by Evan Thomas Moore, Winston-Salem Staff
Now that you’ve tackled Jomeokee, the Great Pilot, and seen the white cliffs standing silently over the Piedmont Plateau and the raptors soaring around Big Pinnacle, it is time to venture northeast to Hanging Rock State Park, home to Moore’s Knob, Cooks Wall, and Hanging Rock, the tallest peaks in the Sauratown Mountain Range.
When I first moved to Winston-Salem, Hanging Rock fast became my initial impression of the North Carolina Mountains. Since my first day hike there with friends, Erica and Sarah, I have returned several times to explore the different trails and witness the Piedmont’s seasonal evolution. With trails of varying length and difficulty, plus plenty of opportunities for camping, it is the ideal park for family getaways.
The Hanging Rock Trail is easily accessed from the visitor center parking lot and is 2.2 miles, out and back. It is a steep and strenuous climb but well-maintained and worth the effort. In the summer, Hanging Rock is shrouded in haze. At 2,070 feet, even this jagged rock face cannot escape the southern humidity. But it was encouraging to find hikers scrambling up the trail, regardless! A lot can be said for a cool mountain breeze after a tiring ascent.
I returned in November, hoping to catch the sunset from Moore’s Knob, where an impressive, stone observation tower looms above the tree line. Sitting at 2,579 feet, Moore’s Knob is the tallest point in the Sauratown Mountains. The Moore’s Wall Loop Trail can be found at the second parking lot, just beyond the visitor center. On their way up, visitors will witness outstanding rock structures, such as Indian Face and Balanced Rock. From the summit, hikers can see Hanging Rock to the east, and to the west, Pilot Mountain, a faint bump on the cusp of the horizon.
When my old college buddies, Sherwin, Matt, and Robbie, came to visit this past January, Hanging Rock State Park once again seemed a good place to explore. We embarked down the Cooks Wall Trail, encountering dozens of fellow hikers with their dogs and stopping on our way at House Rock, a flat ledge with views to the southeast, and Cooks Wall, a popular spot for climbers. Shortly after, we arrived at Devil’s Chimney, where sunshine radiated through the clouds like the glow of Heaven. From this exposed rock face, Winston-Salem is visible on a clear day.
My most recent day hike in the Sauratown Mountains took me back to the summit of Hanging Rock, this time, with my good friend, Tim Bob. It was an especially frigid morning, and the parking lot was nearly deserted. From the summit, the Piedmont Plateau looked bare, radically different from its lush appearance in August. And rather than having to endure humidity, we were forced to take cover from cold mountain gusts strong enough to blow us over. Yet, despite the landscape’s transformative nature, the Sauratown Mountains remain a testament to the strength of these lands and the power of nature and heritage. The seasons may come and go, but the mountains will always remain.
Read More in PART I