Cedar Rock Mountain: hiking the Big Rock Trail at DuPont State Forest
Dupont State Recreational Forest is well-loved for its waterfalls, but offers some excellent mountaintop trails, too. Hike the Big Rock Trail to the moss and rock-covered summit of Cedar Rock Mountain to score some beautiful DuPont views.
The Cedar Rock Mountain summit spans acre after acre of wide rock expanses covered in crusty lichen, soft moss and thickets of tall, wispy grass that blow in the summit breeze. The summit is an open, almost surreal landscape compared to the lush, vegetated terrain below: it’s equal parts barren and beautiful. The Big Rock Trail at DuPont State Forest offers the most direct route to Cedar Rock Mountain’s sprawling summit outcrops, and at just under two miles, roundtrip, the hike makes for a relatively moderate and especially beautiful mountaintop hike at DuPont.
Big Rock Trail to Cedar Rock Mountain: the hike
The hike departs from the Corn Mill Shoals trailhead (view maps and driving directions), crossing Cascade Lake Road from the parking area and hiking the Corn Mill Shoals Trail eastbound. (Like many trails in DuPont State Forest, the Big Rock Trail is an interior trail, without an on-road trailhead – so the hike begins with a short spur on the Corn Mill Shoals Trail for access.)
The hike reaches an intersection with the Big Rock Trail at .1 mile, veering left and almost immediately beginning the northeast ascent to Cedar Rock Mountain. The trail dives through a dense tunnel of thick-leafed and gnarly-branched rhododendron and thin, scrubby mountain laurel, winding through switchbacks as it ascends.
The hike catches its first partial views at .4 mile, roughly halfway to the mountain’s summit, from a rock outcrop bordered in tall grasses.
The hike continues its ascent, diving back into the cover of forest. The trail re-emerges onto open expanses of rock, catching westerly views at .7 mile. Sporadic pine dot the landscape, and mosses and grasses fill the shallow pits that pockmark the mounded, rolling granite terrain.
Many of the mountain’s flora are fragile, and take years to recover if damaged. Hike on bare rock only, and avoid straying from the trail or stepping on the crusty lichen or moss, to help conserve the delicate ecology of the mountain. The trail is relatively easy to follow, but in sections of wide open rock near the Cedar Rock summit, cairns (small piles of rock) help mark the trail.
The hike veers eastbound, circling the 3,000-foot summit of Cedar Rock Mountain. The Big Rock Trail reaches a signed intersection with the Cedar Rock Trail at .9 mile. From here, this hike turns to retrace its steps to the trailhead, a nearly continuous descent. The hike reaches the Corn Mill Shoals Trail at 1.7 miles, turning right to return to the trailhead and completing the hike.
More Cedar Rock Mountain and DuPont State Forest adventure
Visiting DuPont, and have energy and daylight to spare? Hike a longer loop at Big Cedar Mountain, following the Cedar Rock Trail over the mountain’s open eastern slopes and trekking the Little River Trail to loop back to the Corn Mill Shoals Trail, trailing just under 3 miles. Scale DuPont State Forest’s tallest summit on the Stone Mountain Trail for some excellent views from a mountaintop on the forest’s northern edge. And don’t miss the park’s well-loved waterfall hikes, including Hooker Falls, High Falls and Triple Falls, all accessible from nearby trailheads.