The interior of North Carolina is not just a hangout for mad bombers. Hanging Rock State Park is located in the remote yet beautiful Sauratown Mountains. Once upon a time, these rocky, craggy mountains covered most of North Carolina. Eons later, this area is about all that remains. These quartzite mountains are highly resistant to erosion, resulting in unusual shapes like the signature Hanging Rock.
The rare geological formation also makes the region home to many unusual plant and animal species. Wildflowers like rhododendrons, Pinxter azaleas, and mountain laurels are very rare in this part of North America. The same thing applies to salamanders, falcons, and wild turkeys.
In the early 1930s, Hanging Rock State Park almost became a high-dollar mountain retreat for the super-rich. But the deal fell through when the company went bankrupt during the Great Depression, so the land eventually went to the state instead. As they did in so many other state and national parks, Civilian Conservation Corps workers added infrastructure to the Park and also built lakes, hiking trails, and so on.
Today, visitors pay no admission fee to enjoy this 7,800-plus acre state park. Bring your RV to Hanging Rock for incredible views and adventures all year long.
RV Rentals in Hanging Rock State Park
Transportation in Hanging Rock State Park
Hanging Rock State Park is about thirty miles north of Winston-Salem and about two miles from the big city of Danbury (population 200). As one would expect in western North Carolina, the Park is a bit remote. To reach it, start at U.S. Highway 52 near Pilot Mountain. Then, take State Highway 268 east until it turns south and becomes State Highway 89. Then, just before Danbury, take Hanging Rock Road into the Park.
This route gets you to the east side of the Park. To reach the west side, take Highway 66 south from Highway 268. Go right on Moores Spring Road, then go right again on Mickey Road. Park visitors may either stay on Mickey Road or take the Charlie Young Road (Farm to Market 2028) to Hanging Rock State Park.
The Park’s GPS coordinates are 36°23′29″N 80°15′58″W.
Only one main road goes through the Park, and it does not go all the way through. So, RV parking is a bit limited. There is parking on Mickey Road/Hooker Farm Road near Tory’s Den. There’s also parking near Lower Cascade Falls, which is not far from the Park’s main entrance gate, and at the central campground.
Campgrounds and parking in Hanging Rock State Park
Campsites in Hanging Rock State Park
Hanging Rock’s main campground offers camping year round and though there are no hookups, sites up to 60’ long can accommodate some pretty big RVs. There’s easy access to water and a bath house with hot showers for all but the coldest months, and you can reserve almost a year in advance. There are fire rings and picnic tables at every site, and the sites are large and wooded so you can really get comfortable.
This very scenic campground is near the bottom of the Upper Cascade Falls and the shore of Hanging Rock Park Lake. There are two large parking areas, as well as seventy-three tent/RV campsites that up for grabs when not reserved. There are also ten reservation-only, two-bedroom cabins, multiple drinking water spigots, and two large bath houses which are open March through November. One hiking trail goes to the Falls and another one goes to the lake.
Near the main gate, there are five primitive campsites. Each one can accommodate groups between six and sixteen people. Every reservation-only site has a picnic area and a large fire circle.
Offsite RV Parks
There are a number of RV parks along Interstate 77 and Highway 52. Many of them have amenities like full hookup sites, WiFi, bathhouses, and laundry facilities. There’s also a small RV park just east of Hanging Rock State Park.
Seasonal activities in Hanging Rock State Park
Cook’s Wall Trail
One of the best wildlife-viewing trails in the Park also allows leashed dogs. This trail actually branches off Chestnut Oak Nature Trail, where there is parking, a large picnic area, and some other facilities. Cook’s Wall Trail is rated moderate. Hikers will need some expertise and some special equipment, like hiking boots, but the trail is not too difficult for most people. Cook’s Wall is a rather craggy, tree-covered escarpment. House Rock, which is on the other end of the trail, is geologically similar.
Tory’s Den Cave, Waterfall & Trail
Supposedly, this rock outcropping (Tory’s Den) was a hideaway for British loyalists during the Revolutionary War. It is certainly remote enough to make a very effective natural safe house. At some ten stories tall, Tory Falls is the highest waterfall in the Park. It’s hard to see the entire cascading falls from any one point, especially when the water levels are low during late summer, so visitors must make good use of the hiking trails. Tory’s Den Trail is a moderate trail which runs for about 2.5 miles in a north-south direction. There is parking at the north end. The Cave and Waterfall trail is an easy, 0.2-mile trail around the cave and falls. “Easy” trails are basically unpaved, uneven sidewalks. Watch for potholes and other obstacles.
Ruben Mountain Trail
This trail, as well as Tory’s Den trail, is wide enough for horseback riders. The six-mile trail through the Ruben Mountains is rated strenuous. Parts of this trail are quite steep and also quite dangerous. Only highly-experienced hikers and mountain climbers should attempt it on foot. It’s also the most remote hiking trail in the Park, which could be a good thing or a bad thing.
Hanging Rock Park Lake
Not many bodies of water have a wide, sandy beach, a well-kept grassy overlook, and clear mountain water, but this 12-acre lake has all three. There’s also a very nice lounge/snack bar in a 1930s-era building constructed from locally-sourced materials. Rowboats and canoes are available for rent. Be sure and pack a lunch, as there are two large picnic areas. Each one has sixty tables and fifteen grills.
Upper Cascade Falls
These falls are just about a quarter-mile from the lake. The trail is very easy and wheelchair-accessible. When they reach the Falls, visitors may go to a scenic overlook which does not actually overlook the falls. Since waterflow is erratic, most people must descend a staircase to see the water. During late spring, when waterflow peaks, these Falls are quite a sight to behold.
A 1.3-mile moderate trail runs from the lake to Hanging Rock, which is one of the Park’s signature attractions. It’s also one of the most scenic points in the Park, as visitors have sweeping views of the mountains to the west and the forested hills to the east. Because of the aforementioned geology, formations like this one are unique to this part of the continent.
Window Falls & Hidden Falls
We group these two waterfalls together because they are almost literally next to each other. The moderate trail is a little easier to tackle when the weather is a bit cooler, but watch for sudden winter storms. Window Falls is almost a trickling falls which encourages visitors to get very close to the water. Some intrepid people may actually go under the water. We are not sure, but “Hidden Falls” probably got its name because the waterfall is so difficult to see. The falls are only about thirteen feet high. But if you came this far, you need to see them.
Balanced Rock & Moore’s Knob
A rather long loop trail runs from Cook’s Wall to the lake. Moore’s Knob has a scenic overlook tower , and the knob is already fairly high. The Balanced Rock at Hanging Rock State Park is not quite as impressive as the one in Utah, but it is still pretty cool to see.
Lower Cascade Falls
Until recently, it was almost impossible to get an up-close view of these falls. But some adjustments to the .03-mile trail made it much easier to navigate. So, visitors may now get up close and personal with this three-story waterfall. Its distinctive features include a very large overhanging bluff and an unusually deep and wide plunge pool.
This 1.4-mile trail makes the off-peak list because a little dusting of snow makes the trail more challenging yet not impossible to traverse. It’s also very secluded and very beautiful. Watch for sharp rocks and roots, especially if white stuff covers them.