North Carolina rocks: Hanging Rock State Park

Even though we had already been to two rocky state parks (Raven Rock State Park and Chimney Rock State Park, as part of our trip to the Asheville area in August), word of mouth and, of course, my trusty Hiking North Carolina assured me that Hanging Rock State Park is the park to beat in central North Carolina.

The views from Hanging Rock State Park are not bad. Not bad at all.

The views from Hanging Rock State Park are not bad. Not bad at all.

Hanging Rock State Park is north of Winston-Salem, about a 2-hour drive from Chapel Hill, in a small cluster of 2,500-foot mountains jutting up from the low-lying flat land around it.  Since I was hoping for some human companionship on this particular hiking trip, I started on Scott early in the week and gradually and painstakingly extracted a promise that we could take a whole day for the excursion.

I was so excited that when Scott bounced into the bedroom at 10 a.m. yesterday, full of energy and ready to go, I promptly pulled the blankets over my head and tried to roll over to go back to sleep.  It had been a late night, paired with an early morning (I’d already walked Sasso, I’ll have you know, and had just gotten her to calm down enough to let me go back to sleep). I was having a hard time remembering why I’d wanted to go so badly.

But since Scott offered to drive while I slept . . . off we went.

At first things didn’t seem too promising.  We started up a wide, graveled path toward Hanging Rock, so heavily populated it felt like we were on the last steps of the Camino de Santiago.  As soon as we ditched that trail in favor of the Wolf Rock and Cook’s Wall trails, though, we entered a whole different park.  The trail narrowed, the ridge dropped off on either side of us, and we wandered relatively undisturbed for the rest of the day. (We didn’t get back to Hanging Rock–hopefully we will some day.  On a week day.)

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Feeding the beast. Well, beasts, actually. I was hungry and tired and downright grouchy, less than a mile into our hike.

My grouchiness evaporated when we came to Wolf Rock, with some cool rock formations and spectacular views to the south.

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You can almost . . . not really . . . see Winston-Salem in the distance.

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That peak straight ahead? That’s Cook’s Wall, where we’re headed.

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Trying out Wolf Rock.  At least, I assume this is Wolf Rock, as the best place to howl at the moon.

Trying out Wolf Rock. At least, I assume this is Wolf Rock, because it is clearly the best place to howl at the moon. Or Winston-Salem.

Pretty rocks up close.

Pretty rocks up close.

A mile or so along the ridge from Wolf Rock we came to . . . IMG_7195

I'm assuming this is House Rock. Awesome name, but the rock itself is not quite as evocative as Wolf Rock.

Seems like this must be House Rock. Awesome name, but the rock itself is not quite as evocative as Wolf Rock.

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Scott claiming House Rock in the name of Spain. Sasso, unimpressed, heading off to check out the cliff.

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Sasso prefers the view to the camera.

And after another mile or so, we reached the top of Cook’s Wall.  Cook’s Wall is apparently popular with rock climbers; we couldn’t see the “wall” from on top.  We also didn’t find a cook anywhere, and not for lack of searching. But we certainly did find some more panoramic views.

The last little bit of trail.

The last little bit of trail.

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View to the south from Cook’s Wall.

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On top of Cook’s Wall we met some bearded, rugged-looking hikers with real Southern accents, who told us the funny, knobby-looking peak off in the distance is Pilot Mountain (in yet another North Carolina state park).

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The view to the west shows the surprisingly regular first ridges of the Blue Ridge.

And because it was November 9, and all of 3:45 p.m., we realized we needed to hurry back down to the car before sunset. So hurry we did.  We got to Hanging Rock Lake just in time:

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This swimming area, which looks fantastic, was closed for unidentifiable reasons, perhaps having to do with it being November. Ahem, #nofilter. Also, #noeditingwhichicantsayforallofthesephotos.

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Scott and Sasso beating me back to the car, in one last blaze of orange.

I’m not sure how far we hiked, but my iPhone recorded a satisfying 8.3 miles for the day (including my morning walk with Sasso). For a day that started off with me hiding under the bed covers, exhausted, I call that a victory.

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3 thoughts on “North Carolina rocks: Hanging Rock State Park

  1. Beautiful pictures — I want to Hike North Carolina the more I read this blog. Slow down on the beautiful pictures or else you might just have one (or four!) visitors knocking on your door! xo

    Liked by 1 person

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