Hanging Rock has several trails. Some are fun hikes on their own and others can be combined to create epic day hikes. Keep in mind that the way some trails intersect and turn can create confusion. The best thing you can do is download a map here or grab one from the Visitor Center.
We’ll cover the best hikes, clarifying when it’s all one trail, and when you’re looping several together.
If you’re not into hiking, there are many other activities available in the park including swimming, mountain biking, kayaking, and rock climbing.
There are also 5 waterfalls you can visit. They are located at three different entrances, but it is doable to see all 5 in one day.
- Hanging Rock Trail
- Indian Creek Trail to Two Waterfalls
- Moore’s Wall Loop
- Fun Loops for Amazing Day Hikes at Hanging Rock State Park
- Biggest Bang for Your Buck
- Summing Up the Trails and Hiking Loops at Hanging Rock State Park, NC
Hanging Rock Trail
Distance: 1.3 miles one-way
Blaze: Orange circle
Terrain: Starts with pavement, moves to dirt and gravel, then becomes wood and stone steps
Difficulty: Strenuous. The stairs take a toll on many hikers. While you can hike it safely with sneakers, trail runners or hiking shoes and boots will provide more traction on the stone steps.
Who can do it: Most anyone can get to Hanging Rock. Just take your time and bring plenty of water and snacks. If you need to, stop and rest. Hikers in good shape used to stairs will have an easier time.
You should see the start of the trail along the back of this section, approximately two-thirds of the way down. There will be other hikers heading this way.
The trail leads to the overlook that serves as the namesake for the park. It juts out quite far, offering spectacular views and great photos. If you’re not keen on heights, you can stay back further on the ledge and still enjoy great sites and photos.
Those with sharp eyes will notice Hanging Park Road which you drove up on.
Don’t forget to stop at some of the other no-name overlooks before heading down. You’ll pass them on your left as you head back to the trail. They offer their own unique views.
While heading down the trail is easier on your cardiovascular system, it’s also more technical. Take your time as the footing can be tricky and you’ll likely run into other hikers.
If you’re not used to climbing mountains, allow extra time to reach the top and plan accordingly with additional water and snacks.
While I’ve seen dogs make the climb easily, I’ve seen others being carried. Make sure your furry friend is in shape for this hike before taking them out. It becomes crowded, especially on weekends. Keep this in mind as you assess whether your pet will do well on this hike.
The elevation gain is 650 feet and about 0.5 miles of this is walking up steps, including stone steps that can be high at times. This is the part that makes the hike difficult.
The trailhead for Hanging Rock Trail is in the main parking lot near the Visitor Center. You’ll see the lot is divided into three sections. Park in the back section, furthest from the Visitor Center.
Indian Creek Trail to Two Waterfalls
Distance: 0.4 miles to Hidden Falls, 0.6 miles to Window Falls
Blaze: Red square
Terrain: Dirt and Gravel, but ends with steep stone stairs at Hidden Falls
Difficulty: Easy. The trail is fairly flat until you reach the first waterfall where there is one section of steep, stone stairs that may pose difficulty for someone with mobility concerns.
Who can do it: Almost anyone can navigate this trail to the waterfalls. When you reach the stone steps, take your time and use your hands if you need to.
To access the trailhead, park in the back section of the main lot near the Visitor Center. The start of the trail is at the far end of the lot. With the Visitor Center on your left, walk to the end of the lot. The trailhead is well-marked.
While the Indian Creek Trail is 3.6 miles, a small portion of it can be used to easily access two of Hanging Rock’s waterfalls. After viewing Hidden Falls, keep going to see Window Falls. Stop after this waterfall rather than continuing on the trail. If you keep going forward, you’ll wind up at the Dan River Access and have to hike back 3.6 miles uphill to your car.
The waterfalls are beautiful and fun to see. They photograph better early morning or late evening. The sun rises above the back of them and creates glare that’s difficult to manage in a photo by 10 am.
On the way to the waterfalls, you’ll pass a covered pavilion that can be reserved and several picnic tables.
Moore’s Wall Loop
Distance: 4.7 miles
Blaze: Red circle
Terrain: Varied trail terrain
Difficulty: Strenuous. Whichever way you opt to take the loop, you’re climbing. The mileage and climb make this hike more strenuous than many others in the park.
Who can do it: Anyone in good shape. Recommended for individuals with hiking experience.
Moore’s Wall Loop is what we call a lollipop. There’s a short section of trail used to access the loop, the stick of the lollipop. The stick intersects with the loop itself. When you complete the loop, you’ll follow the stick back to your car.
Go to the main park entrance on Hanging Park Road and drive past the entrance to the Visitor Center lot. The road will end at the Lake parking lot. From here, head down to the pavilion near the lake and follow the sidewalk that appears just before you get to the pavilion. There’s a kiosk with park information.
From here, follow the path with the red circles to start Moore’s Wall Loop Trail. You’ll cross over pretty boardwalks and bridges that crisscross the stream.
When you reach the intersection with the loop, I like to go clockwise. In this direction, you’ll enjoy a nice hike before you begin climbing. The climbs come in waves, and you’ll even have a short, but fun, rock scramble. You’ll eventually reach a level area that ends at the rock steps leading to Moore’s Wall and the fire tower.
On the way up, stop and enjoy Balance Rock which offers great views and fun photos.
At the top, you can stop for lunch, enjoy the sites, and climb the old fire tower. The observation deck at the top of the fire tower has small boards that highlight the peaks in front of you. There’s one for each direction.
When you’re ready, head down the stairs and keep going straight to complete the loop. You’ll walk down a lot of steps, cross a creek, and go through the campground. If you become confused, simply follow any signs to “Lake Parking”.
Once you encounter the boardwalks, you know you’re on the way back to your car.
If you opt to go counterclockwise, you’ll climb quite a few rock steps to the top of Moore’s knob. Personally, I like to come down the stairs. Not because it’s easier, but the views in this direction are lackluster and I prefer to have lesser views on my way out.
Regardless of which way you go, the blazes often disappear and there are some “where do I go” areas. You should never be more than 30 feet from a blaze so if you don’t see one quickly, backtrack. Also, the Mountains to Sea Trail with its white circle piggybacks on part of Moore’s Wall Trail so if you don’t see a red circle, follow the white circles.
One note about this trail, at the bottom, as you follow the lollipop stick in and out of the area, you’ll want some bug spray. This area tends to be humid and buggy.
Fun Loops for Amazing Day Hikes at Hanging Rock State Park
Wolf and House Rocks
Trails: Wolf Rock Trail/Cook’s Wall Trail from Lake Parking to view Wolf and House Rocks. Return via Magnolia Springs Trail to Moore’s Wall Loop.
Miles: Approximately 6 miles
Who Can Do This: Almost anyone in good physical condition capable of hiking 6 miles can complete this loop. The main climb is heading up the hill at the start. There’s also some elevation gain to reach House Rock. The trail is in fairly good shape and most of the mileage is flat.
While it sounds like a lot of trails, it’s not too complicated as you can see if you view the park trail map. The one area of confusion is that Wolf Rock Trail and Cook’s Wall Trail share a segment of trail. This is what I meant by “the trails can be confusing” above.
Start at the Lake Parking area. From behind the pavilion, you’ll pick up the shared segment of Wolf’s Rock and Cook’s Wall Trails. Follow the white diamond and/or blue triangle blazes up the hill until you reach a T intersection.
At this intersection, the trails split. You’ll go left on Wolf Rock Trail with its blue triangle blaze for a short bit. Just far enough to stop at the Wolf Rock overlook. It’s marked with a sign to help ensure you reach the correct rock.
When you’ve got all your photos, backtrack towards the intersection, but keep going straight. This will put you automatically on Cook’s Wall Trail with the white diamond blaze. Follow this trail along the rim for about 1.6 miles until you see the sign for House Rock.
Stop and enjoy one of the best views in the park. If you have time, follow the path to the right of the last rock down a bit to visit the “house” underneath. There’s a large cave that looks almost like a living room.
Head back the way you came and, at the first intersection, make a left on Magnolia Springs Trail. Follow it 0.4 miles down to the bottom where it intersects with Moore’s Wall Loop. Make a right and follow the stick of Moore’s Knob loop back to the parking lot and your car. If you become disoriented, follow the signs to “Lake Parking”.
Extra Credit Miles
From House Rock, you can continue heading up Cook’s Wall Trail to its namesake overlook. The trail ends at the overlook and the only way back is to retrace your steps. Heading out and back to Cook’s Wall adds 1.6 miles to your day and the hike to Cook’s Wall is over difficult rocky terrain and can be strenuous.
The 5 Peaks of Hanging Rock Hike
Trails: Hanging Rock Trail to Wolf Rock Trail to Cook’s Wall Trail (backtrack after viewing Cook’s Wall) to Magnolia Springs Trail to Moore’s Knob Trail
Miles: Approximately 6 miles10.5 miles
Who Can Do This: Experienced hikers in good condition. This hike requires climbing up to Hanging Rock and Moore’s Knob on the same day with additional elevation gain to reach Cook’s Wall.
The 5 peaks of Hanging Rock is a 10.5 to 11-mile loop that takes in all 5 peaks at the park. Take a photo of yourself at each peak and stop at the Visitor Center when you’re done because you’ve earned the right to purchase the 5 Peaks badge.
Generally, most people start with Moore’s Knob, visit the three peaks on the other rim (Cook’s Wall, House Rock, Wolf Rock), and end at Hanging Rock. I like to do it the other way, start at Hanging Rock and end at Moore’s Knob. If you start at Hanging Rock, you’ll have it mostly to yourself in the morning, then you won’t encounter many people the rest of the day doing the loop in reverse.
Participating in a 5 Peaks Charity Challenge
If you’d like to help raise money for a local organization and hike with a group, there are 2 fundraisers every year that sponsor a 5 Peaks challenge. The first is “Reach the Peaks Challenge” run by the Stokes County Arts Council. All proceeds go to fund annual Arts Education Touring Programs in the Stokes County Schools.
The second is “High 5 @Hanging Rock” sponsored by The Friends of the Sauratown Mountains where proceeds go to Hanging Rock State Park.
Doing the 5 Peaks on Your Own
To head out on your own, park at the main lot in front of the Visitor Center. I’d arrive at 9 or 10 am to avoid crowds and allow for hiking before the mid-day heat hits. This hike can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours depending on your speed and how long you hang out at each peak. Personally, I don’t like to rush it.
Start by heading out on the Hanging Rock Trail to complete your first peak. When you’ve got your photos, head back down Hanging Rock Trail but turn left on Wolf Rock Trail. The sign is subtle, but if you’re looking for it, you’ll see it. It will be on your left on the way down. After you clear the steps you’ll walk straight for a bit, then follow a 90-degree turn in the trail. The turn onto Wolf Rock Trail is just a little way down after this turn.
Follow Wolf Rock Trail until you reach the sign indicating you have arrived at Worl Rock. Don’t forget to grab your photo.
From here, continue straight along the rim. The trail intersects with Cook’s Wall Trail. Stay straight on Cook’s Wall Trail to keep walking along the rim.
You’ll pass a second intersection indicating you’re close to House Rock. Continue straight until you reach the sign for House Rock. This is one of the best views in the park so take your time exploring. To continue on to Cook’s Wall, keep going straight until the trail ends. Cook’s Wall is on your left. There’s a second overlook if you keep going straight after the trail ends.
Cook’s Wall is a great place to stop for lunch.
To reach Moore’s Wall, the final peak, you’ll backtrack past House Rock. Make a left on the Magnolia Springs trail at the first intersection past House Rock. Take this trail all the way down where it will intersect with Moore’s knob. The intersection is large and well-marked.
Magnolia Springs Trail intersects Moore’s Wall Loop where the stick of the lollipop for Moore’s Wall Loop connects to the loop itself. This means there are 2 ways to continue to Moore’s Wall.
I like to head to my left so I’m going clockwise. It’s the longer edge of Moore’s Wall Loop, but it’s scenic and fun.
You’ll know you’re close to the overlook when you reach the stone steps and sign for Balance Rock. I like to play around here for a minute. It’s amazing how that rock doesn’t move.
Continue up the steps to the top of Moore’s Wall where you’ll want to spend some time. You can sit at the overlook or head up the old fire tower.
This is a good place to rest, grab a snack and hydrate.
When you’re ready, head down the stairs, this time continuing straight. You’ll go down quite a few stairs, then cross a small creek and pass through the campground. From the campground, you’ll begin to head downhill again. When you reach the bottom, there’s an intersection where you’ll go left, following the signs for “Lake Parking”.
The Final Trek Back to Your Car
Once you reach the Lake parking and pavilion, you’ll have to head up the road to return to your car.
After you get past the section of the road with a guard rail, you’ll see there’s a trail across the street in the woods that parallels the road. It’s quick and easy and will take you straight to the main Visitor Center parking lot.
Be sure to stop at the Visitor Center and get your badge!
River to Rock Hike
This is another hike where you can earn the right to purchase a badge called River to Rock. The trail goes from the Dan River Access (River), up to Moore’s Wall (Rock).
I’ve done it and I have to admit, while it’s not always the prettiest hike, you’ll feel accomplished when you finish.
There’s some confusion here on the official trail from the Visitor Center to Moore’s Wall. Some people follow the road that leads to the family campground and pick up the Moore’s Wall trail there, others head down to the Lake parking area and pick up the trail at the bottom. Personally, as long as you tag Moore’s Wall, I say you’ve done it.
How to Complete River to Rock
Park at the Dan River Access lot and follow Indian Creek Trail it’s full 3.6 miles. It’s mostly uphill but not particularly steep. What will get you is the continual slow climb. You’ll pass the group primitive camping area while parallelling the creek most of the way.
About 3 miles in, you’ll pass Window Falls, followed by Hidden Falls.
From the Visitor Center parking lot, you have two options. You can cross Hanging Rock Road and walk down the pavement to the family campground where you can pick up Moore’s Wall Loop and hike the remaining 1.3 miles up to the top.
You can also follow Hanging Rock Road down to the Lake parking and pick up Moore’s Wall Loop there. It will be a longer trek, a little over 2 miles to the top.
Whichever way you go, you’ll have to head all the way back down. On the way, stop at the Visitor Center to purchase your badge before heading down Indian Creek Trail. The good news is you’re going down the entire way back to your car so it will be faster.
One benefit to this hike is that you won’t see a lot of people on Indian Creek Trail once you pass the waterfalls. Most parkgoers stay near the trails that are accessed from the Visitor Center parking. The Dan River Access is used primarily by kayakers.
In spring and summer bring some bug spray. The river access areas tend to be buggy.
Biggest Bang for Your Buck
If you’re not a strong hiker, I’d recommend going up to Hanging Rock. Take your time and enjoy the view, it’s worth it. You could also park in the Tory’s Den lot and follow the short 0.2-mile trail to Tory’s Den which is a cave used during the Revolutionary War, and the spectacular waterfall nearby.
Those who have time and can handle 5-6 miles with some elevation should consider completing three of the peaks: Hanging Rock, Wolf’s Rock, and House Rock.
If you’re short on time, seeking great views, and no crowds try parking in the Lake lot and following the combined section of Wolf Rock Trail and Cook’s Wall Trail up the side to the rim. There’s always the option to turn around after visiting House Rock or putting in 1.6 extra miles continuing on to Cook’s Wall.
Many hikers opt to complete Moore’s Wall Loop.
Cook’s Wall is the most difficult overlook to reach because it requires hiking about 0.5 miles on rocky, difficult trail, which you must repeat on the way down. While the overlook is beautiful, House Rock offers a similar experience with less effort.
Regardless of where you hike, in the summer consider packing a bathing suit and towel so you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the lake.
Summing Up the Trails and Hiking Loops at Hanging Rock State Park, NC
There are many options at Hanging Rock State Park and every skill and fitness level will find something to explore.
Always pack sunscreen, food, water (plenty of water), and take your time. Most people get into trouble or have to manage a tired child’s meltdown because they didn’t anticipate how difficult the hike to Hanging Rock would be and just assumed the 2.6 miles could be completed in 2-3 hours. Three hours later, they’re almost to the top of the climb and their child is hungry, dehydrated, and having a bad day.
When hiking in Hanging Rock State Park, if you’re not experienced hiking up mountains, assume the hike will take twice as long as your normal speed and plan accordingly. This will ensure you have a successful trip.