East Coast US, Travels

Exploring the State Parks of North Carolina

Following our lovely few days in South Carolina, we began making our way back north, stopping next in the Raleigh, North Carolina area to visit another aunt and uncle who I hadn’t seen in probably close to 12 years. My extended family is spread all across the country, making it extremely difficult to see everyone on a regular basis. Currently, one of my cousins has an 8 year old son I still haven’t met. Thank goodness for Facebook!

Anyway, my aunt and uncle (my mom’s brother and sister-in-law) lived in a suburb of Raleigh at the time so that was our home for the next couple days. My uncle had recently gotten back into hiking after many years and was very excited to take us out on the trails with him! He chose Raven Rock State Park as our destination for the day, where we hiked the American Beech trail along Little Creek, meandering past multiple waterfalls before heading out to Raven Rock itself, towering above the Cape Fear River.

These sections of cascading water weren’t exactly what I had in mind when he’d said “waterfall” (and he’s probably gonna give me a hard time for saying that) but it was a pretty creek and a nice trail through the forest.

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Cascades on Little Creek – Raven Rock State Park, NC
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Cascades on Little Creek – Raven Rock State Park, NC
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Cape Fear River – Raven Rock State Park, NC

From here, we caught up with the Raven Rock Loop and Fish Traps Trails out to a couple view points before heading back to the trailhead. The Fish Traps Trail leads out to the Fish Traps, which is a large set of rapids that is apparently problematic for fish to navigate. From here, we could also see remnants of the Northington Lock and Dam.

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Fish Traps – Raven Rock State Park, NC

The Raven Rock area has quite a bit of history, first as home to the Siouan and Tuscarora Native Americans, then as hunting grounds for Scottish settlers, and eventually being used for mills, farming, forestry, and numerous other industries. A road used to run along the Cape Fear River – a main thoroughfare at the time – including a river crossing via the Northington Ferry. The river itself was a main transportation route as well (hence the dam and locks) until a hurricane wiped out the area in 1859. The locks and dam were never rebuilt. In 1969, the area was finally set aside and preserved as a state park.

About a year later, Pat and I found ourselves back in North Carolina for a wedding and I’m going to tack a quick summary of that trip onto this post. The venue was about 90 minutes from my aunt and uncle’s house, so we flew down to Raleigh a day early to stay with them and squeeze in another hike with my uncle. This time, we ventured north to Hanging Rock State Park, located in the Sauratown Mountains in the north central portion of the state, just a few miles from the Virginia border.

He planned quite the ambitious day for us, including a 4:00 am wakeup call since we had a bit of a drive and multiple destinations to visit once we reached the park. We walked the Indian Creek Trail to Hidden and Window Falls (1.2 miles/1.9 km RT), did a short hike to Upper Cascades Falls, a 0.8 mile (1.3 km) RT hike to Lower Cascades Falls, and finally climbed up Moore’s Knob (~2 miles/3.2 km RT, strenuous) for some excellent views of the surrounding countryside and a nice chat with the two park rangers who were up at the top.

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Pond – Hanging Rock State Park, NC
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Lower Cascades Falls – Hanging Rock State Park, NC
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View from the summit of Moore’s Knob – Hanging Rock State Park, NC

Of the two parks, I liked Hanging Rock better… simply because the waterfalls were taller and the view from Moore’s Knob was beautiful!

We’ve returned to North Carolina once more since, for a 2-night backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail and a couple days in the Great Smoky Mountains with my mom and uncle. I’ll be writing all about that trip in some upcoming posts. In the meantime, I’ll be recounting the final portion of our summer 2016 road trip, so stay tuned!


The Important Stuff:

  • Getting there: Raven Rock State Park is located about 6 miles (9.6 km) west of Lillington, NC off US Highway 421. Hanging Rock State Park is in Danbury, NC off NC Highway 89, just a few miles from the Virginia border
  • Fees and passes: both parks are free to enter
  • Camping: we didn’t spend the night at either place, but Hanging Rock has 73 campsites ($15/night, reservations accepted). Raven Rock has wilderness and canoe camping options ($10/night) but no front-country camping
  • Hiking: We did quite a bit of hiking in both places; for all the hiking options in the park, see the trail maps for Hanging Rock and Raven Rock
  • Other: summer in NC – even this far inland – is hot and humid and buggy, so come prepared with bug spray, sunscreen, and lots of water

2 thoughts on “Exploring the State Parks of North Carolina”

  1. I won’t give you hell for calling my Little Creek Waterfalls cascades but will explain that when you live at 350 feet above sea level a fall of 2 or 3 feet IS a waterfall. Looking forward to seeing you sometime at our new home in Texas.
    I Found a 70 foot traventine falls near here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know I know… just wanted to give you a hard time 🙂

      Hopefully we can make it down to TX sometime soon. You gotta come up here too! So many hikes!

      Like

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