It’s a rare Monday off work in January. After a busy weekend hiking, and NFL playoff games, I was feeling a little lazy today. About noon, I decided to get out of the recliner and make sure this nice 50 degree day was not wasted. It’s a good thing that I live within a half hour drive of Hanging Rock State Park.
Hanging Rock State Park is located in the Sauratown Mountains . This is a small range of hills and peaks that rise to about 2500 feet at Moores Knob. Totally broken off and separated from the vast Blue Ridge line to the west, they are sometimes referred to as the “Mountains away from the Mountains”. Here , there is a network of connecting hiking trails to The Hanging Rock, Cooks Wall, Moores Knob, House Rock, Wolf Rock, and Tory’s Den for some very nice views. Add to this 5 named waterfalls, a beautiful lake to swim and fish in, and lots of picnic & camping sites and you have yourself one of the finest and most complete state parks that North Carolina has to offer.
I hiked to 4 of the 5 waterfalls on this day, and this blog will be about the first 2 , Window Falls and Hidden Falls. These are on Indian Creek, a small, low volume creek. The waterfalls really need the help of a good rain to be photo worthy, especially Hidden Falls. Luckily, 2 days prior on Saturday, we had a nice 1 inch soaker. The trailhead for Window Falls begins on the far end of the very large parking lot, at the visitor center. It is just past the trailhead for the 1.3 one way hike to The Hanging Rock. The trail to Window Falls actually follows the longer Indian Creek Trail which follows Indian Creek 3.6 miles or so to the Dan River. The Mountains To Sea Trail also runs through here, after making its way over from Pilot Mountain via the Sauratown Trail. So anyone making the 1000 mile hike from Clingmans Dome to the coast might be encountered here, although I have yet to meet one. The first part of the trail works through a network of old rock and log picnic shelters that date back to the 1930’s. In January with the trees bare, fine views of the Hanging Rock can be seen above through the branches. As the trail exits the shelters, it descends gently to Indian Creek and leads to the first attraction, Hidden Falls. Here, the MST turns left while there is a short trail that leads straight to the 10 feet Hidden Falls. Don’t count on this to take your breath away. It is a small cascade on a small creek, but still pretty and worth stopping for.
Back on the Indian Creek/MST Trail, Window Falls is only 0.2 miles further. One there, there are many options to explore. Approaching the falls, there are some steep rock steps to go down to the left. Before doing this, one could keep straight and walk out on the large rock formation and be above the falls, for a nice view of the valley below. Once down the steps the scenery is beautiful with the 25 foot waterfall, large rock formations, along with the “Window” for which the falls is named for . The window is simply a large 3-4 foot hole in the rock.
As you can see, Window Falls can be photographed from a number of places including in front of it, the side, and even behind. This is a fun place in the summer heat to cool off as well. The hike back is a tad more difficult as the gentle descent becomes the gentle ascent. Just remember it’s only 0.6 miles back to the parking lot, or about 500 miles to the coast…if staying on the MST. I will close out with a few shots from the hike.