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Hanging Rock State Park, North Carolina, United States

Waterfall Tour of Hanging Rock State Park, N.C.

Park northwest of Winston-Salem has some of the state's prettiest waterfalls east of the Appalachian Mountains.

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Length: 3.2 miles / 5.2 km
Family Friendly
Overview: Three easy strolls to picturesque waterfalls offer the perfect introduction to Hanging Rock State Park, the top hiking destination within an hour of the Triad cities of Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem.

None of these falls are more than a mile from your car, so they're open to just about any ability level. They do require delicate footwork at times, offering a prelude to Hanging Rock's more challenging trails, which can be steep, rocky and downright difficult.

Main quirk of this tour: you need to park twice, once at the park headquarters and again at Lower Cascade entrance on Hall Road just outside the park entrance.

Lower Cascade Falls is the prettiest of the bunch -- I recommend seeing it last because it's easier to find the park first, then find the Lower Cascade entrance later.

Best time to go: Late October is the height of Leaf Season. The colors are fabulous. Winter and spring are fine times too. The summer heat can be fierce, though all these hikes are shaded so you won't be fighting the sun as well.

Tips: Use extreme caution around waterfalls -- falls from nearby cliffs are typically not survivable.

Most of these waterfalls have steep stone stairways that lead down to the base of the falls. These too require caution.

Keep kids under close supervision -- there are many temptations to scramble into dangerous areas.

The park can be quite crowded on weekends in the summer and autumn; weekdays will provide much more solitude.

What to bring
Rain protection (jacket or umbrella)
Bug repellent (especially in summer)
Sturdy footwear with good traction
Hiking staff or poles if you have them
Park map as backup

Points of Interest


Hanging Rock Visitors Center

Two of the hikes start out here from the Visitors Center Parking Lot.

The Visitors Center also has restrooms with running water, plus displays describing plant and animal life and a description of the Civilian Conservation Corps' contribution to building the park during the Great Depression.

Upper Cascades Falls

Take the Upper Cascades Falls trail across the park road from the Visitors Center.

Bear right once you're across the road, then follow the wide trail around a bend till you see a large wooden deck area.

Upper Cascades Falls is just beyond the deck. You can scramble down to the base of the falls, just be sure to watch your step.

Indian Creek Trail

This trail starts the northeast corner of the parking lot and continues down to Hidden Falls (.4 mile) and Window Falls (.6 mile).

Hidden Falls

The trail descends gently past picnic areas and old park shelters. The descent begins to steepen (be mindful you'll have to come back this way); eventually the sign pointing to Window Falls shows up.

Turn right and take the narrow path to the falls. This is a small cascade with excellent wading pools for the kids. While it's the least dangerous of the park's falls, it's still easy to slip on wet rocks.

Watch the kids closely.

When you're ready to move on, take the trail back to Indian Creek Trail and turn right.

Window Falls

At about .6 mile you'll round a bend to an overlook with a stone fence. The large stone "window" over to your right gives the falls its name. Stone stairs to the left go to the base of the falls.

These falls are in two sections; the upper is visible only by scrambling through the window or around the rock face directly below it. Either way, the footing is tricky. If you make it to the other side, you're apt to step in the stream and get the soles of your shoes very slippery. This will make your return scramble even more precarious.

The creek tumbles over a 30-foot cliff to form the lower section of the falls. Keep a safe distance from this drop-off.

The lower section of the falls offers even more scrambling opportunities, including walking behind the waterfall (great for taking pictures). Again, be very sure of your footing and don't let your kids out of your sight.

This area can be very fun and challenging, but any slip can be tragic.

When you're done, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Lower Cascade Falls

This is the most impressive waterfall at Hanging Rock. To get there, leave take the park road out of the park and take the first left turn on Moore's Springs Road. Then take Hall Road, the first left, and watch for the Lower Cascade entrance on the right.

From the parking lot, go take the Lower Cascades Trail for just under a half-mile till you reach a large wooden deck.

From there you can take stone steps down to the waterfall's pool. Be very careful on the steps, as they are steep and can be slippery.

The main waterfall tumbles into a pool with a towering stone cliff to one side. The creek ambles down the hillside in a lovely cascade.

When you're done, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.
Pictures in this guide taken by: tommangan
Was a Ranger in this park 45 years ago. Did an excellent job of capturing the essence of this beautiful park!
Visited on Jan 01, 2000

by FloridaBiking on Nov 17, 2011

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