Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hanging Rock - Cooks Wall To Hanging Rock

Hanging Rock

On Cooks Wall with Mt Pilot in the distance

Hanging Rock State Park

                                Cooks Wall to Hanging Rock

Looking from Hanging Rock toward Cooks Wall

One of the hidden jewels in the North Carolina State Park System is Hanging Rock State Park in Stokes County near Danbury.  Just 40 minutes from Winston-Salem, the Park has some of the best hiking trails in the state with views that rival those found on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We chose an ambitious 8 mile hike from the Lake to Cooks Wall to Hanging Rock....and it was well worth the effort.  

In one of the best bargains ever struck by the State of North Carolina, the land upon which Hanging Rock State Park was purchased in 1936 for $10.00!    It was then developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.   Most folks when they visit... picnic and swim in the lake...many take a hike to Hanging Rock...others struggle up Moores prior visits to the park bear testament to these choices...this time we wanted to get a look at a part of the Park that was less traveled.  Leaving the Lake trail we trudged a half mile up the Magnolia Loop trail until it intersected with the Cooks Wall/Wolf Rock trail.  The sign set forth....our destination...and the predicted distance we had to walk!

The trail up from the Lake was a gentle climb through the forest with one major incline.  Cooks Wall Trail is a ridge line trail that follows the ridge to a nice overlook named "House Rock"

House Rock is located approximately 1.5 miles from the provides some of the nicest views on the mountain and is a much easier hike than the 2.0 mile tourist trail to Hanging Rock

From House Rock you can get a real nice view of Hanging Rock to the North....our ultimate destination after we visit Cooks Wall which is a mile to the South!  

All the rock outcroppings at Hanging Rock State Park seem to be steep cliffs which make for fantastic views...but now I know why so many people seem to fall off the mountain every summer....that first step is a doozy!
Looking East from House Rock

As we left House Rock, the trail to Cooks Wall becomes quite steep....and while taking a few breaks to catch our breath and feel the breeze coming from the east, I spied a house in the valley which was nicely framed by the trees and the rock cliff....the picture does not do it justice but there is a half million dollar home in beneath that cliff.       

Along the trail I spied an enormous spiderweb that was so beautifully constructed, it reminded me of a "dream catcher".

We also were intrigued by stones stacked on top of one another on the side of the trail.  Another hiker spotted the stones first and was taking pictures and when asked what was the purpose of the stones, he replied: "In Native American culture, such stones were a religious altar." 

Since it was a Sunday hike, I could not help but ponder the religion of Native Americans and I recalled the observation of Apostle Paul: "For  ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities-His eternal power and divine nature."  (Romans 1:20)  

Upon trudging up the steep trail to the summit of Cooks Wall, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of Pilot Mountain and Sauratown Mountain.   Near the end of the trail to Cooks Wall is a rock cliff that was very popular with other hikers.  One nice couple was excited to learn that their photo would be on Hiking with a Fat Bald White Guy.  

This cliff proved to be a great place to take a break. Cool breeze from the East.... 

We were afforded great views of the surrounding countryside to the south and to the east.

We were also entertained by several hawks who performed an aerial waltz for us.  The most I had ever seen in one place!  I think I counted seven!

The Cooks Wall Trail Cooks Wall which faces Moores Wall to the southwest and Moores Knob to the west. You can make out the Blue Ridge in the distance.


We hated to leave but we had a few more miles to hike....the Cooks Wall Trail was an up and back so we had about two miles to hike to get to the next stop....WOLF ROCK!  (Welcome to "Our State"!)   Wolf Rock is really about 2.5 miles from Cooks Wall...but like House Rock it is a very manageable hike from the Lake parking lot...and the views there are hard to beat.

The Wolf Rock Trail is a ridgeline trail connecting Cooks Wall with Hanging Rock.... it is a moderate trail with only a few brief steep inclines.

I could see the faint outline of the skyline of Winston-Salem from Wolf Rock!  

You could also see the summit of Cooks Wall from Wolf Rock showing just how far we had hiked.

The sign said that "Hanging Rock" was only .8 miles away....I had read the map....I knew better....Hanging Rock "Trail" was .8 miles away.... Hanging Rock summit was about 1.75 miles away but I was not telling this to my hiking companion...who was already complaining of the "non hiker-tourist" types who were now on the us strange looks...."why are they huffing and puffing?"  Their facial expression asked.... perhaps it was just the way we was humid and we were working on our sixth mile....

When you hike the Hanging Rock trail from the parking lot of the visitors center, you are on a concrete paved walk for the first 3/4 mile.  It turns into a wide gravel drive.  About 1/2 mile before reaching the summit of Hanging Rock, the Wolf Rock trail intersects with his nice wide trail.... and the first thing we spot is a wooden bench!  The Hanging Rock trail has wooden benches about every quarter mile and I can assure you that the public expenditure for these benches by the State of North Carolina is well appreciated by the citizenry!

The last time I hiked this trail David was young enough for me to carry on my shoulders.  And sure enough as we sat on the first wooden  bench we spied, several fresh faced young parents breezed by us....some carrying their kids on their shoulders.  My GPS said we had hiked nearly six miles...and no way I was going to let these "tourist" hikers show me up the summit we trudged.  Since I last hiked the trail the summit trail has been replaced by steps....what was once a nice mountain switchback trail has been turned into a heart attack step climb!  It was the toughest climb of the day!   But we made it and collapsed on the Hanging Rock cliff....dead tired....and sure enough the looks on the "tourist types" told us what we must have looked like!

There was a nice man and his dog whom I have featured above, a solitary soul who laid claim to the edge of the Hanging Rock and a young couple who were sunning themselves perilously close to the edge.  But there were also great views!

Note that the ridge to the left is the ridge where Wolf Rock is located and the one to the right is the rid where House Rock is located.  No wonder we were tired and smelled bad as that is a long hike!

There is a great view of Moore's Knob from the summit of Hanging Rock. Moores Knob is the tallest of the Saura Mountains(2579'). It has a nice converted forest fire tower on the summit that provides a nice view. I have been there and the lakeside trail to the summit is one of the toughest ascents I have experienced. The trail from the campground is much easier. It is supposed to be a four mile loop trail.  

Looking to the northeast I spotted an interesting solitary tree but Rene was following a solitary hawk...what a great pic!

This was a great hike!  We pushed ourselves to our limit. But in the process we got to see a part of Hanging Rock State Park in one day that some folks never see.  This park has something for everyone.  Every view that we experienced can be seen within 2 miles of the parking lot.  If I have inspired any of you to hike, try Hanging Rock Park!  

The Fat Bald White Guy rates the access a 10... the scenery an 8 and the trail an 8.....this hike is a solid 9!

1 comment:

  1. I did not have time to thoroughly explore Hanging Rock because I had the family with me that day. We did get to see a beautiful waterfall. My dog Abbie and I did hike around Pilot Mountain earlier that week.