Hiking Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina

Note to my fellow wanderers: This guide was written from my first-hand experiences. I try my best not to over-glamorize any location I travel to because I want HappyWander’s content to be as authentic as possible. My goal is to provide you real information so that you can have the best possible adventures wandering the world. Enjoy!

Tower on top of a mountain? Check. Great sunset spot? Check. Hiking Hanging Rock is a day hike experience you should try if you’re in the North Carolina area. In this review, I’ll highlight my experience hiking Hanging Rock State Park and everything you need to know to start this adventure on your own.

Overview of Hanging Rock State Park

Located in Northern North Carolina about 15 miles north of Winston-Salem, Hanging Rock State Park is a popular spot for North Carolinians. Hanging Rock State Park, while technically not in the Appalachian mountains, still has plenty of elevation for a day hike.

Hanging Rock State Park Hiking Route

This is a map (via alltrails.com) of the route I did. I had to skip Cooks Wall Mountain because I wanted to get to Hanging Rock mountain before sunset.

Where to Park

I parked at the Hanging Rock State Park Visitor Center, as seen below. It is free, and there was plenty of parking available when I visited on a Thursday at noon. In fact, there were only about 5 cars there! I have heard on weekends and holidays this park is VERY busy so get there early if you do come on a weekend or holiday.

Distance Traveled

According to Alltrails.com, I traveled close to 10.5 miles.

How Long Does it Take to Hike?

I arrived at 12:00 PM and finished my hike at around 6:30 PM. This includes many stops to take photos / videos, and also 1 hour at the top of Hanging Rock to watch the sunset. If you skip the sunset at the top and don’t stop much for pictures, you could do this hike in 4-5 hours easily.

Elevation Change

Moores Knob, which is the first mountain, was the big elevation climb of this hike, the rest of the hike is not too bad. All in all, this hike was about 2150 feet in elevation according to Alltrails.com.

Hanging Rock State Park Hiking Elevation Gains

Hanging Rock State Park elevation profile (via alltrails.com)

Difficulty

If you exercise regularly this hike is not too difficult. Moores Knob and Hanging Rock were the hardest areas, but they weren’t bad at all. I think this hike was medium in difficulty.

Overall, I’d give this hike a 5 / 10 in difficulty.

Permits

You don’t need any permits for this hike.

Cost

There is no cost to go to Hanging Rock State Park (Free, my favorite!).

When to Go

You can go to Hanging Rock State Park year round. I went in early November and we had great weather in the 70s. I was able to watch the sunset at around 5:30 PM and it was absolutely beautiful. More on that below.

Recommended Gear

Hiking Hanging Rock is a fun little day hike. I’ll highlight the gear that I brought, as well as additional gear that might benefit you:

  • Layers: Depending on the weather, I’d recommend wearing layers. I wore shorts and a t-shirt because the weather was in the high 70s and mid 60’s even when it got dark.
  • Hiking backpack with straps: If you don’t have a backpack with straps, I recommend you get one. They aren’t too expensive on Amazon. Your shoulders and back will thank you later. This hike, while not difficult, still has some ups and downs that can pay your body a toll without the proper gear.
  • Portable charger: If you take a lot of photos / videos like me, you’ll want to bring a portable charger for your phone. I also use the alltrails.com app to navigate so having enough battery is important.
  • Water bladder: If you want to save on weight and also help your backpack be more balanced than carrying a big bottle of water in your bag, a water bladder is important. I personally use a 3L water bladder that lasts an entire 10 hour day hike, which was more than enough for this hike.
  • Hiking shoes: Hiking shoes that are waterproof will benefit you if you go in on this trail. Some places were a bit muddy, and the terrain is very rocky, which can hurt your feet over time if you wear tennis shoes.
  • Snacks: Who doesn’t like snacks? While hiking, even on a short hike like this, you burn lots of calories. My personal go-to’s on this hike were: Honey roasted peanuts, sour gummy worms, protein shakes, and protein bars. I didn’t stop for lunch on this hike but these snacks were more than adequate.
  • Bug spray: I didn’t experience bugs on this hike, so this wasn’t really needed. However, at the top of Moores Knob there were quite a few bees! Bug spray won’t help you with those.
  • First aid kit: It’s a good idea to bring Band-Aids, a bandage, and some cut cleaning items. I have needed band-aids in the past from slipping on rocks, but I did not on this hike.
  • Sunscreen: It was quite sunny on this hike, and places where my skin was exposed for minutes at a time. Nothing is worse turning into a tomato after your hike.
  • Flashlight: If you choose to watch the sunset like I did, bring a flashlight

Nice to Have Gear:

Here are a few items that would make your Hanging Rock hiking experience even better:

  • Shoe impact insoles: These can help as you traverse hard rocks along the way.
  • Phone tripod: There wasn’t a ton of room to use a phone tripod but there may be a few spots to use one to get good pictures of you and your loved one(s).
  • Wine and a plastic wine glass: If you want to thoroughly enjoy your sunset at the top of Hanging Rock, why not bring a little vino?

The Play By Play: My Route Hiking Hanging Rock

So what’s it like hiking Hanging Rock State Park? It’s a fun little day hike to escape your everyday life. In this section I will discuss my experience on each part of the hike and share photos and videos of my adventure.

Hanging Rock State Park Visitor Center Parking

You’ll start by parking at the Hanging Rock State Park visitor center. I saw 3 routes from the parking lot. The northern route, which is what I took, takes you to Window Falls. The northeastern route takes you directly to Hanging Rock, and the southeastern route takes you on a roughly 10 mile round-about hike back to Hanging Rock.

Window Falls

Who doesn’t like a waterfall? Window Falls took about 20 minutes to walk to. There were some interesting paths to get to the falls, including this stone spiral staircase:

My only regret is that is that I didn’t bring any shampoo!

Moores Wall Loop Trail Near the Lake

After doubling back from the waterfall through the parking lot, one of the first things you’ll run into is Hanging Rock Park Lake, which was sparkling in the sun the day I visited.

After the lake, you’ll pass through a few areas of lower elevation before you start making your way towards Moores Knob on Moores Wall Loop Trail.

Moores Knob

The most elevation you’ll climb by far happens on your journey up to Moores Knob, making it the most difficult part of the hike. But the reward at the top is a tower with 360 degree views. The tower itself is situated on top of mostly rock:

Once you start climbing the tower, you’ll be treated with a beautiful 360 degree view of the area.

Moores Wall Loop Trail to House Rock on Cooks Wall Trail

Once you finish going up Moores Knob tower, you’ll start descending towards Cooks Wall Trail. This was one of the more boring parts of the hike and spanned for what seemed like forever through the woods.

House Rock

Next I headed towards House Rock, which offered a cool view of the South side of the park.

View of House Rock at Hanging Rock State Park

Wolf Rock

Once you start heading towards Hanging Rock, you’ll run right into Wolf Rock. Wolf Rock is an interesting rocky section that overhangs the side of the mountain.

This area is a great spot to snap a photo:

Wolf Rock at Hanging Rock State Park

Hanging Rock Trail

This part of the hike on Hanging Rock Trail was by far the best segment of the hike in my opinion. As you walk on Hanging Rock Trail, Hanging Rock will come into focus. When I first saw it, I was thinking “no way we go up there” but yes way you go up there.

As with any hike, there is risk. But I’ve never seen quite such a flashy large sign warning you:

Hanging Rock

I saved the best part of the trail for last, Hanging Rock. If you don’t like to hike, you could get to this part of the trail in about 45 minutes each way as it’s pretty close to the parking lot. I wanted to earn my view, so I chose to do the 10 mile loop around first.

You can choose to go up the designated trail, which wasn’t hard at all, or you can go up much steeper areas (which is the route I took on the way up). When I arrived, the sun was just starting to go down:

I wanted to watch the sunset, so I came prepared to treat myself at the top: Cheers!

Watching the Sunset with Wine at Hanging Rock State Park

If you choose to do a sunset, prepare for hiking back in the dark! Fortunately, It’s a fairly easy hike to the parking lot, and takes 30 to 45 minutes only.

After Hike Dinner

After hiking Hanging Rock State Park, I chose to get some protein. I went to Zaxby’s and got the 10 piece chicken fingers. I ate them so fast I forgot to take a photo. Oops!

About My Experience Hiking Hanging Rock State Park

Overall, hiking Hanging Rock State Park was fun! There were parts of the hike I really enjoyed, and a few not so much. Here are my favorite and least favorite parts:

Favorite Parts

Here are a few of my favorite parts of hiking Hanging Rock State Park:

Knob Tower: Knob tower is a very cool section of this hike. I enjoyed the surrounding rock immediately leading to the tower, and the extra height of the tower to see a beautiful 360 degree view of the surrounding area.

Hanging Rock: Hanging rock was the best part of this hike. For me, the wine was a massive bonus as I watched the sun set. What a beautiful moment.

Least Favorite Parts

Here are a few of my least favorite parts of this hike:

Hanging Rock State Park Campground: Hiking through a campground area (which seemed similar to a trailer park) was kind of odd. I didn’t love having to walk by RVs parked for what appears to be weeks or months.

Moores Wall Loop Trail after Moores Knob: After ascending Moores Knob and going up the tower (which was pretty awesome), the trail for the next few miles was quite boring through the woods. Nothing much to see here!

Overall Score

Hanging Rock State Park is a nice local hike you should definitely do. I give it a 7.5 / 10, mostly because of Knob Tower and my Hanging Rock sunset experience.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina

Hanging Rock State Park is a great hike to add to your list if you live in North Carolina, Virginia, or the surrounding areas. I enjoyed several parts of this hike, including the sunset. I hope this hiking Hanging Rock State Park guide was useful for you. Happy hiking and wandering to you!

Anthony Bart
Author: Anthony Bart

Hello! Welcome to HappyWanders! My name is Anthony, I'm on a mission to live a life full of adventure and to help you to do the same. As an ex-corporate worker and current entrepreneur, I've been working to design a life with more time for adventure and less time for the 9-5 grind. If you're ready for an adventure, you're my type of person!

Was this resource helpful?

Scroll to Top