Daytrippin'--Hanging Rock State Park
When I came to the realization that I was truly a “boy mom” with no dance recitals, smocked dresses and American Girl dolls in my future, I decided that I needed to gain an appreciation for “boy things.” Rocks, sticks, dirt and hiking — at Hanging Rock State Park, families with boys and girls can experience all of this and more.
An Easy Day Trip
One Sunday morning in June, our family joined another family for a day trip to Hanging Rock State Park. Between us we had four little boys: Wills and James (both 6), Joseph (almost 4) and baby Will.
The approximately 7,000-acre park is located in Stokes County, just four miles north of Danbury, and a very short drive from the Triad. It took us approximately 45 minutes from Winston-Salem.
But once you leave the Triad behind and head up on Highway 8 toward the Sauratown Mountains, you feel you’re actually much farther away.
Picnicking and Hiking
We arrived around 12:30 p.m., so a picnic was the first order of business, and the park has amazing facilities for this endeavor. We drove to the lake parking lot and walked up a slight hill to find many picnic tables and grills. The park has a total of two picnic areas with 60 picnic sites and 15 grills that are easy to find.
After a relaxing lunch, we drove back to the Visitor’s Center to decide which trail to hike. With the age of the kids and the fact that one would be carried in a Baby Bjorn, we decided on the .6 miles trail to Window Falls and Hidden Falls. This trail actually descends to the falls, so it’s an easy walk down, and the kids had a blast playing in the water. Coming back up is a little more difficult. Joseph talked my husband Kelly into carrying him part of the way. I hung back to let Wills and James have plenty of time to take breaks and explore the trees and rocks along the way (they found a really cool rock to slide down).
Overall, the park has 12 hiking trails with more than 18 miles of wooded passageways. The Hanging Rock Trail is 1.2 miles one way. Another trail that is 4.2 miles one way takes you to Tory’s Falls and Tory’s Den, a 20-foot deep cave that, according to legend, may have been used during the Revolutionary War. You really need two or three day trips to explore the whole park.
Time to Cool Off
After hiking, it was time to cool off and go swimming. There is a stone and timber bathhouse with restrooms, dressing rooms and a snack bar and lounge area with a lovely view of the lake. Swimming hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer, and there is a charge (see sidebar).
The 12-acre lake is formed by the damming of Cascade Creek. Surrounding the area is a shady, grassy place to set up your chairs and towels, as well as a sandy beach, but it’s a little different from the sand you find at the seashore. The lake is cool and clean feeling (nothing brushing up against you), and there are plenty of lifeguards watching the swimmers. The area where kids can touch bottom is roped off, and swimmers can venture out to a floating dock with two diving boards. Wills spent a lot of time diving and swimming back around to go off the board again.
Joseph’s favorite thing was renting a canoe ($5 rental fee) with Kelly and the other two boys to paddle out and around the lake. One of the highlights of the day was seeing a turtle swimming around. When they reported back to the guy who rents the canoes, he said that at least one boat per day comes back and says they saw “The Turtle.”
On the Ride Home
If you’re up for a little mini-adventure on the ride home, stop at The Rock Shop and More (aka The Gem Mine), just a few miles south of Hanging Rock in Walnut Cove on Highway 89/N.C. 8. They sell gem buckets for $15, $25, $50 and $100. Joseph and Wills split a $15 gem bucket and came home with a treasure trove of very cool rocks imported from such places as India, Brazil and Mexico.
As we were leaving our day of adventure in Stokes County, Pokemon/video game-loving Wills turned to me and said “Mommy, this was fun. We need to come back.”
We definitely will . . . soon.
Hanging Rock State Park
Hours: Nov.-Feb., 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; March and Oct., 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; April, May and Sept., 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; June-Aug., 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Christmas Day.
Fees: Swimming $4/adult, $3/child ages 3-12. Canoe and rowboat rentals $5/first hour, $3/each additional hour. Visit the Web site for info on camping fees, vacation cabin rentals and picnic shelter reservations.