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