Something for Everyone at Hanging Rock State Park
Whatever your family enjoys about the outdoors, you can find it at Hanging Rock State Park. Located in Danbury, about 30 miles from Winston-Salem, the 7,869-acre park was created in the 1930s as a Civilian Conservation Corps project and offers plenty of activities on water and land. Families can spend the day swimming, fishing, paddling, canoeing, hiking, biking, rock climbing and exploring beautiful waterfalls. You may need a few days to enjoy it all; if so, the park also offers campground, tent and cabin rentals.
When my daughter and I take a road trip, our first order of business is lunch. Hanging Rock has 60 picnic areas with grills throughout, and we spotted many visitors with lunches in tow. Bella and I grabbed sandwiches in Danbury at Artist Café and Bakery, about 10 minutes from the Hanging Rock Visitors Center. The to-go lunches were $5.99 each and included a sandwich, choice of pasta salad, potato salad or chips, fruit and a bakery item.
We checked in at the Visitors Center for a map and some advice on where to start. The center features a beautiful deck with expansive views, an auditorium, a classroom and interactive exhibits. Park staff suggested a moderate .6-mile hike with two waterfalls along the way.
To the Falls
We took off down the well-marked trail and quickly encountered Window Falls. It isn’t a very tall water drop but it is beautiful and encompasses a shallow area at the bottom with rocks to cross between shores. The area around Window Falls includes paths and rock formations perfect for climbing and exploring. Don’t miss the opportunity to walk behind the waterfall for a refreshing break.
A short distance down the trail is Hidden Falls, which offers a higher water drop, and the stunning rock formations serve as a magnificent backdrop. The area is perfect for kids to run around in, since there are plenty of rocks and limbs to climb. The trail is an easy stroll, but be prepared for an uphill climb on the way back.
After the falls, we stopped at the 12-acre lake, which offered an expansive view of Moore’s Knob. The lake features a beach and a large deck — the perfect place to get out of the sun and enjoy a snack from the concession stand. Swimming is $5 a day for adults (ages 13 and older); $4 for ages 3-12; and free for ages 2 and younger. The concession stand is open weekends during spring and fall, and daily during the summer.
Park visitors can also rent rowboats and canoes. Fishing is permitted year-round for bass and bream. Anyone over 16 must have a North Carolina fishing license.
If an adrenaline rush is more your speed, the park offers a series of 400-foot cliffs, including Cook’s Wall and Moore’s Wall. Climbers must register before beginning the climb, and all other areas are off limits to climbing or rappelling.
With so much to do and see, you’re going to hang out at Hanging Rock a while. The park offers tent, trailer and group camping locations. Cabin rentals are a bargain for people who want to enjoy the outdoors in a less rustic style.
Ten vacation cabins accommodating up to six people are available year-round. During the spring, winter and fall, cabins can be rented at a two-night minimum for $88 a night. During the summer, a weeklong rental is required for only $446. Visit ncparks.gov/hanging-rock-state-park for more information.
Bella and I were impressed by how much Hanging Rock State Park offered, and we enjoyed being among nature a short distance from home. We’ve also got our eyes on those cabins and plan to return for a family camping weekend soon.
Courtney McLaughlin is a freelance writer and mother of 10-year old Bella, who is always ready for the next adventure.