Hanging Rock State Park stands as a jewel in the North Carolina state parks system. With soaring vistas, a serene lake, the Dan River and a plethora of pristine waterfalls, there’s something for everyone.
Hanging Rock State Park makes a great weekend destination. We visited over Father’s Day weekend in June and returned with a tentative itinerary. Book your visit today.
Arrive and set up camp. The park’s tent and trailer campgrounds offer two one-way loops that lead to 73 campsites. That may sound like a lot, but make sure you reserve a site in advance, as they tend to fill up on weekends in season. Each campsite has a picnic table, grill and tent pad accommodating up to six people and two tents. Some campsites can accommodate RVs.
Five group camping sites also are available. Or if you’re not into camping, consider renting a cabin. Each cabin has a bathroom, living room, kitchen with dining space and two bedrooms. Each cabin accommodates up to six people.
Take a walk around the lake. Eighteen miles of trail run through Hanging Rock State Park, including a 1-mile loop around the lake in the park’s heart. This trail provides great access for fishing, which is permitted year round for bass, sunfish and catfish. Anyone over 16 years old must have a North Carolina fishing license. You may also fish from the wheelchair accessible pier or from a rental boat.
Grill on the campfire. Bundles of firewood are available from the campground hosts. Once you’ve developed a bed of coals, use the grill on each campfire to grill supper, whether it’s hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks, seafood, or vegetarian alternatives and sides.
Start out your morning with a stop at the visitor’s center, which hosts a farmers market from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. every Saturday from the end of April to the beginning of November. The Owl’s Roost Wildlife Education sometimes sets up an exhibit, allowing an up-close look at animals such as peregrine falcons, barred owls, corn snakes, and more.
Next, head out for a float on the Dan River. Gear up at the Dan River Company, which provides professional canoe & kayak rental and shuttle services. The company offers two standard trips: a 6.2-mile option, or, if there’s enough water, a 13-mile trip. Both end at the Dan River Company, which means you won’t need to board a shuttle after taking out.
Other regional businesses provide tube rentals for a different way to explore the Dan River. Whatever floats your boat, so to speak.
After getting off the water, grab a boxed lunch and ice cream or baked good to go at Artist’s Way Creations in nearby Danbury.
Saturday afternoon and evening
Then it’s time to hit the water again. Hanging Rock State Park is home to a 12-acre lake formed by the damming of Cascade Creek. The lake’s beach serves as a hub of activity, which means it’s a great place not just to swim but to people watch. A hardwood forest extends to the shoreline from surrounding slopes, and paths along the lakeshore lead to the dam and offer views of the lake and surrounding woodlands. A stone and timber bathhouse includes restrooms, dressing rooms, a snack bar and a lounge area with a view of the lake and Moore’s Knob.
After a big day of activity, hit up the River Rock Cafe in Danbury for supper. Its motto is “Hike-Paddle-Eat.” The cafe offers grilled specialty sandwiches, homemade soups, salads, handmade pizza, pasta and flatbreads, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, brownies, cookies, cobblers, premium coffee, frappucino and smoothies.
To close out the day, check out the Green Heron Ale House for live music and a drink. The ale house features 20 taps of ale, beer and cider, and eight taps with wine. Featured bands include an array of Americana, folk, blues and rock and roll.
Wake up early for a big breakfast at the Hillbilly Hide-A-Way Restaurant. Sunday breakfasts include country ham, bacon, sausage, sliced tenderloin, fried potatoes, eggs, sawmill gravy, grits, apples, hoe-cake and sugar cake.
Before heading out, explore Hanging Rock State Park’s trails on foot. A series of shorter trails lead to a variety of waterfalls, including Upper Cascades Falls, Hidden Falls and Window Falls. Or for a more epic option, follow the trail to rocky outcroppings and epic vistas at Hanging Rock and Wolf Rock.
Or, for a short hike that combines both, check out Tory’s Den and Falls, a shorter trail that leads to a waterfall and cave that was used by British loyalists as a hide-out during the Revolutionary War.
More to explore
For a longer vacation, pair your weekend at Hanging Rock State Park with one of our other trip ideas.
Here are a few suggestions: