Hike: Moore's Wall Loop
Location: Hanging Rock State Park
Nearby Town: Danbury, NC (50 minutes north of Winston-Salem)
Elevation (Max): 2,579'
Elevation Gained: 900'
Trailhead: From Winston-Salem: Take Rte 311 N out of the city, after passing through Walnut Cove continue N on Rte 89, after passing through Danbury turn L on Hanging Rock Park Rd, continue on State Park Rd to the parking lot at the end next to the lake. From Mt. Airy: Take Rte 52 S, L onto Old US 52 S, L on Rte 268 E, R on Rte 89 S, R on Piedmont Springs Rd, R on State Park Rd, continue to the parking lot at the end next to the lake. The Moore's Wall Loop Trail begins at the back of the parking lot along the lake.
Web Site: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/haro/main.php
E and I were growing frustrated with the hiking opportunities in the Triangle area, so we looked westward toward the mountains. Unfortunately, the mountains are a bit far away for a day hike, but I found some superb peaks only about 2 hours away, north of the Triad region. These peaks, Pilot Mountain, Hanging Rock, and Moore's Knob, are the eroded quartzite remnants of an ancient mountain range called the Sauratown Mountains. These peaks provide a great, quick alternative to a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains which is at least a 3 hour drive from the Triangle or to Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is about 5 hours away. The trade-off is the peaks are not as mighty as the Blue Ridge or Smokies with the tallest peak coming in at 2,579 feet (Moore's Knob) compared to the western mountains where you can find a few dozen 6,000'+ mountains, but for a day trip, one can't complain.
E and I went to Moore's Wall on a beautiful August day. It was hot but not too hot in the Carolina Piedmont and it made for a good hiking day. We parked the car, marveled at how many people were playing around and in the lake, and headed down the trail beyond the lake. The trail is obvious for basically the entire hike, and most junctions include signs clearly showing which way to go. After hiking along the stream that flows from the lake for a bit, the Moore's Wall Loop Trail turns right up hill at a junction with another trail. From this point to the summit, the hike is a nearly continuous climb, but it is never too strenuous, and the climb doesn't last all that long. In fact, one of the things I most enjoyed about this hike was that it seemed to be right in the sweet spot of the effort to reward ratio. Some hikes where you basically drive to the summit and just stretch your legs to get a view feel cheap and some hikes take hours upon hours of exertion to get a view, but Moore's Wall took about an hour of good hiking to get phenomenal views. E can attest that I was simply amazed at how long the views were.
The neat thing about Moore's Wall is that the summit is basically one long ridge, so once you reach the ridge, you can enjoy the views as you hike to the peak, Moore's Knob (which is hardly noticeable as a peak). The views to the west include the very distinctive Pilot Mountain, and faint outline of the Blue Ridge Mountains. To the east you can see the namesake of the state park, Hanging Rock, and to the south, the skyscrapers of Winston-Salem are visible. After hiking along the entire ridge, the trail arrives a junction. To the right is the continuation of the loop that will bring you back down to the lake and your car, and to the left is a short spur trail to cliffs and a firetower. GO LEFT. The views from the quartz cliffs and firetower were the hands down highlights of the hike--it was here I remarked to E that the views were unbelievably long.
After enjoying the views (this would be a great place to enjoy lunch), the loop trail continues heading down the mountain along stone steps (I can hardly imagine the hard work it took to build all those steps). Eventually the trail will pass by some wooden fencing and cross a beautiful little stream. The presence of those fences makes me wonder if some farmer once used this mountain, in which case, wow. The descent continues, eventually passing through the park's campground, where lots of families were enjoying their weekend, and back to the lake from where it is a short walk back to the car. E and I really enjoyed this hike--it's definitely a hidden gem. In fact, even people who visit Hanging Rock State Park almost never hike Moore's Wall but instead opt for the park's eponymous peak. So not only is Moore's Wall enjoyable for the climb and views but also for the solitude. Some day I plan to go back and hike Hanging Rock to see if it's worth the crowds, but in my mind, I've already found the premier peak in the Piedmont.