Sunday, October 26, 2014



Late one Saturday in October, with the Fat Bald White Guy wanting to break in a new pair of hiking boots, we set out to one of our favorite nearby spots for a sunset hike.  I have featured this park in several previous blogs.

The feature peak is the Hanging Bluff upon which the Hanging Rock draws thousands of visitors each year.  Today was no exception as even as we began our hike late in the day we passed more than 50 other hikers descending the trail! 

  You access the trail from the main parking lot on the other side of the visitors' center.  It is a 2.6 mile round trip.  The trail is initially paved gravel and about a quarter of mile into the trek becomes crushed gravel. It is moderately steep until you reach the ridge top about halfway up the trail.  The ridge top trail leads to the summit trail which consists of steps....lots of steps!  When I first hiked this trail decades ago the original trail was a nice mountain switchback but it was too narrow to accommodate the popularity of the hike and these steps were constructed. I tried to count the total number of steps but I lost count at step 250!  My guess is that the total is around 275.

At step 80 there is a nice rock where you can step to the side of the trail and catch your breath. If you look back you can see the a nice view of Cook's Wall Mountain.  Proceeding up the steps, at step 130 the trail emerges beneath a rock overhang.  Looking up I got a nice pic of a chimney rock .

The trail beneath the rock ridge gives a brief respite from the steps but soon the trail returns to the original route....and more steps.  The summit trail ends on the back side of the ridge top and leads to the breathtaking views of the Hanging Rock cliffs.  Most folks proceed straight out to the signature overlook.  I chose to rock scramble to the right and found my self on the southwest side of the peak on a rock cliff I have named "Balanced Rock Cliff"....why....because of a wonderfully balanced rock sentry on its ledge. 

From this ledge the Piedmont foothills unfold before the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

The big sister of Hanging Bluff  Mountain is Moore's Knob the tallest of the Saura Mountain chain is profiled against the evening sky. On top of Moore's Knob is an observation tower and I captured a shot of someone looking at me!  

 And beneath its gaze is a nice horse farm whose white buildings gleamed in the setting sunlight. 

Leaving the Balanced Rock ledge, my Hiking Companion pointed out a nice window view framed by the rock.

Making our way around the rock cliffs, both my Hiking Companion and I snapped some nice shots of the colorful landscape.

The sun was rapidly sinking and we made our way over to the signature cliff to get the best view.  But  we had to wait our turn as many others wanted to be pictured against the setting sun from this spot.  On the way I ran into a nice couple, Clarence and Ashley whom I told I would make famous by picturing them in my blog...apologies for the bad pic....promise to do better next time!

But we made our way to the Hanging Rock ledge and found a nice seat to watch nature's best display of colors end the day.  The setting of the sun over Huckleberry Ridge between Cook's Wall Mountain and Moore's Knob Mountain was spectacular as the sun seemed to dance behind the cloud teasing us as it emerged with bolts of color.
The setting sun provided so many great shots it is hard to pick the best so I will do my best to display the spectacular sunset with a series of pictures.
As the sun played peek a boo with the clouds, the mountain provided a nice silhouette to portray the display of colors not imaginable to the finest of painters.

As we left the edge of the cliff, the sunset kept drawing us back for more pictures as the colors seemed to change every moment.

We met a nice family, Sandy, Julie and Darwin who recently moved from Colorado to Camden, NC and had yet to experience the wonderful beauty of the North Carolina Mountains.  We decided to make them famous too!

 While we were talking with them a strange couple took our place on the Hanging Rock cliff.  We watched in both amazement and trepidation as the man began to light the ends of two ropes and performed some kind of ceremonial dance on the ridge.  With the wind blowing and the surrounding countryside dry with fallen leaves, I was sure Smokey the Bear would appear any moment and admonish this young man for his foolish behavior.

This hike was a real treat mostly because it was not planned.  Hanging Rock State Park is so close that we can visit without much advanced planning.  We caught the autumn sunset on a clear evening and were entertained by a show of nature that cannot be duplicated by man.

 So how can I rate this trail?  The trail is a solid tourist hike.  Many people will join you on this hike so be prepared.  The trail is a 7 because of this in spite of the fact it is well maintained and marked.  Access is a 10...parking right next to the trail head.  Scenery is an 8.  Great cliff views of the surrounding Piedmont foothills and the Saura Mountains.  Effort to view ratio is about right as it is a 1.3 mile uphill steep step climb.  Overall this is a solid 8 trail. If you live in the area, try to catch a makes the trail experience a 10+!


  1. Thanks so much for the memories. Spent many a happy childhood day hiking the trails and swimming in the lake.

    1. What a treat it must have been to have a childhood spent at Hanging Rock State is a special place indeed. I have profiled most every trail in the park so root around the blog and have more memories re-kindled! Thanks for taking time to comment and please come visit the park again soon! FBWG

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.