After more than 2 months of social distancing and barely leaving our apartment for anything except our weekly grocery trek (and daily runs in the adjoining neighborhood), the NC state parks reopened in May! We decided to take advantage of the chance to get outside and explore a new area close to home! It was about a 2 hour drive from Chapel Hill to Hanging Rock State park. Portions of the park and certain parking areas remained closed, but the Lake parking lot was open and it was a beautiful view!
![blogPics](/static/img/159/lake.jpg "Lake Parking Lot")
We decided to start with the Moores Wall trail hoping that it would be less busy than the high-trafficked Hanging Rock trail. We started on the trail next to the big shelter (with restrooms) by the lake. The trail splits off a short way in where we took the left branch.
![blogPics](/static/img/159/trailsign.jpg "Moores Wall Trail Sign")
It was a nice trail on the way up with some definite steep sections. There weren't a whole lot of views, but it was calming and nicely shaded. We ran into a few groups of people, but it wasn't too crowded. When we reached the top we found the lookout tower!
![blogPics](/static/img/159/building.jpg "Lookout Tower")
The building itself was pretty neat, but the views on top were awesome!
![blogPics](/static/img/159/ontop.jpg "Lookout Tower")
We were fortunate to make the hike on a clear day. Each side of the lookout tower offered views clear across the landscape. From one side you could clearly see [Pilot Mountain.](https://www.thekhsquared.com/blog/160)
![blogPics](/static/img/159/pilot.jpg "Pilot Mountain")
Right beside the short trail to the lookout tower was another jut out to Balanced Rock. The rock is exactly what it sounds like - a huge rock that is perfectly balanced on the rock underneath. It's pretty easy to scramble up and offers a good view.
![blogPics](/static/img/159/balanced.jpg "Balanced Rock")
After checking out the lookout tower and balanced rock, we started the hike down the other side of the loop. The way down was a TON (like a few hundred) stone steps. We met up with the original trail sign and came back out beside the lake. We had some time left in the day and found the park wasn't too crowded, so we also made the shorter hike up the Hanging Rock Trail, which starts in the visitor center parking lot. It was a nice trail, still with many steep parts, and definitely busier, but the views up top were worth it.
![blogPics](/static/img/159/hanging_rock.jpg "Lookout Tower")
Overall, Hanging Rock state park was a blast. We plan to go back and spend a weekend enjoying the lake, hiking, and camping when more of the guidelines loosen up.