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The 5 Waterfalls at Hanging Rock State Park, NC

It’s no secret that I love Hanging Rock State Park. I come to train for backpacking trips, enjoy the overlooks, and savor the views. But until now, I never made the effort to visit all five waterfalls in one day. 

While I regularly wander by three of the waterfalls, and I have seen each at least once, I couldn’t recall visiting all of them in a day. Well, I finally scratched that itch, and it was surprisingly easy to do. 

To see all five waterfalls requires driving to three park entrances. Including time to park, hike, and enjoy the waterfall, it was a total of three hours to visit all five. Easily doable in one day.  

I’ve got the details on each waterfall and a few tips on how to beat the crowds. 

Overview of the 5 Waterfalls of Hanging Rock 

The five waterfalls are Tory’s Den Waterfall, Lower Falls, Upper Falls, Window Falls, and Hidden Falls.  

Tory’s Den is accessed from the Tory’s Den Parking lot, Lower Falls from the Lower Cascades parking lot, and the remaining three from the main entrance by the Visitor Center.  

None of the waterfalls are on park designated ADA accessible trails. Upper Falls would be your best bet, depending on mobility. It’s approximately 0.2 miles to the falls on a dirt and gravel road. The road has a somewhat steep section with a turn at the bottom of the hill.  

The remaining four waterfalls all have rock steps that can be steep in places. 

You can find the full address for each parking lot and a map on Hanging Rock State Park’s website.  

Recommended Times and Tips when Visiting the Waterfalls 

The park becomes crowded on weekends, so weekdays are your best bet. If a weekend day is your only option, aim for early Sunday.  

Hidden Falls and Window Falls are usually the busiest. I would visit these first, in the morning, then go to Upper Cascades followed by Lower cascades, with Tory’s Den as your final waterfall.  

When it comes to photos, all five waterfalls have sun glare issues for photos regardless of the time of day. Unless you are then for sunrise or sunset, you’re going to encounter glare. Get as close to the waterfall as you can and look for places where the sun is shielded. This is possible with all but Tory’s Den.  

If you have a lens shade for your camera, it does help. They make devices for phones too.  

The waterfalls are pretty in every season, but in Spring, the green trees and flowers make everything pop. Plus, the added rainfall adds to the volume of water, making great photos. It’s part of the reason why Hanging Rock is one of my favorite parks to visit in the spring.

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The Five Waterfalls of Hanging Rock State Park 

Small waterfall between large rocks as seen from the bottom.

Hidden Falls 

Location: Park Main Entrance
Trail: Indian Creek Trail
Blaze: Red Square 
Difficulty: Strenuous 
 Mileage: 0.4 miles (one way) 

The trailhead is at the end of the Visitor Center parking lot. It starts off as a dirt and gravel road which is easy. As you near the waterfall there are stairs including stone steps to walk down. Although the park says the trail is strenuous, I would put it as moderate. The steps and incline on the way back to the car were taxing for several visitors, but everyone was able to do it. Some people took their time and rested on the way back.  

As you walk down the trail, there is a sign for both Hidden Falls and Window Falls. I prefer to stop at Hidden Falls first.  

You can enjoy the falls from a small deck or walk down to the bottom for a closer view. The waterfall is the smallest in the park, but I like how it continues to gently follow the rocks at the bottom.  

Large, sheer waterfall falling onto rock steps with the water streaming down the steps.

Window Falls 

Location: Park Main Entrance
Trail: Indian Creek Trail  
Blaze: Red Square 
Difficulty: Strenuous 
Mileage: 0.6 miles (one way) 

Window Falls is down the same trail as Hidden Falls. There is a sign that will lead you straight to it. There are more stone steps to go down when visiting Window Falls.  

The falls are named for the small hole in a nearby stone wall known as the “window”.  

There’s a small wooden deck for photos, and you can continue walking down to the bottom of the waterfall. There are several stones where you can set up for a good photo and it’s possible to walk almost under the falls.  

It can be busy, but most visitors are respectful and wait their turn. I had several people offer to take a photo for me.  

While not a large waterfall, it’s beautiful because it’s sheer. In my opinion, this provides stunning photos.  

Waterfall flowing down rocks to a pool at the bottom.

Upper Cascades  

Location: Park Main Entrance
Trail: Upper Cascades Trail  
Blaze: None 
Difficulty: Easy 
Mileage: 0.2 miles (one way) 

As you enter the Visitor Center parking lot, you’ll see the Upper Cascades Trail on your left. It crosses Hanging Rock Road just before the turn into the parking lot.  

The trail is a dirt and gravel road and easy to hike. It does trend downhill on the way to the falls. At the end is a wooden deck where you can view the falls and stairs leading down to the bottom.  

It’s a beautiful waterfall from all angles. In my opinion, this is the most accessible waterfall in the park. While it is popular, people tend to venture down as an afterthought, so it doesn’t become too crowded all at once.  

Waterfall flowing down rocks as seen across a small pool area with a large rock shelf on the left.

Lower Cascades 

Location: Lower Cascades Parking Area
Trail: Lower Cascades Trail 
Blaze: None
Difficulty: Moderate 
Mileage: 0.4 miles (one way) 

To reach the Lower Cascades parking lot, in your car, leave the Visitor Center parking lot and drive down Hanging Rock Road. Just after you pass through the entrance gates, there is a road on your left, Moore’s Springs Road. Turn left, then make the next left onto Hall Road. You’ll see the parking lot on your right. There is no street parking allowed.  

The trail starts off easy enough, then turns into a series of stone steps. The view at the bottom is worth the effort. In my opinion, this is the prettiest waterfall in the park.  

There’s a small pool in front of you with a rocky wall on the left. Across from the pool is the waterfall.  

If you walk towards the wall, the upper area blocks the sun, allowing great photos.  

While this waterfall is usually crowded, I found the lot almost empty on Sunday at 11 am in April. There were only three other cars. I had plenty of time by myself to enjoy the waterfall.  

Sheer waterfall in the distance coming down rocks, surrounded by greenery on both sides.

Tory’s Den Waterfall 

Location: Tory’s Den Parking Area
Trail: Tory’s Den Trail  
Blaze: None 
Difficulty: Easy 
Mileage: 0.2 miles (one way) 

From the Lower Cascades parking lot, get in your car and make a right back onto Hall Road. Continue until it intersects with Moore’s Springs Rd (both ends of Hall Rd intersect with Moore’s Springs). Turn left on Moore’s Springs Road and then left again on Charlie Young Rd. Parking will be on your left.  

Facing the woods, head to the right side of the parking lot to access the trail leading to Tory’s Den and the Falls. (The trail on the left side of the lot is the longer section that takes you to Moore’s Wall Loop Trail). 

I have a bone to pick with the “easy” rating on this trail. While not particularly difficult, there are steps and accessing the waterfall requires walking and scrambling a bit on a rock cropping. Be very careful if you’re wearing sneakers with no tread.  

While the waterfall is pretty, and probably the least crowded in the entire park, you cannot easily get close to it and it’s difficult to photograph from a distance.  

If you just want to get away from the crowds, sit on a rock, and relax to the sound of a waterfall, then this is the perfect location.  

The Five Waterfalls of Hanging Rock – Wrap-Up 

All five waterfalls at Hanging Rock are special in their own way. Whether you want to stop by Hidden Falls and Window Falls after a day of hiking, get away from the crowds at Tory’s Den Waterfall, enjoy an easy hike to Upper Cascades, or have a moment at Lower Cascades, you can’t go wrong.  

It’s easy to visit all five in one day. You can even do a little more hiking when you’re done.  

While two of them require parking at separate entrances, they’re all within 10 minutes of each other.  

Grab some water and a snack and have a fun day at the waterfalls.  

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