Thursday, March 1, 2018

Take a Trip to Rocky Face Mountain

I'd never heard of Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area until a friend mentioned it a few weeks ago. Now it's among my favorite "finds."

Located in Hiddenite, NC, about an hour and fifteen minutes north of Charlotte, it's relatively easy to get to and well worth the drive.

The Rocky Face Mountain Recreational area opened in 2012, but the site is home to some rich history, dating back to the early 1900s when it served as a quarry. In 2003 it was added to the North Carolina Registry of Natural Heritage areas.

Today, it offers an impressive natural playground; more than five miles of beautiful, challenging trails; and a sheer cliff face for qualified rock climbers.

Here's how to make the most of your visit.

Directions to the Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area (located at 3451 Rocky Face Church Rd., Hiddenite, NC, 28636) will take you to a gravel parking lot with a building that I understand will eventually serve as the Welcome Center with restrooms, but it was locked and deserted when we visited.

From the parking lot, gather your gear and take a left on the trail behind the building. In less than 0.25 miles, you'll reach the former quarry, which has been converted to an enormous natural playground, complete with a zip line, slide, games, building materials, and climbing features. There's a paved 0.3-mile walking track around the quarry, as well as bathrooms and a picnic shelter. The playground is adjacent to the cliff face, where you may enjoy watching qualified climbers scale the mountain.

If you want to do some hiking and exploring, head for the rocky staircase to the left of the sheer rock face. There are a number of trails (see trail map) originating from this trailhead to choose from, none longer than 2.5 miles round-trip. Many are designated as "strenuous," probably for the steep ascents and uneven terrain, but the kids were able to navigate if we moved slowly and steadily when necessary.

I recommend the Hollow Rock Trail, which offers the most dramatic and impressive vistas. What I especially love about these trails is the blazes, which are labeled with numbers that correspond to the map, making navigating simple and exciting for young explorers. All of the trails are well marked, with "you-are-here" maps along the way.

Be mindful of visiting after a rain. Large portions of the trails are bald rock faces, which could be extremely slippery when wet.

On a gorgeous spring weekend when you're looking for a fun outing that's a little out of the ordinary, pack a picnic lunch, and plan to spend the day at Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area. It's one of the coolest outdoor destinations you've probably never heard of . . . yet.

How to get there:
Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area is located at 3451 Rocky Face Church Rd., Hiddenite, NC, 28636. To access the natural playground, bathrooms and picnic shelter, take a left on the trail at the back of the parking lot and walk 0.25 miles.

Don't forget to pack:
  • Water: Stay hydrated. You can refill at the restroom facilities next to the playground.
  • Snacks or a picnic: You can easily spend hours at the Recreation Area if you've got some food to keep your energy up.
  • Shoes: Comfortable walking shoes. Keep in mind that some of the trails will be very slippery when wet. Plan accordingly.
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: The trails are mostly shady, but the natural playground and rock faces are out in the open.
  • Trail map: Print one to take along.

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