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Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area: Hiddenite, North Carolina

Efficient Admin (aka Michelle) has been hiking for eight years on the wonderful mountain trails of North Carolina and South Carolina.

View from the Park office / picnic area / parking lot

View from the Park office / picnic area / parking lot


Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area is on the North Carolina Registry of Natural Heritage Areas and is located in Alexander County, North Carolina. It is considered to be the southern edge of the Brushy Mountains. If you live in Charlotte, NC, it is only about an hour's drive north. It's also a great place to stretch your legs and feel like you are getting out of town for a few hours.

This county park is a former quarry operation, which began in 1922. Operations ceased in the early 1940s. Today, the area includes a paved ADA walking track as well as picnic shelter, restroom, and park office. The quarry area features a sheer cliff face which attracts many qualified rock climbers.

Outside the quarry area, the park includes hiking trails of approximately five miles which takes hikers along the top of the quarry cliffs and to the mountain peak. The trail also includes various markers depicting some of the rare plants which are located at the park.

The mountain is a dome shaped mass of granite with a maximum elevation of approximately 1800 feet above sea level. Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area is approximately 318 acres in size, with five miles of hiking trails leading to the mountain summit.

In addition, there is a one-third-mile paved walking trail located in the former quarry area. Additional trail mileage will be included in future plans. The summit is approximately 600 feet above the surrounding terrain. Much of the terrain is steep and rocky, and the overall outline of the mountain lies in a northeast to southwest orientation with long sloping steep slopes on each end.


Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area has a rich history dating back to the early 1900’s. The park was a former quarry operation which began in 1922 and operations ceased in the early 1940’s. A prison camp was located nearby and a railroad reached the old quarry site. There have also been agricultural land uses such as apples, peaches, wheat and grapes near the site.

In 2003, because the area is so unique, the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program signed an agreement that put Rocky Face Mountain on the North Carolina Registry of Natural Heritage Areas.

On May 25, 2012 Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area opened to the public. The park project was made possible by a $477,000 grant from the NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. In addition, to assist with the grant, the land was donated to the county by the Carolina Land and Lakes Resource Conservation and Development District.

Additional assistance related to the land donation and to acquiring additional land was provided by the Felbourn Foundation.

Today, the former rock quarry area includes a paved ADA walking track as well as picnic shelter, restrooms, and park office. The quarry area features a sheer cliff face which is attractive for qualified rock climbers.

Outside the quarry area, the park includes hiking trails of approximately five miles which will take hikers along the top of the quarry cliffs and to the mountain peak. The trail will also include various markers depicting some of the rare plants which are located at the park.

Hiking Trails

The trails at Rocky Face Mountain are the best marked trails that I have ever seen in the Carolinas. The Trail Map has a numbered system and the numbers are on the trees as well, so you know exactly where you are on the trail. All trails will lead to the top for some great views. Although not too strenuous, you will get a really good workout going to the top because the trails have a steady elevation gain to the bald. Here are some brief descriptions of each trail:

Buzzard Loop (8/10 mile)

This trail begins at the rock staircase located in the parking lot and climbs 100 feet to the quarry overlook. Rated easy to moderate.

Grindstone Trail (1 mile)

This trail is often wet and slippery and connects to the Hollow Rock Trail. It is rated moderate.

Hollow Rock Trail (2.5 miles)

This is a round trip loop trail and is accessed from all the other trails. On this trail you will see many rock overlooks. Rated moderate to strenuous.

Prison Camp Trail (1 mile)

This trail passes the former site of inmate housing and also connects to the Hollow Rock Trail. Rated moderate.

Places to Stay

Places to Stay

Apple City Bed & Breakfast
143 South Center Street | Taylorsville, NC 28681

HiddeNite Family Campground /P.O. Box 547 / 601 Princess Lane

Hiddenite, NC 28636 / 828-632-3815


Camping is allowed at the designated primitive backpack campground for $13.00/night. Permits and reservations are required. Reservations must be made at the Park Office. There is a 1/2 mile hike to the campsite. ALL participants must sign liability waivers. Parent/Guardian signatures are required for any person under 18 years of age. Campers can stay no longer than 7 consecutive nights within a 30 day period. This facility is a carry-in/carry-out facility. There are no restrooms at the site. Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area reserves the right to cancel any reservation at their discretion, with notice to client. Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area and/or the NC Forest Service reserve the right to ban campfires due to dry or windy weather. Fires are permitted only in designated areas.

Campsite descriptions can be found at this link: Campsite Descriptions

These Rocks Were Made For Climbing


Rock Climbing and Bouldering

Climbing and rappelling are allowed only with a daily permit. Permits are available at the Park Office.

The 100-foot cliff face is perfect for rock climbing, with 58 established climbing routes that range from beginner to expert. Rocky Face was a former quarry in the early to mid 1900’s, and the earliest documentation of the quarry being used for climbing or rappelling was in the 1970’s. The US Army Reservist’s 3rd Brigrade, 518 Division out of Hickory, NC used Rocky Face for rappelling training in 1975.

Later, a few local climbers would discover the mountain. The ethics back then were traditional, and all but one bolt had been put in on lead. This bolt was placed by Ben Dunlap and Terry Wright in a rainstorm, with a hardware store bought drill and a homemade hammer. This was the second bolt they had ever placed.

As of 1993, only one route saw the power drill, it was done from the ground up. With permission from the first local climber, Steve Pope and others, many of the original routes have been retro-bolted for the enjoyment of generations of climbers. As an ongoing process, new routes for all levels of climbing ability are being established, creating even more energy around Rocky Face as a destination for sport and toprope climbing.

The Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC), CCC representative and Rock Dimensions owner, Ryan Beasley; along with locals Johnny O’Connell and Travis Mabe have been important partners in helping to establish rock climbing as a major activity of the park.

Education and Events

Every year the RockyFest takes place. The event features 5K/10K/20K trail races, live music, rock climbing and rappelling, children’s activities, food/arts/crafts vendors, Cherokee storytelling and demonstrations, and more. This is a popular annual event. If you plan to attend, please note that the parking lot at Rocky Face Park will be closed during the event; however, ample parking will be available at Rocky Face Baptist Church and other nearby parking areas. Greenway Public Transportation will transport visitors to and from the event.

Plants and Animals

In 2002, the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program conducted a survey and found significant communities of plants and wildlife:

  • Because of the extensive exposures of granite, areas of shallow soil contain rare natural community types, including Low Elevation Granitic Dome and Montane Red Cedar-Hardwood Woodland, along with good examples of the uncommon Piedmont Monadnock Forest type.
  • Rocky Face contains a number of rare species associated with rock outcrops and forest and woodlands. These include Keever’s bristle moss which is considered endangered by the state and most of its world population is in the Brushy Mountains. Also included are striped garlic, shinyleaf meadow-sweet, cofaqui giant skipper and giant swallowtail.
  • Rocky Face Mountain is an excellent example of a granitic dome or bornhardt, and of the exfoliation process in the massive granitic rock that creates the rock faces.
  • The Natural Heritage Program recommends the use of the area for public education and for low-impact recreation. Emergency vehicles are the only vehicles allowed on the mountain. Foot traffic on the outcrops is limited, as much as possible to established trails. No new roadways will be constructed. New foot trails may be constructed without damage if care is given to prevent trampling of rock outcrops. Because of their fragile nature, some outcrops are left without trail access.
  • Rocky Face Mountain provides an ideal habitat for a variety of wildlife including squirrels, rabbits, rodents and a variety of snakes and birds. Two rare animals both butterflies are known to Rocky Face. Cofaqui giant skipper feeds on yuccas that are abundant in the wooded areas. The Giant swallowtail feeds on the hop-tree. Both of these species are very rare in North Carolina and are currently listed on the NC Natural Heritage Programs list of significant animal species.


A covered picnic shelter with restrooms is available near the park office. The shelter can be reserved for small events, such as family reunions, birthday parties, church functions, or meetings. Two charcoal grills are located at the shelter. There is a charge of $5 an hour or $35 per day. A full deposit is required in advance in order for the shelter to be reserved. Reservations can be made at the park office. The park also has several uncovered individual picnic tables along the walking track.

Caution:  For Your Safety!  Rules and Regulations

  • Hiking Safety: stay on designated trails and within hiking areas. The area has plenty of rocks, steep slopes and cliffs. Injury or death is possible.
  • Natural resources: the removal, destruction or injury of any tree, flower, artifact, fern, shrub, rock or other plant, mineral, animal, or insect in the park is prohibited.
  • Trash: place trash in proper containers.
  • Camping and fires: Camping is allowed at the designated campground for a nightly fee. Permits are required and available at Park Office. Fires permitted only in designated areas.
  • Horses are prohibited.
  • Vehicles and Bicycles: motorized vehicles are not permitted on park trails, excluding emergency response. No bicycles, skateboards, or rollerblades are permitted in the park.
  • Pets must be leashed no longer than six feet at all times. Pet owners are responsible for lceaning up after their pets.
  • Possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited with the park.
  • Guns and Fireworks: 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 and G.S. 14-415.23. The possession or use of fireworks, cap pistols, air guns, bows and arrows, sling-shots or lethal missiles or any kind of prohibited.
  • Special Activities Permit: the park may allow for certain commercial or business activities. All such events must be held under a special activity permit at a fee of $35.00.
  • Picnic Shelter may be reserved for special events at a fee of $5 per hour or $35 per day.
  • Tobacco Use of any kind if not permitted at any county owned parks.

Contact Information

Contact Information

3451 Rocky Face Church Road
Hiddenite, NC 28636

Phone: 828-632-1093 | Fax: 828-632-1360

Email Contact:

Mailing Address:
621 Liledoun Road
Taylorsville, NC 28681

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.

© 2016 Michelle Dee


Newkuma on January 21, 2018:

Can anyone tell me more about the history of the prison camp that was located in this area? Was there a brick and mortar infrastructure here or was it literally just an encampment where inmates worked? Also looking for a timeframe as to when this facility was closed down. I would appreciate direction to any historical resources. I’m in California, so unable to run out to the site, but I am researching this. Thank you.

Michelle Dee (author) from Charlotte, NC on December 23, 2016:

FlourishAnyway - I'm very glad they turned this old quarry into a recreational area. It is a beautiful place to get out there and stretch your legs with nice views, but not to strenuous. A state county owns and maintains it, and it is a nice place to visit all year long -- very green in spring and summer, and beautiful leaf colors in the Fall. Thank you for stopping by and for your comments.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 22, 2016:

What an interesting history as well as natural area. It's good to see old quarry sites like this benefiting the community. I once lived near a huge old quarry and the impact on the land was humbling. Nature eventually reclaimed it but it would've been nice to see it put to productive use like this park.

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