This post is sponsored by CamelBak but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.
North Carolina is home to an array of diverse landscapes on the east coast. Driving a few hours west from Raleigh, or 90 minutes north of Charlotte you can visit two of our favorite NC state parks and dozens of wineries in the Yadkin Valley region.
Coming from Raleigh, we started our adventurous weekend getaway at Hanging Rock State Park, which is a great destination for hiking, chasing waterfalls and spending the night camping or in a rustic cabin.
The Thrill: Two days of hiking in NC State Parks
Exploring Hanging Rock State Park
North Carolina’s Hanging Rock State Park is the perfect first stop on your getaway itinerary. The park offers over 20 miles of hiking trails leading to panoramic mountain views and stunning waterfalls, rock climbing opportunities, horseback rides, swimming, boating and fishing.
Start your journey at Hanging Rock State Park by exploring the main trail in the park, the famous Hanging Rock Trail and see the Moore’s Knob. Then make sure to visit Hidden Falls, Window Falls and Upper Cascade Falls and the Rock Garden, all of which trailheads start at the same parking lot.
Even though we visited in the late summer, the afternoon sun is still quite warm, especially at the top of each trail where there is less shade available. For each hike we filled up our 30 oz Horizon Tumbler from CamelBak’s new Horizon Drinkware Collection from our ice filled cooler to take on the hike. It is so refreshing to get to the top of the mountain and still have ice cold water to enjoy. We also got the reusable straw, which is perfect to grab a quick sip of water while hiking.
Wolf Rock and Cooks Wall are amazing hikes that lead to breathtaking views of the mountains. If you are an early bird, head to Hanging Rock Park Lake first thing in the morning to get a glimpse of the fog rising off the lake and the trees surrounding it.
While you do need to drive a little bit further to another lot it is definitely worth visiting the Lower Cascade Falls and the Tory’s Den Cave. If you are visiting at a busy time, make sure to head here early as it is only a small parking lot that remains consistently full all afternoon.
Cook’s Wall Trail: 4.4 miles round trip; moderate
Hanging Rock Trail: 2.6 miles round trip; moderate
Hidden Falls and Window Falls: 1.4 round trip; strenuous hike (plenty of steps)
Lower Cascades Trail: 0.8 Miles round trip; moderate
Rock Garden Trail: 0.2 miles round trip; easy and wheelchair accessible.
Tory’s Den Cave and Waterfall Trail: 0.4 miles; easy
Upper Cascades Trail: 0.4 miles; easy
Wolf Rock Trail: 3.4 miles; moderate hike
After a full day of hiking and exploring head to Ronda, NC to enjoy the views of the vineyards and taste delicious wines and cheeses. We actually slept at a relatively new vineyard, Eden Oaks Vineyard, whose grapes are not yet mature enough to harvest, but they offer a fantastic campground experience. The same Horizon Tumbler that kept our water cold during the hike allowed for a delicious cup of hot cocoa as the evening cooled. After a few smores over our bonfire and some stargazing, the tent was becoming our home.
Hiking through Stone Mountain State Park
For the second day, drive to Stone Mountain State Park, where the 600-foot tall granite dome pops out of the green forested mountain. It is an amazing rock for experienced rock climbers. Start the day by hiking the one-mile Cedar Rock Trail that takes you to a granite outcrop with a great view of Stone Mountain and then hike the Stone Mountain Trail Loop. While the trail can get somewhat strenuous when you reach the switchbacks, it’s worth the work out! The trail starts you off with three-quarters of a mile up the mountain.
Since we did not have enough time to do the full loop, we just hiked to the top and walked the same way down. As you head back towards the trailhead, at the old fireplace walk towards Stone Mountain Falls, for a quicker hike of the trail highlights.
Another great hike is the Wolf Rock Trail, a 1.5 mile hike that leads you to breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Even horseback riders are welcome, and love the 5-mile Bridal Trail.
Middle Falls/Lower Falls Trail: 1 mile round trip moderate
Stone Mountain Loop Trail: 4.5 loop strenuous
The Chill: Yadkin Valley Wine Country
The Yadkin Valley region is home to three dozen vineyards and wineries in northwestern North Carolina at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each one provides a beautiful landscape to sit back and relax with a glass of wine after a day on the trail. The best time of year to visit is right before the grapes are harvested, which generally happens in September, but it is best to contact each vineyard for the most up to date information.
We visited two wineries for a tasting: Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery and Piccione Vineyards as they are adjacent properties, it could not be easier. At Piccione Vineyards we started off with a wine tasting to experience a full range of the flavors from the region, on the hilltop patio overlooking the vineyards.
Heading just next door to the Raffaldini Vineyards we were able to wander through rows of vines, teeming with grapes as they are ready for picking mid-September. We got our favorite bottle of wine, along with some cheese and crackers for a relaxing picnic in the vineyard. There is an extensive patio, but you can also bring your own chairs or blanket and find your own secluded spot on the property.
Since we were walking around the vineyard with a bottle of wine, we poured it into CamelBak’s Horizon insulated wine bottle from CamelBak to keep it cool and not have to worry about carrying glass or spilling any of the wine. Using CamelBak’sinsulated wine tumbler as well, I still got the full wine drinking experience and never had to worry about tipping the glass over when I put it down.
After finding a nice spot in the vineyard we sat down for an array of cheese and crackers to pair with the wine. We could easily spend all afternoon here just talking, drinking, snacking and soaking up the sun. There is no better way to wind down the adventure than in the heart of a vineyard.
Learn more about the full Horizon Drinkware Collection from CamelBak here.
Exploring Stone Mountain State Park and Hanging Rock State Park Travel Video
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