Tag Archives: north carolina

Bundle Up for the Winter Solstice!

The days are getting shorter, colder, and darker over here in the Northern Hemisphere, meaning that winter is rearing its frosty head as summer makes it warm descent in the Southern Hemisphere. As we prepare for the holiday season, while bundling inside our jackets and stuffing gloved hands into pockets, we have to throw some acknowledgement toward the winter solstice, which falls on December 22.

The sun during the winter solstice.

Image: http://apod.nasa.gov/

The winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night here in the North due to the way the Earth tilts on its axis. The solstices have been a point of celebration in the past, and there’s no reason to let the tradition go now. Often the winter solstice was used to guide mating animals as well as monitor winter crop reserves. There were also many cultural traditions that came from it, such as Stonehenge and Newgrange where the primary axes of both align with the winter solstice sunrise.  Here are some state park events you can attend to give winter a warm welcome.

Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, North Carolina

Head to the Sunset Overlook on December 22 at 5 p.m. to watch the sun set on the shortest day of the year! Park officials will discuss the relationship between the sun and Earth, basic astronomy, and space weather. Plus you’ll get to see some pretty astounding views during it.

Find more info here.

Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

People around a campfire in the winter.

Now doesn’t that look cozy? [Image: http://www.tagishwildernesslodge.com/]

Warm up alongside a crackling campfire and roast some marshmallows to celebrate the arrival of the winter solstice. Is there anything better than huddling close to your friends and loved ones while telling campfire stories on the first day of winter? The answer you’re probably looking for is, “No,” so make sure to be there on December 19.

Find more info here.

McKinney Falls State Park, Texas

A lunchtime celebration around a campfire on December 20 is the perfect way to welcome winter to the North! You’ll get your fill of wintertime stories plus join the rangers as they burn a yule log. Seasonally appropriate and lots of fun!

Find more info here.

Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve, New York

The longest night of the year is a great time to learn about nocturnal animals, which is exactly what you can do at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve! The event runs from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m on December 22.

Find more info here.

Lake Perris State Recreation Area, California

People dressed in costumes ice skating.

It’s the winter solstice—let’s get weird. [Image: https://www.liveriga.com/]

State parks are great for kids to learn and explore at, which is exactly what they can do at the Ya’i Heki’ Regional Indian Museum on December 19. The event is for children ages 7–12, and will help them learn all about the first day of winter.

Find out more info here.

Hopefully these events have you ready to don your winter clothes and head out to a local park in search of a solstice celebration. Once you get there, make sure you use your Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to help you explore more!

National Public Lands Day

National Public Lands Day 2015 - Square Banner - Solo Hiker [Image: www.publiclandsday.org]

Image: www.publiclandsday.org

Each year, Americans are asked to set aside one day—the last Saturday in September—to “lend a hand to the lands” that we use to enjoy the outdoors. National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands, and this year, it’s taking place on Saturday, September 26th.

You can join thousands of volunteers who will gather at parks, forests, reservoirs, and other public areas to help improve and steward our nation’s natural resources. There will be opportunities to build bridges and trails, plant stream banks, restore lakes and wetlands, remove invasive plants, improve wildlife habitat, repair cultural resources and recreational facilities, and carry out hundreds of other projects. Volunteers will also learn about the importance of public lands to the nation’s environmental, economic, and social health as well as get a firsthand perspective on the problems and issues facing land managers.

If you love the outdoors, here’s your chance to give back to nature! Mark your calendar for September 26th, and find a NPLD site near you by checking the list below or visiting publiclandsday.org. And don’t forget to use our Pocket Ranger® apps during your visit to our beloved parks, forests, and lakes!

Red Rock State Park – Sedona, AZ

Maintenance and cleanup of park facilities, trails, and Oak Creek riparian areas. Park interpreters will be available for questions regarding the Oak Creek and its importance to Arizona.

Call 928-282-6907 or click here for more information.

Lake Dardanelle State Park – Russellville, AR

Join Lake Dardanelle State Park to celebrate this national cleanup event in conjunction with the Great Arkansas Cleanup to help pick up trash along the lake and throughout the community. Volunteers clean trails, shorelines, and public parks around Russellville. Following the cleanup will be a ceremony for all those who volunteered and a free lunch along with activities for the whole family.

Call 479-890-7479 or click here for more information.

The Barnacle Historic State Park – Coconut Grove, FL

Partake in a morning of park cleanup, landscape beautification, and exotic plant removal. At the conclusion of the event, Park Rangers will provide free lunch and a tour of the historic house for registered volunteers. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Call 305-442-6866 or click here for more information.

George L. Smith State Park – Twin City, GA

Saturday, September 26th is Your State Parks Day. Come out and help with park cleanup and beautification projects. Free T-shirts, water bottles and other goodies will be given to all volunteers.

Call 478-763-2759 or click here for more information.

Sterling State Park – Monroe, MI

Help collect native prairie seed from grasses and wildflowers to restore Lakeplain Prairie.

Call 517-719-2285 or click here for more information.

Tombigbee State Park – Tupelo, MS

Beginning in 2015, Toyota Mississippi will kick-off a five-year NPLD project at Tombigbee State Park. Kids Camp will be offered to children under age 12 with projects that include an interactive water conservation activity provided by Mississippi 4-H as well as painting and building bird houses and feeders. NPLD will conclude with a volunteer celebration including a BBQ lunch, fishing, disc golf, live music, and door prizes (must be present to win). Over the five years, the park will be completely renovated including cabin restoration, bridge construction, installation along nature trails, removal of invasive vegetation, planting flowers and shrubs, welcome center renovations, and overall park beautification.

Call 662-317-3038 or click here for more information.

Onondaga Cave State Park – Leasburg, MO

Attend the Green Living Fall Festival and National Public Lands Day Bio-Blitz! The day’s activities will center around villages and will contain a variety of topics, including educational activities, hands-on activities, vendors, displays and demonstrations, green products, local farming, and sustainable living. The bio-blitz, in honor of National Public Lands Day, will feature experts in a variety of scientific and ecological fields leading groups to identify and record species of flora and fauna throughout the park. The public is invited to voluntarily participate in any group. The Onondaga Friends Association will be demonstrating the making of apple butter and freshly canned jars will be available for sale along with many, many other vendor items.

Call 573-245-6576 or click here for more information.

Elk Knob State Park – Todd, NC

Head over to Elk Knob State Park for National Public Lands Day where you can help work on maintaining the Summit Trail or the new Maple Run Trail. Tools will be provided. Bring water, lunch, and work gloves and wear close-toed shoes.

Call 828-297-7261 or click here for more information.

Black Moshannon State Park – Philipsburg, PA

Help beautify Black Moshannon State Park! Projects include trail maintenance, native plant gardening, litter pickup, and planting. Pre-registration is required. Lunch will be provided and free camping is available that weekend for volunteers.

Call 814-342-5960 or click here for more information.

Bledsoe Creek State Park – Gallatin, TN

Help put together playground equipment at Bledsoe Creek State Park!

Call 615-347-3639 or click here for more information.

Best Autumnal Scenic Drives

Watching the leaves change color is a special part of the year that any outdoor enthusiast can enjoy, whether its from the comfort of their car or with the accompaniment of a cozy pair of hiking boots. It’s as if nature understands that once Labor Day passes, autumn and its gorgeous foliage is pretty much here to take over. Well we’re standing here with our arms wide open to welcome to much-needed end of the heat! Here are some scenic drives that you can take this fall to watch nature do it’s thing and enjoy the leaves as they change color.

Hudson River Valley, New York

Leaves changing in the fall at Hudson River Valley with bridges in the background.

Explore the gorgeous Hudson River Valley. [Image: https://goingplacesnearandfar.files.wordpress.com/]

Rolling hills, access to New York’s serene beauty, and a bird’s eye view of the expansive Hudson River makes a drive through Hudson Valley a worthwhile autumn treat. Extending 150-miles out of the edge of Manhattan, you’ll be able to see a range of the state across ten counties (Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Greene, Columbia, Albany, and Rensselaer). Along the way, find a local farm to enjoy some apple or pumpkin picking!

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Changing leaves in Harpers Ferry with two bridges.

Fall foliage in Harpers Ferry is a must-see. [Image: http://travelchannel.sndimg.com/]

West Virginia is well known for how it transforms come autumn. Knowing this, there are multiple tours that visitors can partake in to explore the state’s unique look. The Golden Gateway Tour traverses through Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to showcase its autumnal beauty. Once there, guests can take a dip in the mineral rich water at Berkeley Springs State Park or travel further to truly escape reality at Cacapon Resort State Park.

Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina

Leaves changing around a parkway.

A serene drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway is just what the doctor ordered. [Image: http://www.blueridgeparkwaydaily.com/]

Known to some as “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway spans from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia 469-miles into Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina. It follows the Appalachian Mountain chain along this beautiful highway and features more than 100 different species of tree.

Columbia River Highway, Oregon

Changing leaves around a moss-covered highway.

Let the Columbia River Highway take your breath away this fall. [Image: http://www.buckyandhisbike.net/]

The 75-mile Columbia River Highway was built in 1913 to highlight the natural beauty of the Oregon area. Not surprisingly, it’s an especially perfect place to visit to see the changing foliage. From the 900-foot cliffs it winds through, it overlooks expansive valleys and a lulling river. While there, make sure you check out the breathtaking 620-foot Multnomah Falls from Ainsworth State Park!

Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, New Mexico

A road leading into a beautiful town in New Mexico surrounded by changing leaves.

Get away from reality at the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway in New Mexico. [Image: http://www.davidmixner.com/]

If you have a preference for stunning aspens, then you might want to head to Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, which loops 83-miles to and from Taos. Follow this route around New Mexico’s highest point, Wheeler Peak, and watch the leaves change from yellow to dark orange.

Download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to explore the changing fall foliage near you. But be quick, because autumn slips into winter suddenly and quickly!

Party like it’s 1985: Celebrate Park and Recreation Month

Since 1985, America has been celebrating the immense importance of parks and recreation every July. This month the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is celebrating their 30th annual Park and Recreation Month with a nod to the past.

Park and Recreation Month - July 2015 - Banner [Image: www.nrpa.org]

[Image: www.nrpa.org]

Parks were created to give people a place to appreciate nature, exercise, socialize and have fun—and what better way to do exactly that than with a throwback theme? So the NRPA is challenging everyone to get retro and use the power of the 80s to increase awareness of the significant impact parks and recreation areas have on our quality of life. Communities all across the country are taking up the challenge by hosting events at parks and recreation centers. Here are a select few for you to check out:

80s Skate Jam: July 11th in Palm Bay, FL

Park & Recreation Month - July 2015 - City of Palm Bay, FL - Skate Jam [Image: www.palmbayflorida.org]

[Image: www.palmbayflorida.org]

The Palm Bay Skate Jam is held once a month at Liberty Park in the east central Florida city of Palm Bay. This fun family-friendly event is free, so bring your loved ones and skate to the best hits of the 80s! It is recommended that you bring your own skates as their supply is limited.

For more information, visit their website or call 321-952-3400.

Like, Totally 80s!: July 11th in Lawrenceville, GA

Park & Recreation Month - July 2015 - Gwinnett County [Image: www.gwinnettcounty.com]

[Image: www.gwinnettcounty.com]

Celebrate Park and Recreation Month with one of the most beloved movies of all time: 1985’s Back to the Future. Enjoy 80s themed activities including games, a trivia contest, crafts, a photo booth, DJ jams, concessions, face painting, crazy 80s hair and temporary tattoos. Then grab a blanket, pack a picnic and gather the family to travel Back to the Future. It’s guaranteed fun for all ages.

For more information, visit their website or call 678-277-0900.

80s Retro Party in the Park: July 24th in Greenville, NC

Join the City of Greenville, NC to celebrate Park & Recreation Month with activities for the entire family—with a throwback flair! Come to the park dressed in retro attire that you don’t mind getting muddy and join the family jazzercise session and 80s trivia then catch an 80s movie on the big screen later in the night. There will be prizes for those dressed as their favorite 80s icon. Families are welcome to stay and camp out under the stars in the big field for a fee.

For more information, take a look at their 2015 Programs & Activities Guide or call 252-329-2489.

80s Cruise In: July 25th in Springfield, OH

Join the National Trail Parks and Recreation District in Springfield, OH as they celebrate Park & Recreation Month, 80s style. Activities include live bands, a car show, an 80s aerobic class, a life-size Pac Man, music, food and more. Come dressed to impress in leg warmers and mile-high hair!

For more information, visit their website or call 937-328-7275.

Park & Recreation Month - July 2015 - Logo [Image: www.nrpa.org]

[Image: www.nrpa.org]

This is only a small sampling, so browse through the list of Park & Recreation Month Events to find out what’s happening in your area. While you’re at the site of your choice, don’t forget to record a short 15 second video and post it to Instagram for NRPA’s Throwback Thursday Instagram Video Challenge.

Or better yet, host your own shindig! Not sure how? It’s easy!

First, find a state park near you by downloading the Pocket Ranger® app for your state. Then dust off those leg warmers and headbands, bring back the neon colors, style your hair appropriately (go big or go home), turn up your favorite synth jams, and set up the retro activity of your choice: an aerobics class, a lip sync battle, a karaoke session, a trivia contest—the possibilities are endless! If you like, you can use the resources the NRPA has provided in their toolkit to promote your event. Finally, invite friends, family, coworkers and neighbors, and have a blast rocking Park & Recreation Month in 80s style. Be sure to take advantage of all the activities and amenities the parks have to offer while you’re there, too. Check the Pocket Ranger® app you downloaded for details on fishing, boating, camping, hiking, biking and more!

So what are you waiting for? Join the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Park & Recreation Month! Not only will you be having fun and encouraging others to be active, live healthier, and connect with nature, but you’ll also be showing off how totally rad you are in the process.

National Parks East of the Mississippi

While the dramatic landscapes of National Parks in the West often receive the lion’s share of attention, National Parks east of the Mississippi River have just as much to offer. Here are five of our favorite National Parks in the East that offer visitors plenty of adventure and spectacular scenery.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Kentucky

Inside a large cavern at Mammoth Caves National Park which is one of Mississippi's National Parks [Image: travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/mammoth-cave-national-park]

Image: travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/mammoth-cave-national-park

Descend into the world’s longest-known cave system at Mammoth Cave National Park. Over the past 5,000 years, more than 400 miles of this water-formed labyrinth has been mapped and surveyed, but there is still so much left to explore. This uncharted territory lends a sense of mystery to the park. The best way to see the cave is by signing up for one of the many tours offered through the park. We recommend going on the Violet City Lantern Tour. For three hours and with only the soft light of a paraffin lamp, explore some of the cave’s largest passages just as early settlers did. Visitors will find evidence of prehistoric mineral mining and a forsaken underground hospital for TB patients.

While the cave is the largest draw for visitors of the park, there are so many other things to do and see! Some favorite sights include the Cedar Sink. By walking down inside this sinkhole, visitors can glimpse an underground river system as it snakes out of the cave. Or follow the River Styx Spring Trail, a leisurely stroll through the woods that brings you alongside the partly subterranean Green River as it wends its way from the cave.

Shenandoah National Park

Virginia

Old Rag Mountain in the Fall [Image: www.nps.gov]

Old Rag Mountain in the Fall [Image: www.nps.gov]

Shenandoah National Park encompasses part of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. The ever-popular Skyline Drive, a 105-mile National Scenic Byway that runs the entire length of the park, affords multitudes of scenic vistas. Skyline Drive is most popular in the Fall when trees at the park burst with colorful foliage. There are also many opportunities to hike the Blue Ridge Mountains, such as the park’s highest peak, Hawksbill Mountain. For the thrill-seekers, we recommend taking the trail up Old Rag Mountain. After a challenging rocky scramble to the summit, hikers will be rewarded with the most breathtaking panoramic views of Virginia.

In addition to beautiful mountainscapes, there are many beautiful waterfalls within the park. At 93 feet, Overall Run Falls is the tallest waterfall at the park and a must-see. South River Falls, the third highest waterfall in the park at 83 feet, is another favorite. Both of these waterfalls offer visitors rocky ledges, perfect places for visitors to sit and have a snack.

Everglades National Park

Florida

An alligator rests on a sandy trail through a cypress grove at the Everglades  [Image Credit: David Geldhof]

Everglades National Park is listed as a World Heritage Site. [Image Credit: David Geldhof]

A watery labyrinth containing 1,100 species of trees and plants, Everglades National Park is the largest designated wilderness in the southeast. Within its miles of diverse ecosystem, travel winding paths through cypress groves, take a boat tour of the Ten Thousand Islands, or a tram ride through Shark Valley. With more than 40 species of bird inhabiting the Everglades, this national park is a must for birdwatchers. For optimum bird sightings, we recommend heading to the park’s verdant Mahogany Hammock Trail early in the morning. The park is also home to 14 endangered (and often reclusive) species, such as the Florida panther, American crocodile, Loggerhead sea turtle, and manatee. If you’re anxious to see some turtles and gators, check out the Anhinga Trail. A wildlife hotspot, this trail is perfect for families and is also wheelchair accessible.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

North Carolina & Tennessee

Cades Cove is a popular spot for people and wildlife at Smoky Mountains National Park. [Image Credit: Kristina Plaas]

Cades Cove is a popular spot for people and wildlife at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. [Image Credit: Kristina Plaas]

Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the rugged peaks and old growth forests of Great Smoky Mountains National Park make it America’s most visited national park. Home to 100 native tree species, the park contains the largest blocks of old-growth deciduous forest in North America. This is one of the many reasons why this beautiful park is honored as a World Heritage Site. The early Precambrian rocks are another popular feature at the park. These very ancient rocks are found at the bottom of the park’s Foothills. Head to the picturesque valley, Cades Cove to see these ancient rocks for yourself.

Since the Smoky Mountains are part of the Appalachian Trail, visitors will most likely run into thru-hikers journeying to either Maine’s Mount Katahdin or Springer Mountain in Georgia. A favorite hike is traveling the Alum Cave Trail up to the summit of the park’s third highest mountain, Mount Le Conte. Spend the night near the summit at the LeConte Lodge. For a more strenuous hike, take on the dual-humped peaks of Chimney Tops. This hike delivers jaw-dropping panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Stay tuned for the Pocket Ranger® National Parks Passport Guide, a free new app that makes planning and visiting the National Parks easy and fun!

Go Here, Not There: State Park Alternatives to Popular National Parks

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?” That Joni Mitchell was onto something, as we sadly found out recently when the government shutdown resulted in the closing of our beloved national parks. While luckily the government didn’t pave paradise or put up a parking lot (and the parks are now reopened), the experience inspired us to seek out the best state park alternatives to popular national parks. Hopefully government shutdowns don’t become a common occurrence, but it’s good to be prepared! Plus, with heavy traffic, big crowds, and frequently-full campgrounds and parking lots sometimes hampering enjoyment of the country’s most visited national parks, it never hurts to keep these lesser known state park alternatives to popular national parks in mind.

Whether you’re hoping to avoid the crowds, enjoy some wide open natural beauty, or simply discover a new hidden gem to visit when your favorite national park isn’t an option, we’ve found the best state park alternatives to popular national parks that are just waiting to be explored. 

Instead of Great Smoky Mountains National Park….

smoky mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
[Image: www.parks.mapquest.com]

…visit North Carolina’s Stone Mountain State Park

stone mountain state park

Stunning Stone Mountain State Park
[Image: www.blevinsphoto.com]

There’s no denying the breathtaking beauty of the fog-blanketed mountain landscape at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Few people know, however, that a similarly stunning mountain destination is nestled a bit further south along North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway. The park’s highlight and namesake is a 600-foot granite dome called Stone Mountain. Lush meadow grasses blow at its base, while the mountain’s deep forests are home to an abundance of white-tailed deer that can often be seen grazing at the park.

In addition to beautiful natural scenery, the park contains more than 20 miles of designated trout waters, making it an exceptional fly-fishing destination. Adventurous visitors can enjoy rock climbing on the mountain. Hikers will appreciate its more than 16 miles of trails, and first-rate campgrounds welcome visitors to stay a while. This National Natural Landmark offers vast mountain beauty, endless outdoor opportunities, and a perfect alternative to the more popular Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Instead of Grand Canyon National Park…

grand canyon

Grand Canyon National Park
[Image: www.quincydein.com]

…visit New York’s Letchworth State Park

grand canyon of the east

Fall colors at Letchworth State Park
[Image: www.thefabweb.com]

Letchworth State Park isn’t called “The Grand Canyon of the East” for nothing! The roaring Genesee River travels through this scenic gorge, where three major waterfalls flow between towering cliffs. Thick forests surround the park, making this area one of the East’s biggest treats for the eyes.

Of course, the park is more than just a pretty landscape. Sixty-six miles of hiking trails weave through the park, with additional trails welcoming bikers, equestrians, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers. Visitors can mix education with recreation with the park’s top-notch history, nature, and performing arts programs, guided tours and walks, or summer lectures. Adventure seekers can enjoy kayaking, whitewater rafting, or even a hot hair balloon ride across the park. The park would not be complete without camping facilities, but fret not, it has those in droves too!

If you’re looking to experience some natural canyon beauty, this East Coast option is every bit as appealing as the real deal in Arizona.

Instead of Yosemite National Park…

yosemite national park

Yosemite National Park
[Image: www.redefiningthefaceofbeauty.com]

…visit Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge State Park

georgia waterfalls

Autumn colors at Tallulah Gorge State Park
[Image: www.weheartit.com/Lori_Stuckman]

Yosemite National Park is known for its rugged, waterfall-dotted wilderness. However, similar scenes can be found hundreds of miles east at Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge State Park. Breathtaking views seemingly await at every turn at the park, which is home to one of the most famed canyons in the eastern United States. Two miles long and almost 1,000 feet deep, Tallulah Gorge offers postcard-perfect natural beauty.

Numerous overlooks can be found along the park’s miles of hiking trails, but the swaying suspension bridge that stretches 80 feet above the gorge perhaps offers the best views of the waterfalls and river. A paved trail winds alongside an old railroad bed, welcoming bikers and hikers. A more difficult, 10-mile trail provides additional mountain biking opportunities. The park’s interpretive center contains exhibits and films that bring the colorful history and unique ecosystem of the area to life.

You don’t have to head to California to appreciate the gorgeous, Yosemite-like beauty that can be enjoyed at Tallulah Gorge State Park!

You know what might just be the best thing about these three state parks? You can explore all of them with the North Carolina, New York, and Georgia Pocket Ranger® apps!

What are your favorite state park alternatives to popular national parks? We’d love to see the gorgeous, national park-worthy scenes you’ve captured there! Perhaps you can even submit your snapshots to our Pocket Ranger Trophy Case® Photo Contest and enter to win a GoPro HD Hero2 Camera!

What To Do At Hanging Rock State Park

Sometimes, no matter how much you love your job or your home or your family, you just need to get away. Which is why glorious places like Hanging Rock State Park exist*.

*Okay; the reason Hanging Rock State Park actually exists is because of nature creating mountains and the Stokes County Committee for Hanging Rock and the Winston-Salem Foundation donating 3,096 acres of land to North Carolina for the purpose of establishing a state park and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) building a dam and hiking trails and a park road and sandy beach, but you know what we mean.

And just between you and us (and the whole internet, now, we guess), we really need a vacation. So, we’re lucky that we have the state parks to disappear to. If you’re feeling the same way, come one, come all to our virtual tour bus (it leaves via your computer screen, very high-tech.) We’re heading to Danbury, North Carolina, and our first and only stop is Hanging Rock State Park.

Hanging Rock State Park

Image: North Carolina Division of Parks & Recreation

Activities

Before we leave, make sure you’ve downloaded the Official Guide for North Carolina State Parks (the North Carolina Pocket Ranger® app, duh) and signed up for the North Carolina State Parks Passport Challenge. It’s a game (GeoChallenge!) where you visit every North Carolina state park, and you get 15 points for visiting Hanging Rock!

While you’re touring and playing, you’ll probably end up doing some of the following.

Climbing

Safety comes first when rock climbing (hanging on some rocks, you know?) at Hanging Rock State Park. All climbers have to register with the park, and you do this by completing a climbing and rappelling registration and activity permit, which can be done at the park office. There’s no charge for the permit, so that’s a relief. So, all you do then is make sure a copy of the permit is either with a park ranger or in a registration box, and hold on to another copy, so you can have it with you while climbing or rappelling.

Now that we’re down with safety, it’s time to get down to the fun! Cook’s Wall and Moore’s Wall are a series of cliffs up to 400 feet high and almost two miles long. You’ll find that they provide climbs for both beginners and more experienced folks.

Hanging Rock State Park

Image: North Carolina Division of Parks & Recreation

Hiking

Who wouldn’t want to hike here? According to the website, Hanging Rock State Park boasts “picturesque cascades and waterfalls, high rock cliffs, spectacular views of the rolling Piedmont and Blue Ridge Mountains, and a mountain cave”. You get to see all of these things on over 18 miles of wooded passageways (12 trails.) Plus, people with disabilities can still enjoy this activity: a short wheelchair-accessible trail leads to a rock outcrop, and there’s an accessible deck near the visitor’s center that provides a lovely view of Hanging Rock.

Hanging Rock State Park

Image: North Carolina Division of Parks & Recreation

Education and Events

Like any good state park, Hanging Rock offers interesting and regular ranger-led interpretative programs. If you have a large group, you can contact the park office to arrange a special tour experience. Otherwise, you can click here to see what events will be going on during your visit. For instance, since today is October 31st, we’re going to check out an art exhibit in the auditorium of the Visitor Center. Subject of all the pieces? Rock formations, waterfalls, wildlife—all inspired by Hanging Rock State Park.

And for more education and events – there’s the exhibit hall!

But really – it looks cool! The Visitor Center has a bunch of cool exhibits. You can check out open panels of a dead tree, learn more about the Saura Native Americans who inhabited the land the park’s on, gaze at dioramas of the plants and animals that live within the park, bend a rock, and more.

Camping

It can happen. And it can happen here.

There are 73 campsites for tents and trailers, and one site is wheelchair accessible. Amenities? Each campsite has a picnic table, grill, and tent pad. Wash houses (with laundry sinks and hot showers) are closed from December 1st to March 15th, but they’re open the other times! Other stuff? Drinking water!

There’s also group camping, with five campsites. Reservations are required, and each site has picnic tables and a fire circle, with pit toilets and water nearby. Best way to experience the wilderness!

Hanging Rock State Park

Image: North Carolina Division of Parks & Recreation

If you’re feeling less rustic, you can choose a vacation cabin (or 10.) Each accommodates up to six people, and two are handicapped-accessible. Included in the cabins? Two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. Unfortunately, pets aren’t allowed in the cabins or cabin area at any time.

Other things?

Fishing, boating, picnicking, swimming. For more details, though, you’ll have to check out Hanging Rock State Park’s website—or just take a real trip there yourself!

Hanging Rock State Park

Image: North Carolina Division of Parks & Recreation