My love for nature and hiking has lead me to joyfully experience one of North Carolina's hidden gems.
In the past six years, I have found a love for hiking. I love hiking for three reasons: the exercise, the stress relief, and the experience of being surrounded by Mother Nature’s beauty. Hanging Rock State Park has been the best hiking and sightseeing experience I have had yet. The other mountains I have hiked at can be experienced in one day. Hanging Rock can be a two to three day experience depending on how much you want to hustle during your hike. I don't think that I can ever get tired of it, and here is why.
The Five Waterfalls
Three of the five waterfalls are found in the main area of the state park. These three waterfalls are Window Falls, Hidden Falls, and Upper Cascades. You'll have to go through the Hanging Rock State Park entrance, and park in the Visitor’s Center parking lot.
I recommend going into the Visitor’s Center Office to ask for a map of the entire state park. You'll be able to see the trails that lead to all five waterfalls that are located at Hanging Rock, including Lower Cascades and Tory’s Falls that aren't located in the main area. The Visitor’s Center also has restrooms and a water fountain for you to replenish your water bottle.
FUN FACT: Visit all five waterfalls in a day and earn your very own patch for $2.00! All you have to do is take a picture at each location, and show it to the person working in the Visitor’s Center.
1. Window Falls
This is going to be your longest walk to see a waterfall. On your way to this waterfall, you will approach a wooden sign as you hear and see parts of Hidden Falls through the trees. The left of the sign will read “Window Falls 0.2 miles” and on the right “Hidden Falls”. I suggest seeing Window Falls first and Hidden Falls on your way back. It'll be better on your legs.
2. Hidden Falls
This waterfall is one of the smaller ones at Hanging Rock and great for kids to experience. It's important to keep a close eye on your children though. I've seen parents not keep a close eye on their children, and their children will run, climb, and slip on the rock. Buying water shoes for your children to wear for this experience could be something well worth investing in to avoid any accidents from happening.
3. Upper Cascades
One of the things that I love about Upper Cascades is that there is a wooden deck that overlooks the waterfall from high up. There's a lower level and a higher level part of the deck that are great for photos, especially if they are for an engagement photo session. There are also steep stairs that lead you directly to the waterfall where you can lay out on the rocks, and put your feet in the water.
4. Lower Cascades
This waterfall was named the second most enchanting place in North Carolina (Rakestraw, Emory). A lot of engagement photo sessions are done here, including my own. It is absolutely breathtaking, and the pool of water is so clear. If you go during the spring and summer months, expect for there to be a lot of people playing in the water in the afternoon. The waterfall isn't the only place that is great for pictures; the trail on the way there is amazing too. My favorite experience is walking down the stone stairs, hearing the waterfall pouring and splashing, and seeing the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance at sunset.
TIP FOR PHOTO SESSIONS: Consider the time of day and the month you want to have your pictures taken to avoid big crowds. I had my engagement pictures taken on a cloudy May afternoon, and there was a decent crowd of people playing in the water there. Luckily, most people were kind enough to move out of the way so our photographer could capture the perfect moments. Your best time to go is either in the morning or in the evening.
5. Tory's Falls
This waterfall starts high up and flows down very far. You won't be able to get to the bottom unless you are really determined to. I myself have tried getting to the bottom but upon realizing how steep it was, I decided to turn and climb back up. I don't recommend attempting to go to the bottom unless you know what you are doing.
HIKING TIP: Check out Tory's Den while you're there. It's a small shallow cave, but definitely something still worth checking out.
The first place you can go to for views of the mountains is behind the Visitor’s Center office. Attached behind the office is a large spacious deck that will give you a close view of the Saura Mountains and a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. There are also benches for you to sit on to take in the incredible view while reading the history on the area.
The second place you can go to for a view of the mountains is a hike to the top of Hanging Rock. This trail starts in the back of the parking lot where the Visitor’s Center is located, and the trail is 1.3 miles long. The trail isn't that far of a walk, but the difficulty is labeled moderate. I recommend that this be your only hiking done for the day. You'll be out of breath, and you'll feel the burn in your legs. Since you are hiking to the top, you can expect to be walking up an incline for a large portion of the trail. The hike up might not feel so great on your legs at that moment, but the view you get when you reach the top will make you forget all about it.
Bring/wear the following on your hike:
- Proper sneakers to prevent injuries and slipping on wet rocks.
- A swimsuit to play in the water at the waterfalls (for the warmer months)
- A towel so you can dry off.
- Plenty of water and snacks to prevent dehydration and fainting.
- A backpack to carry your things in.
MY FAVORITE ITEM TO HIKE WITH: I love my backpack from Amazon that I bought for practically nothing. It isn't waterproof, but it's small and light making my hike a better experience. The best part is you can fold it into a pouch, so it's easy to pack in a suitcase or even a purse. I wouldn't recommend this backpack if you're carrying items for an entire family. Instead, you'll need a stronger, bigger, and sturdier backpack for your purposes.
© 2019 Jackie Zelko
Liz Westwood from UK on June 21, 2019:
The photos are top quality and your description and advice are first class. It looks like a beautiful area to visit.