Top Ten Tent Camping in the Carolinas
I can understand why Hanging Rock is so popular. The natural setting is dramatic: the Sauratown Mountains rise from the Piedmont in barren rock faces, forming natural vista points for overlooking the surrounding countryside. Hiking trails explore not only mountain lookouts, but also waterfalls, and woodlands. A ridge-rimmed lake with recreation opportunities offers a watery contrast to the land. Quality park facilities include a wood-and-stone bathhouse by the lake that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lodge-like visitor center fits well in the setting and is full of interpretive information about the land, people, and history of this nearly 7,000-acre state park. Finally, the campground makes for an adequate jumping off point to get out and explore this active camper's destination.
The campground at Hanging Rock is divided into two loops. The first loop has campsites 1 through 42 and is open throughout the week. Hickory, oaks, and maples shade the ridge-line campground that is slightly sloped. Sourwood, sassafras, and mountain laurel form a thick understory that screens the campsites from one another. Campsites are situated as the rocks and trees allow, resulting in campsites of differing sizes and distances from the loop. A trail leads down to the park lake, which is in the valley below the campground.
The second loop, with sites 43 through 73, is stretched on a ridge-line road. It is open only on weekends. The sites on the right side of the road are more desirable, as they face into the lake valley, rather than toward the campground access road. Mountains are visible beyond the lake through the trees. The campground road descends along the ridge, but the campsites themselves have been leveled. Be aware that these sites are closer together than the first loop.
Each loop has a bathhouse. Water spigots are adequately spread throughout the campground, which has a host to make your stay flow more smoothly. The only real downside to this park is campground popularity. It will fill just about every nice weekend. First come, first served means take your chances, but the campground host told me to get here by 1 p.m. on a Friday to get a site (my trip was on a weekday). Better yet, try to come during the week or mix your weekends and weekdays together if you can swing it.
Over 18 miles of trails travel to and through the park's natural features. The Hanging Rock Trail leads to the park's namesake. You can even see downtown Winston-Salem from Hanging Rock! Additional views await at other destinations. An observation tower has been erected at Moore's Knob. This is part of a fire tower from the state fire service. Check out the vistas from Cook's Wall, which leads to a cliff edge and House Rock. Other worthwhile hiking destinations are the Lower Cascades, Upper Cascades, Window Falls, and Hidden Falls. Haven't gotten enough falls? Then head to Tory's Falls. Here also is Tory's Den, a cave that was purportedly used during the Revolutionary War.
The park lake has a rustic bathhouse built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and early 1940s. A slope leads beyond the bathhouse to a beach, then to the clear lake itself, which was dammed by the CCC. This attractive impoundment offers fishing from a pier. Visitors can also rent paddleboats and rowboats to tool around the lake or angle for bream and bass. No private boats are allowed. The impressive park visitor center has an interesting video from the CCC days, among other information that is worth a visit. As pretty as the park structures may be, the natural landscape is the star of the show here. Make time to pitch your tent here, and check it out for yourself.
Address: Hanging Rock State Park, P.O. Box 278, Danbury, NC 27016; (336) 593-8480; http:www.ncsparks.net
Assignment: First come, first served; no reservations
Fee: $12 per night; $8 per night, winter
Elevation: 1,500 feet
Pets: On leash only
Fires: In fire rings only
Vehicles: Must be on parking pad
Other: 14-day stay limit in a 30-day period
From Winston-Salem, take exit 110B from US 52, and take US 311 for 17 miles to NC 89. Keep forward on NC 89 west for 9 miles to Hanging Rock Road. Turn left on Hanging Rock Road and follow it for 1 mile to enter the state park.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication