Enjoy expansive views of the Brushy Mountains while hiking at Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area’s granite dome peak. From moderate nature trails to switchbacks and stair climbs, the area offers trails for any level of hiker.
Not long ago, Rocky Face Mountain was an overgrown and abandoned quarry, with an equally neglected prison camp and railroad on its slopes. Now on the North Carolina Registry of Natural Heritage Areas, the mountain is recognized for its unique cultural history and ecology, as well as its outdoor recreation amenities.
Rising 600 feet above the surrounding Piedmont, Rocky Face’s steep terrain and granite gneiss dome draw hikers and climbers from across the southeast. Old-growth forest is being restored here, as it is throughout much of the Brushy Mountain range. Park habitat supports endangered plants like Keever’s bristle moss and purple-flowering meadowsweet. Rare giant swallowtail butterflies feed on the park’s hop-trees. Work is being done to preserve this unique ecosystem through low-impact recreation and education for generations to come.
What Makes It Great
Sit atop Rocky Face Mountain’s granite peak and survey the Brushy Mountain vistas to understand what makes this park so special. The park’s sheer rock cliffs dominate the landscape as you ascend the trails. Interpretive markers describe the 318-acre park’s unique ecosystem. It’s easy to hike along the quarry cliffs and envision a time when mining operations dominated the landscape.
Hikers of all skill levels can enjoy Rocky Face Mountain’s looping trail network. But expect to get a workout: All trails except the paved walkway off the parking lot involve a climb, either by stairs, switchbacks, or steep, rocky uphill trail. Portions of trail cross bare granite rock, with railing cables for support when rock is wet or icy.
The 0.33-mile paved, ADA-accessible trail leads from the parking lot to the park’s five hiking trails. Beginners can hike short Buzzards Loop to a quarry overlook, while hikers looking for more of a challenge can combine Grindstone and Prison Camp trails for a two-mile loop. Extend your distance and elevation gain on the 2.5-mile Hollow Rock Trail or take the Vertical Mile Challenge Trail, climbing 2.2 miles to the peak before descending on the Hollow Rock Trail.
For another twist on an excursion, try the Vertical Mile Challenge, which was envisioned by two AT hikers. This annual early summer race can be conquered on your own any time of the year. Complete eight loops on the Vertical Mile Challenge Trail for a crushing cardio workout and bragging rights among fellow hikers.
Backpack a half-mile in to primitive campsites just off the Grindstone Trail. Three tent sites guarantee a night of solitude under the stars. Sites can be reserved online and waivers are required. The park also maintains an extensive geocaching program, with 20 traditional caches and two earthcaches.
Who is Going to Love It
Novice hikers and families with small children will appreciate the easy-to-moderate Buzzards Loop and ADA-accessible paved walking track, as well as signage describing flora along the trails. More experienced hikers will relish the strenuous climbs to the peak and options to hike multiple loops, especially the Vertical Mile Challenge. Backpackers, meanwhile, can take advantage of the park’s backcountry campsites. And watching climbers tackle the imposing granite rock face is a treat for any visitor, with an added bonus of amenities like restrooms, a picnic shelter, and drinking water at the parking lot.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Rocky Face Recreational Area is located in Hiddenite, NC, just over an hour west of downtown Winston-Salem. Take I-40 west to exit 148 and follow US-64 approximately 13 miles to a right turn on White Plains Road. At 2.0 miles, turn right on Rocky Springs Road and drive 1.4 miles to a left turn on Rocky Face Church Road. The park entry will be just over one mile ahead on the right.