Actually, I've never been to the high, cliff-bound mesas of Venezuela, and it is incorrect and a gross exaggeration to present the Sauratown Mountains of the North Carolina Piedmont in the same light as those otherworldly sky-islands known as tepuis. But there are indeed some similar traits between those Lost Worlds that are home to the world's highest waterfall and bizarre karst formations, and these more modest, better known heights.
Like those isolated tablelands in South America, the Sauratowns rise up out of the gently rolling Piedmont as disconnected, free-standing mountains known as monadnocks. They are also composed of quartzite, the same type of rock. And while they are far, far lower than the tepui's soaring walls, they have some of the highest cliffs in the Southeast. The best known, most conspicuous of these is Pilot Mountain. Its cliff-bound summit nipple is easily the most famous landmark in the region around Mount Airy, and perhaps in all of North Carolina's Piedmont. But from a hiking point of view, Hanging Rock is even more interesting. The cliffs are higher, some of them around 300'. There are at least five waterfalls, many miles of trails, and several peaks and viewpoints. And Moores Knob has an observation tower. From a peakbagger's perspective, Moores Knob is of particular interest, as it is the Stokes County highpoint at 2,579', a P1K with 1,449' of prominence, and on the Carolina Mountain Club's Lookout Tower Challenge.
I decided to skip the waterfalls this time because I wanted to explore around a bit for some more viewpoints, as well as spend extra time at a couple of favorite hidden spots on the cliffs. It was a frosty morning, so I set a fast pace toward the park's namesake to warm up. Soon enough it was indeed hanging over the trail. On my early visits here, the trail went up a gully with a couple of fun little scrambles. Nothing dangerous or exposed - you just needed your hands in a couple of spots. The remnants of that route are still there, obscured, while a new, less interesting trail sidehills around and switchbacks to gain the top. The Hanging Rock itself is a spectacular, airy spot with great views of much of the park, including Moores Knob and its almost equally impressive outcrop of Indian Rock. The true summit is about 1/4 mile away and off-trail but it too has many clifflines and outcrops with more views. I even found a nice open ledge a few hundred feet down the north side of the mountain that was new to me and probably visited by very few people.
|Hanging Rock juts out over the trail.|
|Moores Knob from ledges just north of the true summit of the Hanging Rock peak. The Hanging Rock itself is just beyond the top of the ridge on the left.|
|Admiring the view from House Rock.|
|Awesome views from a hidden off-trail ledge on Cooks Wall include Pilot Mountain and Sauratown Mountain.|
|Indian Rock is a short distance off the main trail but has a great view of Hanging Rock.|
The route of this hike. To see this map larger go here.
3,300' cumulative elevation gain
(including off-trail exploring)
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