Ascent of Hanging Rock on 2011-12-23

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Friday, December 23, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Hanging Rock
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:2160 ft / 658 m

Ascent Trip Report

Hanging Rock was the first of four peaks I climbed on a 7.8-mile loop hike in Hanging Rock State Park. The details below encompass the entire hike.

Hanging Rock State Park is distinct from the Blue Ridge mountains in several ways--most notably by towering cliffs that are atypical of the Appalachians. None of the summits reach 3000 feet, but because the surrounding valleys are below 800 feet, these mountains look more impressive in person than on the map.

The park is framed by a horseshoe-shaped ridge with visitors center, lake, campground, and other facilities in the middle. The three major peaks--Hanging Rock, Cook's Wall/Devil's Chimney, and Moore's Knob--can all be hiked with an 11.5-mile loop that climbs about 2200 feet.

I started at the Hanging Rock trailhead across the parking lot from the visitors' center. The first few hundred yards are a concrete sidewalk, and most of the first mile is a gravel trail wide enough for a vehicle. As you approach Hanging Rock, it's more a series of timber and stone steps. All the trails are well-maintained and well-marked. However, all of the actual high points involve minor Class 3 scrambles.

Cumulative mileage from the trailhead:

1.1 mile--the Hanging Rock trail (blazed with orange disks) reaches the summit ridge NE of the overlook. Note that the trail does not go to the actual summit, which is about 0.35 miles NE of the overlook. When you reach the ridge, there's a well-worn but unmarked trail on the R side. This leads quickly to the foot of a formidable outcropping, which is a Class 3 scramble that climbs about 30 feet. I found a reasonable route on the SE side. Once you are past this ledge, it's a fairly level walk through brush and thorns to two outcroppings, either of which could be the HP. Great views from here--over a dozen hawks were soaring on the thermals. The skylines of Greensboro and Winston-Salem were clearly visible, as were the Uwharrie ridges further south.

1.7 miles--return to the trail and continue to the R (SW) to the overlook.

1.8 miles--visit Hanging Bluff for fine views to the west. There's a NC BM here. Take a clifftop portrait, and then descend the way you came up.

2.5 miles--leave the Hanging Rock trail and turn L on the Wolf Rock trail (blazed with blue triangles).

3.4 miles--reach Wolf Rock, a 20-foot pillar atop a cliff that only experts and fools attempt to climb. Thankfully, there are higher outcroppings nearby that are accessible.

3.8 miles--continue SW on the Cooks Wall Trail (blazed with white diamonds).

4.4 miles--reach House Rock, the first of a series of cliffs that make up the south-facing Cook's Wall.

4.7 miles--as the trail crests, bushwhack about 20 yards to the south to reach the outcropping that tops Cooks Wall Mtn. Return to the trail and continue through Cool Gap.

5.1 miles--reach the Devil's Chimney, which has outstanding views of Sauratown Mountain and Pilot Mountain. Lament that neither of those fine summits is open to the public. Return across Cooks Wall Mtn and descend.

6.1 miles--turn L on the Magnolia Springs Trail (blazed with blue squares), which descends quickly into the valley.

6.5 miles--to return to the trailhead, turn R on the Moore's Wall Loop trail (blazed with red disks) and continue along the creek 0.8 miles to the lakeside parking lot and another 0.5 to the visitors center lot.

As an alternative, you could turn L on the Moore's Wall Loop, which would take you over Moore's Knob via Huckleberry Ridge. This would enable you to bag all 3 ranked peaks in the park. Having climbed Moore's Knob in 2010, I chose to bypass that section. The entire loop (Hanging Rock/Cook's Wall/Moore's Knob) would be about 11.5 miles.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2620 ft / 798 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2620 ft / 798 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.8 mi / 12.6 km
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1540 ft / 469 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 460 ft / 140 m; Extra: 1080 ft / 329m
    Loss on way in:1080 ft / 329 m
    Distance:5.1 mi / 8.2 km
    Start Trailhead:State Park visitors center  1700 ft / 518 m
    Time:3 Hours 40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1540 ft / 469 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 460 ft / 140 m; Extra: 1080 ft / 329m
    Gain on way out:1080 ft / 329 m
    Distance:2.7 mi / 4.3 km
    End Trailhead:State Park visitors center  1700 ft / 518 m
    Time:1 Hours 15 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Hanging Rock

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Hanging Rock2011-12-23 a2620 ft / 799 m
2Wolf Rock2011-12-23 b 
3Cooks Wall2011-12-23 c 
4Devils Chimney2011-12-23 d 
5House Rock2011-12-23 e 
Total Trip Gain: 2620 ft / 799 m    Total Trip Loss: 2620 ft / 799 m

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