Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Hanging Rock

Posted October 1, 2008

How many of you have been to Hanging Rock State Park north of Winston-Salem. What were your experiences?

The first time I visited was 1994 following a severe ice storm. Sky Five gave us a bird's eye view of the thick wintry coating that weighed down heavily on the oaks and pines splitting thousands of boughs and branches and making a mess of the popular park.

The following year our family hiked and camped at Hanging Rock State Park with some close friends. We had a blast. The kids loved the trails and rocky perches. They also liked the 12 acre lake and old stone bathhouse constructed just after the Depression when the park was born. Hanging Rock has grown in size over the years to nearly 7,000 acres today. It is one of the few places where you can see both Canadian and Carolina hemlock trees standing side by side. Favorite destinations in the park include Devil’s Chimney, Cascade Falls, Wolf Rock and of course Hanging Rock itself.

These are known as the lonely mountains. Some call them “the mountains away from the mountains. Hanging Rock is part of the fractured Sauratown chain. And let’s get the pronunciation right.
Sauratown is pronounced like sour-town. The mountains are not part of the Blue Ridge chain but are not that far away. Thanks to the durability of their quartzite Hanging Rock and nearby Pilot Mountain have stood up to the ravages of erosion in the Piedmont for more than a million years.

From Raleigh you can be in the mountains in a little more than two hours. And while the Sauratown peaks can’t rival those in the Blue Ridge and Black Mountain chains to the west they are still quite impressive. To get there just take !-40 to Winston-Salem and head north on Highway 52.


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  • resipsaii Oct 2, 2008

    Ya'll might enjoy this picture of the Sauratown Range that I took from my parents' place in Fancy Gap, Virginia. I labeled it as well:

  • curound2811 Oct 2, 2008

    I went to college at UNC-G and started going to Hanging Rock then for daytrips and camping with my boyfriend ( now husband for 23 years) One camping trip in the fall- I was a little unprepared for cold weather- ended up sleeping in the car shivering all night. Upon return to Greensboro- I promply went out and bought the warmest sleeping bag I could find- still have that bag rated to minus 40 degrees!
    Another favorite memory was hiking with our 6 year old daughter and almost 2 year old son- carried in a backpack carrier by my husband. We took the long trail to the tower and ended up hiking for about 4-5 hours that day- just making it down before dark. Now we return at least 1-2 x per year to camp, taking along our telescope where we get a clear view of the stars! Hanging Rock is a gem nearby that many people still don't even know about!

  • dentech Oct 1, 2008

    In Reidsville, where I am from, you can see the rock in certain parts west of town. The drive from there is only 45 minutes away. It has been one of my favs since childhood. I thought the icestorm of 94 was going to ruin the place,but actually some views were improved. Throughout my life, I think I have camped in every one of the campsites. I even learned to swim in the lake.

  • Riverracer8 Oct 1, 2008

    I remember going there once when I was about 10 with my cousins. I have always wanted to go back - we had a great time there and I remember how beautiful it was. Maybe one day...

  • isthatallthereis84 Oct 1, 2008

    I would go to Hanging Rock every summer with my dad's family. I went every summer from the time 'before' I was born until I was 17 years old. (My mom 'took' me one month before I was born). Hanging Rock is filled with many memories for me. From catching my first fish on the old bridge at the lake with my Uncle Joe, to trying coffee for the first time...we used to refer to it as 'Hanging Rock' coffee and it was not meant for the weak of heart! My love of nature and all things in it came from those camping trips and I miss them terribly. My aunts still go every year. They just enjoy the trip within a cabin now as oppossed to a tent !! They are in their early 90's, late 80's and late 70's, but Hanging Rock is and always will be a part of their and my life....

  • bleslie Oct 1, 2008

    Here is another nice email:

    When I was 13 years old, I began to attend camp at Vade Mecum, the Episcopal camp and conference center on the other side of Moore's Knob, and became infatuated with Hanging Rock State Park (my other favorite was Fort Macon State Park). During camp sessions, there was always a trip to the park, with picnic supper, swimming, hiking and all of that good stuff. Man, was that water cold!!! I have hiked to the top of Hanging Rock several times; the last time I went, I was about 21 years, and figured that I might never do it again, so I went for one last hike to see the wonderful Saura Mountains from above. I've been to Cascade Falls a number of times, as well as to Tory's Den in 1990-something, when there was a reunion of folks who had worked at Vade Mecum back in the fifties. The camp itself was available to us for the reunion and we did camp things, slept in double-decker bunks in Cheshire Hall, ate meals in the dining room, sang camp songs and reminisced

  • Nope Oct 1, 2008

    My wife and I went camping there for our anniversary two years ago and loved it. We are planning to go again this year. Our anniversary is in late October so the leaves are changing. It is really beautiful.

    We also found a great restaurant in Winston Salem. It is an Italian place called Paul's. If you want an authentic NY Italian restaurant experience with handmade pasta, you have to go there. I loved it, and yes, I am from NY.

  • mrtwinturbo Oct 1, 2008

    I may have to get out my old VHS home movies and watch my kids play there once more, we all loved it there, well except my wife (now ex). I have given some thought to returning there for week or so.

  • lcooke2 Oct 1, 2008

    Bill I remember going to the park after the ice storm, I had not heard about the storm and it looked like a nuclear bomb had gone off in the park. The park staff had already done some extensive clean-up because two large parking lots were full of debris/limbs/trees, some had been shreaded into mulch and some had not. Did some camping there in college and several times in a pop-up camper with my wife and two sons 25-30 years ago. It was always very peaceful/quiet for camping and lots of trails to hike. Not related by glad to see the State stepping up to acquire Chimney Rock and Grandfather mountain for parks.

  • bleslie Oct 1, 2008

    This email - just in!

    Saw your Carolina Conversations piece on Hanging Rock on WRAL this am.

    My husband proposed to me on Hanging Rock Mountain. We had been celebrating dating anniversaries at restaurants and to our dismay, when we'd go back to those special places, they had either changed ownership and the menu was different, were another type of business altogether, or, in one case, the restaurant was no longer there because it had burned down!

    My future husband decided that when he proposed, he wanted to do it at a place we could go back to!

    After a lovely day hiking and picnicking, we sat up on the "hanging" part and after singing some Cat Stevens songs together he got down on one knee (which is painful on rock, mind you) and proposed.

    We've been married 17 years now and have two wonderful children. Hanging Rock will always be a special place for us.

    Nancy from Cary




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Bill Leslie