Hanging Rock State Park - Danbury, NC
Hanging Rock State Park is part of the Sauratown Mountains and was created in the 1930s as a Civilian Conservation Corps project. It offers the best of traditional outdoor experiences with 20 miles of hiking trails, a 73-site campground, picnic grounds, a stocked lake for swimming and canoeing, and even a mountain cave called Tory’s Den. The hiking trails climb to spectacular views and also run alongside clear streams and waterfalls. There is also the Dan River access for paddling, 8.4 miles of mountain biking trails and rock climbing opportunities (which require a permit). The Visitor Center has free interpretive programs in addition to the education offerings that explore the natural and cultural history of the Sauratown Mountains.
The Sauratown Mountains are often called “the mountains away from the mountains” because they separated from the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. Elevation rises from 1,700 feet to more than 2,500 feet and stands in bold contrast to the surrounding area, which is only 800 feet in elevation.
Named after the Saura Indians who were the early inhabitants of the region, these ancient mountains has plenty of erosion-resistant quartzite, which now supports scenic ridges and knobs, including Moore’s Knob, Moore’s Wall, Cook’s Wall, Devil’s Chimney, Wolf Rock, and Hanging Rock.
Quick Reference of Trail Mileage
Length of Trail
Chestnut Oak Nature Trail
0.70 miles one way
Cook's Wall Trail
2.20 miles one way
Hanging Rock Trail
1.30 miles one way
Hidden Falls Trail
0.40 miles one way
Indian Creek Trail
3.60 miles one way
Easy to Moderate
Lower Cascades Trail
0.40 miles one way
Magnolia Springs Trail
0.40 miles one way
Moore's Wall Loop Trail
4.70 miles LOOP
North Side Trail
2.30 miles LOOP
1.30 miles LOOP
Rock Garden Trail
0.10 miles one way
Tory's Den Cave and Waterfall Trail
0.20 miles one way
Easy / Moderate
Tory's Den Trail
2.70 miles one way
Upper Cascades Trail
0.30 miles one way
Window Falls Trail
0.60 miles one way
Wolf Rock Trail
1.80 miles one way
Indian Creek Trail
This trail starts at the visitor center parking lot and passes one of the picnic shelters. Also along the way are the two waterfalls - Hidden Falls and Window Falls. Once you head towards Window Falls you must go down many stone stairs (and then come back up). Once past the Window Falls, the trail is extremely steep, rooty, and rocky for a few minutes, then it flattens out, with a few small rolling hills on the way to the Dan River access. Out-and-back this trail is about 7.2 miles. It has many stream crossings so be prepared and bring hiking poles if you prefer them. Most of the stream crossings are small with rocks you can step on to get to the other side. After a hard rain some of the crossings take careful effort to cross.
Scenes Along the Indian Creek TrailClick thumbnail to view full-size
Hanging Rock Trail
This trail starts at the visitor center parking lot. It starts out on an asphalt trail going down then turns into gravel and starts to incline all the way up for 1.3 miles one-way. There are few stairs and rocks to navigate on the way up and back down. It is rated strenuous and gets very crowded with people but the views along the way are spectacular and worth the climb up. There are no fences or guard rails at the cliffs (Hanging Rock Overlook) at the top, so be very careful and watch your children and pets. The video below shows what it would be like to hike this trail.
Scenes of the Hanging Rock TrailClick thumbnail to view full-size
Video of a Hanging Rock Trail Hike
Tory's Den Trail
You can access this trail by hiking towards the lake area, and right past the pavilion is a sign for Moore's Wall trail. Follow that trail and eventually you will see a sign for Tory's Den Trail. This trail will take you all the way to the other side of the park where there is a mountain cave and an awesome waterfall called Tory's Falls. Hint: you can also drive to this cave and waterfall and park your car in the designated parking lot. If you look at the park map it is easy to find and drive to. However, if you plan to hike the entire trail, it is a nice walk in the woods. There is a lot of erosion on this trail as well as a few rolling hills, some steep. My group of five women never made it to the cave and waterfall on foot because a rattle snake blocked the trail and we did not want to mess with the creature. This snake had its head up and tail up in the air and I know it was watching us. I have included a photo of this creature. I used a 16-50 mm lens to zoom in on it but the photo is still blurry due to me not wanting to get to close. We turned around and hiked back to the cars. It was a good hike though so don't let that stop you. We did not see very many hikers on this trail and I believe it is less traveled.
Scenes at the Tory's Den Cave Trail and Tory's FallsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Scenes from the Tory's Den Trail, plus the rattlesnake who wouldn't let us passClick thumbnail to view full-size
Please follow these rules and encourage others to do the same when you are near waterfall areas. Visiting waterfalls in North Carolina State Parks is one of the most exciting and memorable experiences you can have! However, waterfalls sometimes cause visitors to forget basic safety measures. People are seriously injured and killed at waterfalls in our state of North Carolina every year! Please do not underestimate the danger that lurks around waterfalls.
By following these rules, you can help keep you and your family safe.
- Stay on developed trails and don't stray from observation decks and platforms.
- Pay attention to the warning signs and rules you see posted near waterfalls.
- Never climb on or around waterfalls. Rocks are more slippery than they look.
- Never jump off waterfalls or dive into plunge pools. Rocks and logs are often beneath the surface of the water but difficult to see. Currents caused by a waterfall can drag and keep you underwater.
- Watch children carefully. Children should always be under the immediate supervision of adults when visiting any falls. Pets should also be supervised. They can easily underestimate the slickness of rocks and the flow of water.
- Never play in the stream or river above a waterfall. You can easily be swept over the falls by currents. Do not try to take photos or selfies at the top of a waterfall! People lose their footing while paying attention to their photo set-up and fall over.
- Slippery rocks and mud are common along trails as you near waterfalls. Use extra caution on the trail as you approach waterfalls.
- Since many waterfalls are in remote areas, a medical rescue could take hours.
- Wear hiking shoes with a good grip. Flip flops and sandals make you particularly vulnerable to slipping or injuring yourself.
- Bring a picnic or snack and plenty of water. Reaching some waterfalls in your state parks require a challenging hike!
- Plan ahead to ensure you will be back to your campsite or parking area before sunset.
- Winter is an exceptional time to visit waterfalls in North Carolina State Parks as trees drop their leaves and reveal sweeping views. Watch for icy patches along the trail and on decks and overlook areas from the mist of the waterfalls.
Photos of the Awesome Waterfalls at Hanging Rock State Park - Danbury, NCClick thumbnail to view full-size
Family campsites include a picnic table, grill, and tent pad. Water and restrooms with showers are nearby. The bathhouses are closed December 1 – March 15 when a pit toilet is available. Sites not reserved are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance. Recreational vehicle hookups and dump stations are not provided. Five campsites are available for groups of 6-16 and reservations are required for these. These areas include picnic tables and a fire pit, and have accessible vault toilets and drinking water are nearby.
NOTE – GATE ACCESS FOR CAMPERS: Park gates are closed and locked at posted closing times for your protection. There will be no exiting or entering the gates after the closing time. All visitors who are not spending the night need to be out by closing time. If you leave the park and do not return before closing time, you will not be able to re-enter. Check with park office during office hours for the after-hours emergency phone number. Please notify camp hosts for emergencies only.
Education and Events
Rangers regularly hold scheduled interpretive and educational programs at the park. Contact the park office to arrange a special exploration of the park for your group or class. Educational materials about Hanging Rock State Park have been created for grades 5-8 and are correlated to North Carolina’s competency-based curriculum. The park program introduces students to basic geologic concepts and relates the concepts to the Sauratown Mountain range. An exhibit hall at the visitor center offers a variety of interactive exhibits.
Scenes from the Exhibit Hall located at the Visitor CenterClick thumbnail to view full-size
Flora and Fauna
More than 704 species of mountain flora are found at Hanging Rock State Park. The plants that are most abundant include rhododendron, azalea, galax, mountain laurel and a wide variety of ferns. Hanging Rock is one of the few places where Canadian and Carolina hemlock grow side by side. Flowering plants, such as pink lady’s slipper, turkey-beard, bird-foot violet and fire pink, are also found here.
The park’s forests are home to many animals such as white-tailed deer, raccoon, gray fox, and an occasional black bear. Birds are abundant in all seasons. Hanging Rock is home to a variety of amphibians as well such as American toads, spring peppers and chorus frogs. One species of salamander, Wehrle’s salamander, is found only in this area of the state. Lizards and snakes are also diverse, and live in areas where insects and rodents are plentiful.
Visions of Flowers, Plants, and Trees found at Hanging Rock State ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
For experienced climbers only, Cook’s Wall and Moore’s Wall is a series of cliffs up to 400 feet high and extend almost two miles. All other areas of the park are closed to climbing and rappelling. Climbers must register before beginning a climb and must use proper equipment and safety techniques. North Carolina State Parks do not maintain routes or anchors.
Hanging Rock Lake
This lake is 12 acres of open water formed by the damming of Cascade Creek. The lake is popular for swimming, boating, and fishing. The refreshment stand and a picnic area as well as restrooms are located by the lake.
Scenes at the Hanging Rock LakeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Fishing is permitted year round on the lake for bass and bream. Anyone over 16 years old must have a N.C. fishing license. You can fish from the shore, from the wheelchair accessible pier or from a rental boat.
Rowboats and Canoes
Private boats are not allowed on Hanging Rock Lake. Rowboats and canoes are rented for use on the lake during the spring, summer, and fall.
The Dan River Access
Located on the north side of Hanging Rock State Park. There is a parking lot and a ramp for fishing access, paddling, and tubing. Bring your own equipment or take advantage of nearby commercial outfitters (two of them are shown below) who provide equipment and shuttling services for kayaking, canoeing, and tubing. The best practical access for fishing is by boat or wading. You can also hike to this area by starting on the Indian Creek Trail from the visitor center, for a total round trip hike of 7.2 miles. There are no restrooms at this location.
Dan River Company (Canoe, Kayak, Paddle Board)
1110 Flinchum Road
Danbury, NC 27016
The General Dan Tubing Co.
201 North Main Street
Danbury, NC 27016
Views from the Dan River Canoe AccessClick thumbnail to view full-size
Rustic family vacation cabins will accommodate up to six people each. Two cabins are handicapped accessible. Each cabin includes two bedrooms, kitchen, living room, and bathroom. During the spring, winter and fall the cabins may be rented by the night with a two night minimum stay or by the week. Summer rentals are available by the week only. Reservations are required. Pets are not allowed in the cabin or cabin area at any time. Here are a few other local places to stay for your visit:
Dan River Cottage
Luna’s Trail & Farm Cabins
Old Farmhouse Inn
The George Farmhouse
For Your Safety!
- Do not feed or approach wildlife. Report sick or aggressive animals to the rangers.
- When hiking, stay on the designated trails and away from cliff faces and waterfalls.
- Be alert to approaching storms and seek appropriate shelter.
- Venomous snakes, ticks and poisonous plants may be found along park trails. Exercise caution.
- Dress properly. Check with park employees regarding weather and terrain.
- Remember that daylight hours are shorter in the fall and winter. Allow plenty of time for a hike to avoid being caught by darkness.
- Contact park staff for other safety tips or an explanation of park rules.
Rules and Regulations
- To have a safe and rewarding visit, regulations are posted throughout the Park. A complete list is available at the park office.
- The removal of any plant, animal, rock or artifact is prohibited.
- All state parks are wildlife preserves. Hunting and trapping are not permitted.
- Please throw trash in the proper receptacles. NC state law requires aluminum cans and plastic bottles to be placed in recycling containers.
- Fireworks are not permitted.
- Firearms and other weapons are prohibited except that those with a proper permit may possess a concealed handgun in permitted areas and under the requirements of North Carolina G.S. 14-415.11. All firearms and weapons are prohibited in visitor centers and park offices.
- The possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.
- North Carolina motor vehicle and traffic laws apply in the park.
- Pets must be on an attended leash no longer than six feet. Pets are not allowed in the cabins, bathhouse or swimming area.
- Camping is allowed in designated areas by permit only.
- As a courtesy to other campers, observe the posted campground quiet hours.
- Fires are permitted only in designated areas.
- Rock climbing is permitted only on Moore’s Wall and Cook’s Wall. All combers must use proper equipment and must register before beginning a climb.
Hanging Rock State Park in Danbury, NC
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Michelle Dee