Cedar Rock Mountain: hiking the Big Rock Trail at DuPont State Forest
Hike to the mossy, rocky summit of Cedar Rock Mountain on the Big Rock Trail, scoring some beautiful summit views into North Carolina's DuPont State Recreational Forest.
Cedar Rock Mountain rises from the waterfall-filled landscape in Dupont State Forest. Nestled in the park’s southwest corner, the mountain, a mostly bald granite dome that towers above the park’s nearby Little River waterfalls, offers some fantastic views and a trek through some ruggedly beautiful terrain. It’s a popular mountain biking destination in the park’s massive 80+ mile network of trails, and it’s equally popular with hikers, too.
The mountain’s 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 offers the most direct route to Cedar Rock Mountain’s sprawling summit outcrops, and at just under two miles, round trip, the hike makes for a relatively moderate and especially beautiful mountaintop hike at DuPont State Forest.
Cedar Rock Mountain at DuPont State Forest: 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 immediately beginning the northeast ascent to the summit. 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 ascent continues as the trail dives back into the cover of the 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 only on bare rock, 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 broad 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 DuPont State Forest hiking adventures
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.
Cedar Rock Mountain at DuPont State Forest Map, Directions & Details
Free parking is available at the trailhead. Check the DuPont State Forest website for hours and closures.
35.172867, -82.638600 // N35 10.372 W82 38.316
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