Nestled within the ancient Sauratown Mountain range lies one of North Carolina’s most scenic parks. Spanning over 9,000 acres, Hanging Rock State Park is located in Stokes County, about 30 miles north of Winston-Salem. Its spectacular waterfalls, soaring cliffs, and panoramic views have been drawing visitors for decades.
The park originated in the 1930s when local groups donated the initial 3,000 acres to establish a protected area. The Civilian Conservation Corps soon constructed facilities like a 12-acre lake and historic bathhouse. Further land acquisitions in the 1970s and early 2000s brought iconic spots like the Lower Cascades waterfall and Flat Shoals Mountain into the park.
The Sauratown Mountains are an isolated range separated from the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. Their monadnock peaks rise dramatically from the surrounding countryside, reaching up to 2,500 feet in height. Pilot Mountain is another iconic summit in the Sauratowns. But Hanging Rock’s Moore’s Knob takes the title as highest point at 2,579 feet.
These mountains were formed long ago from an ancient layer of erosion-resistant quartzite rock. Over time water, wind, and other natural forces slowly chiseled away the softer surrounding stone. What remains now are the rugged high tops and cliff faces that draw so many onlookers.
Due to the unique microclimate, Hanging Rock harbors plant species more common to the mountains’ westernmost ranges. Hemlocks thrive alongside rare wildflowers and lush forests. The peaks serve as nesting grounds for peregrine falcons with vultures circling overhead. Deer, turkeys, and the occasional black bear inhabit the trails below.
With over 48 miles of hiking trails, Hanging Rock is a hiker’s paradise. Challenge yourself summiting the many peaks and viewing waterfalls along the way. Spend a night under the stars at one of 73 campsites or rent a cozy cabin. Take a refreshing dip in the lake then explore exhibits at the visitor’s center. The best part? No admission fee required.
Whether seeking exercise or scenery, Hanging Rock State Park offers an abundance of natural beauty waiting to be explored. The next time you find yourself near Winston-Salem, escape to the wonders of this ancient mountain retreat.
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