rock Trail and hope you do, too! A short trail paired with beautiful views makes for a lovely day in the outdoors. Add in the lovely colors of spring, summer flowers, or fall foliage, and this trail is tough to top!
If you’ve hiked the Hanging Rock Trail, we’d love to know about your experiences here. In case you haven’t visited yet, please share your first time with us here or in our Facebook Group. Photos and videos are welcome!
More Hanging Rock State Park Things to Do and Hikes (Our Picks and Related Posts)
Hanging Rock State Park is home to a couple of gorgeous waterfalls, as well! Hiking an extra 0.2 miles along the Indian Creek Trail will take you to Hidden Falls and Window Falls.
The Indian Creek Trail is adjacent to the Hanging Rock Trail and has picnic tables with grills for those looking to picnic.
Beyond the Visitor Center Parking Area, there are plenty more accesses in and around the main entrance gate. There are 20 miles of hiking trails at Hanging Rock State Park, along with mountain biking trails, climbing opportunities, camping, and more.
Here are some more guides to Hanging Rock State Park beyond the Hanging Rock Trail.