Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hanging Rock Recreation Area is located at the base of High Knob near Dungannon, Va. It's a wonderful area with picnic shelters, public restrooms, and plenty of picnic tables to enjoy the outdoors along beautiful Stoney Creek. The main attraction however is the falls of Little Stoney. From the recreation area a trail leaves following the creek up the 2.6m trail to the falls. Technically, there are only two waterfalls on Stoney Creek, however I found that there are some beautiful cascades all along the creek and two definite waterfalls off the beaten path.

Yesterday's hike began by traveling across High Knob through the Osborne's Ridge section and into what most people consider the "back way" to the falls. This way is much easier because the walk to the falls is only .15 miles! Unfortunately at the turn to the falls, Dad and I were greeted with a gated forest road! I had even called the forest service and was told it was open, I was aggravated to say the least, but I didn't give up. I told dad we could go to Hanging Rock entrance but the falls were further up the trail. He was a good sport and agreed to go and said he would hike as far as he was comfortable with. I had only been to Hanging Rock once and it was by accident and at night. I was highly impressed with the huge rock formations and the nice cascades running through the canyon there. The picnic area was gated off so we had to walk up to the trail head just past the picnic area.

Almost immediately the trail comes to a maze of boulders as big as small houses, Dad really liked this area and played around the large rocks like he was a kid again, here's a few shots of Hanging Rock early on in the hike.
one of the many cliffs along the trail
large rapids coming down Stoney Creek
Dad heading up the trail, me behind one of the huge boulders
pure sandstone boulders
Southwest Virginia gold, aka Coal
Dad really hoping there isn't a freak earthquake on Stoney Creek

The trail leaves the boulder area and stays with the creek, a short time later you arrive at the first of four bridges suspended high over the creek. The trail narrows and each side of the canyon is shaded by high bluffs. Cascades abound and between them the water is plenty deep enough for a summer swim. As beautiful as this area is, budget cuts have it scheduled for closing! I have started contacting some people and plan to start a petition to save Hanging Rock. Speaking of Hanging Rock it's name sake lies about two miles up the trail towering over the canyon. The growth of trees have the view obstructed but on a future hike I will climb to the summit and sit on the rock, that indeed hangs out over the heavens. Just below the goat path that leads up to the rock is a long wooden bridge across a wide gorge, this is one of my favorite places on the entire trail. In the distance you can hear the faint familiar sound of water crashing over a cliffs edge and soon you can start seeing the middle stoney falls appearing in the distance. Here's some more photo's of this area.
photo taken from one of the bridges
dual cascades taken from a large bolder in the creek
small falls the trail crosses directly in front of
large rock formation along the rock staircase
another large cascade with deep pool below
one of the many beautiful cascades
long bridge over the gorge
The falls are underrated perhaps because I've been to them so many times. However on this day they were as good as any I have visited. Time didn't allow me to go to Upper Stoney Falls but I was satisfied with all the sights I had took in along the way As I was leaving I could hear what I thought was a waterfall off a small side stream and after some crawling and wading, the canyon opened up revealing a beautiful 30ft falls. I was proud of myself because I had yet to find anyone with a photo of these online. I turned my ankle getting out and the pain was settling in as I still had two miles to go but I continued on. As the truck came into view I fully expected to see dad sleeping with the seat laid back, I approached the window and no dad! A bit of mild panic set in before I spotted him down a steep bank along the creek resting peacefully on a large bolder. It was the best sight of the day for me, it's nice to see him starting to love these hikes as much as I do, until next time...happy trails!
Middle Stoney Falls
Middle Stoney Falls
Horton Falls..yeah I named them!
Dad found a good spot to wait for me.

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