Thu, May 23, 2013 • Cloudy, and 66 ° F.
Little Stony Falls --- Hanging Rock Trailhead
Highlights: 24 foot high waterfall, scenic views of deep gorges, lush cove hardwood forest
Length: 6 miles round trip (3 miles to the falls)
Trailhead: Take Rte 72 north out of Dungannon toward Coeburn for 2.6 miles. Turn left at a large sign into the Hanging Rock Recreation Area at a hairpin curve.
Facilities: Restrooms, picnic areas, and drinking water are available at the trailhead during the summer.
View a larger version of the trail map (449 kb, jpg).
Little Stony Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail because of its majesty and ease of access. This beautiful hike runs up the bed of an old railroad along a moderate incline which becomes steeper and more rocky toward the end. On either side of the trail, steep cliffs 400 feet high cocoon the hiker within a gorge which was created when water eroded away the bedrock along the Hunters Valley fault.
Massive bridges were helicoptered in, so your feet stay dry as you pass a series of smaller waterfalls before emerging on top of the 24 foot high Little Stony Falls. (A slightly smaller waterfall about half a mile downstream warns of the main attraction's approach.) A bridge across the top of the upper falls lets you stand immediately above the roaring water while a deep pool at the base of the falls tempts hikers to cool off on a hot summer's day.
The boulders and cliffs along the sides of the gorge make for a beautiful four season hike. In winter, icicles cascade below mountain laurel and hemlock. Spring is the perfect time to search for delicate flowers like Spring Beauty and Hepatica in this lush cove hardwood forest, while summer hikers are regaled by Louisiana Waterthrushes and Swainson's Warblers among blooming rhododendrons. Fall brings brilliantly colored foliage to round out the year.
During winter (November 1 - mid March), the Forest Service locks the gate to the Hanging Rock Recreation Area a quarter mile from the usual parking area, adding a half mile to your round trip.
(For an easier hike, start at the northern trailhead and walk only 1 mile round trip to reach the falls. At the other extreme, overnight hikers can spend two adventurous days walking the Chief Benge Scout Trail, beginning on the top of High Knob and ending at Hanging Rock.)