Hanging Rock State Park’s Waterfalls and the “Wall of Water”

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As I continue to develop  my skills in photography, I have learned and accepted that I must look at rainy, gray days as opportunities…..good things. I am a sunny day hiker by habit, and enjoy being outdoors in good weather. The rainy days are usually spen…well, indoors. Because of the lighting challenges that sunny days present when photographing waterfalls, I have slowly, over time accepted the fact that I must get out on these gray days and take advantage….if I ever want to take better images.

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Lower Cascades

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Lower Cascades, a set on Flickr.

A collection shots from the numerous trips I have made to this location. This is a beautiful 35 foot waterfall in Hanging Rock State Park that requires about 1/3 mile hike that starts off through the woods, then down a series of steps, some wooden and some stone.

A Winter Stroll Through The Waterfalls of Hanging Rock State Park

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It was a snow flurry filled Saturday and I was itching to get out. I had decided that this day was to be my first hiking trip with waterfall pictures using my tripod and DSLR. I have taken my point and shoot along long enough, and gotten nice waterfall shots, but something is just lacking in them. I had not been producing that silky, white water that better photographers get. I had tried some, but didn’t do this , or didn’t do that, or left the tripod at home, etc. Today, it was overcast, and very cold. I knew I would have some private time at the falls and it was time to set up and experiment until I saw something I liked.

I did not want to go far, so I chose nearby Hanging Rock State Park. It is a wonderful state park loaded with hiking trails, magnificent views from points reaching 2500 feet in elevation, a lake, the Dan River, historical sites such as Tory’s Den, and is also home to 5 waterfalls. On this day I would hike 3 separate trails to get to 4 of these 5. First stop was the waterfall that is located outside the main park, and probably the most picturesque of the group, the 35 foot high “Lower Cascades”

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Getting here requires a drive to Hall Rd, just outside the main park, a well marked parking area is on the right. The trail is about 0.3 miles and starts out as a nice walk in the woods. The descent to the falls is down a series of steps, wooden and stone and is safe. It will likely cause a little huffing and puffing on the way up, but it is not too bad. At the bottom, you will be greeted with a beautiful 35 foot waterfall, steep cliffs on the left, and a beautiful stream that cascades more as it leaves the falls.

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This was a good trip, I was very pleased immediately, so I decided to hike to another one. I drove up the mountain into the main park to the very large parking lot at the visitor center. Here is the access to the Upper Cascades, another 35 foot waterfall on the same creek. The trail is short again, maybe 0.3 miles that descends to the waterfall viewing deck, then down some steep steps to the base.

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Again I was pleased with these shots and on this hike, snow began to fall. It was not too heavy and did not stick so it made the hike even more enjoyable. I decided to do one more trail, on the other side of the parking lot. This one was the Indian Creek Trail, which also runs along the Mountains To Sea Trail. This leads to 2 waterfalls along Indian Creek. While smaller than Cascade Creek, it is still very scenic and the waterfalls are nice. First waterfall is Hidden Falls, a small 13 ft fall that looks very nice when it has water flow.

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Another 0.2 miles down the trail is the more defined Window Falls, a 25 foot waterfall, named for the 3-4 foot hole in the gigantic rock formation at this waterfall. This waterfall requires some steep rock steps to get to as the trail really begins to descend here.

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The last 2 shots are the “Window”. After the return hike, I decided that was enough for this day. I had certainly found what I came up here seeking. Now it’s a whole new world.

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Lower Cascades/Torys Falls After A Good Rain

Hanging Rock State Park just north of the triad in NC, is home to 5 named waterfalls.  They are small in nature and are nothing like the much larger waterfalls that lie farther west.  Several of these 5 falls dry up to merely a trickle in summer, but we had just received 1-2 inches of rain, so curiosity got the best of me.  How much of an impact would rain have on these small falls?   I had just enough free time after work to ride up, visit 2 of them and find out for myself.

Torys Falls is in a remote section of the park which requires a different drive than the regular one into the main park.  The short hike to Torys Falls is listed as moderate.  Once there,  you find yourself at a ledge looking at a waterfall over 100 ft tall.  It is very tiny though, even with good rain, it was not an impressive flow.  Even though the waterfall is over 100 ft, only about the top 25 feet can be viewed as the rest disappears over cascades into the deep forest. There is another treat here, Torys Den, a cave that was once the “hide-out” of the remaining Tories in the revolutionary war.

My next stop was a short drive to the Lower Cascades Parking Lot.  This location, while still outside of the main park, is home to Hanging Rock’s finest waterfall, “Lower Cascades”, a very scenic 35 foot waterfall with a huge overhanging cliff on the left side.  Another short hike is on tap here, a tad longer than Torys Den and a tad steeper.  Fairly new steps have made this once treacherous trek reasonably safe now.  The waterfall could be heard from the parking lot on this day, so I was pretty excited about getting down there.  Once there, I could tell the water flow was up and it made for a gorgeous setting.  I sat there nearly 15 minutes, took a few pictures, then began my return to the real world.  There is definitely some reward to be had, if you are able to get to a waterfall just after a big rain, even on small falls like these.