Adventure Us: Hanging Rock Overlook

Adventure #6: Hanging Rock Overlook

There are quite a few limitations on adventuring for young families. You need an activity that’s not too challenging but not too boring… something that requires a bit of effort but plenty of reward. You need to build young characters without losing adult sanity. Just such an adventure awaits at Hanging Rock Overlook.

Hanging Rock Overlook is located about an hour northwest of Roanoke on Rt 311, between New Castle and Paint Bank, at the top of Pott’s Mountain. Admittedly, one of the character-building parts of this adventure is the drive to get there. It’s a beautiful but long and winding country drive, and when you finally reach the top of Pott’s Mountain, your drive is far from over. At the sharp bend at the mountain’s summit, Potts Mountain Road (Forest Road 177) bears off to the right. You need to follow this gravel/dirt road for 3.5 miles to reach the trailhead. Every time we’ve traversed this forest road, there’s been a new adventure in the form of fallen brush, puddles, or washouts. However, we have successfully done it several times – in a Toyota sedan, at that.

But once you get there, good things are in store. From the parking area, an easy, level trail runs half a mile through woods where we’ve seen interesting flowers, salamanders, and snakes at various times. (The informational sign warns of bear, which we’ve never seen.) Before long, the woods give way to a rocky outcrop, and you step out to see this before you:

We’ve visited several times at different seasons, and this panoramic view still takes our breath away every time. You can see for miles south, east, and west.

Many people who have visited Hanging Rock believe this view surpasses McAfee’s Knob. And yet, buried deep within Shawver’s Wilderness Area, Hanging Rock is still not widely known. This means that you will likely enjoy most of the hike in peaceful solitude and you can linger at the summit. Unless, of course, you have family members who want to find a way down to the bottom of the outcrop. Then you may have to interrupt your meditation for a few minutes of crawling and scrambling.

We have found Hanging Rock to be an escape from the stress of normal life into the peace, vastness and beauty of the wilderness. In addition to the stress you’ll shed, you’ll also drop at least ten to fifteen degrees on the trip up from the Roanoke valley… a real benefit during the sweltering summer months. 

Treat yourself and your family to this hidden gem of a hike! Also, to make the drive worthwhile, drop by Paint Bank, only 10 minutes down the other side of Pott’s Mountain. The Fish Hatchery is an interesting stop for young ones, the food and decor at the Swinging Bridge Restaurant are kid-friendly, and the General Store and grounds are fun to explore. Be sure to pick up some 15 cent stick candy for the ride home!

Name: Hanging Rock Overlook, Potts Mountain Rd, New Castle, VA 24127

Time from Roanoke: 1 – 1.25 hr

Activity Options: Trails, Picnicking, beautiful views

Nearby Food: Paint Bank General Store, Swinging Bridge Restaurant

Nearby Attractions: Paint Bank Fish Hatchery, Paint Bank General Store and grounds

Cristy Carr

Cristy and her family keep busy writing, tutoring, homeschooling, homesteading, and adventuring in the beautiful Appalachian mountains.
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