Climb, hike or rappel Rocky Face Mountain

For the longest time, the gem hiddenite – a neon-green, emerald-like stone found nowhere else but Alexander County – was the county’s undisputed natural treasure. Since 2012 however, the gemstone has had a rival: Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area. The newly-developed “gem” of a recreational park is attracting visitors as well.


Rocky Face Mountain is just east of Taylorsville, about 70 miles (75 minutes) northwest of Charlotte.

To see and do

There’s little need to question how Rocky Face got its name. One look at the craggy outcropping of gray stone 100 feet high will show you the mountain does indeed have a rocky face. A perfect face for rock climbing and rappelling, two of the park’s popular activities.

From 1922 until the early 1940s, a rock quarry operated here. For a time, a prison camp was on the east side of the mountain. In 2003, Rocky Face Mountain was placed on the N.C. Registry of Natural Heritage Areas. Subsequently, a grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, coupled with the donation of the land by the Carolina Land and Lakes Resource Conservation and Development District, with assistance from the Felbourn Foundation, enabled Alexander County to create the recreational area.

The park encompasses 318 acres. Amenities include restrooms, picnic shelter, campsite and a paved, 0.3-mile ADA walking track.

Rock climbing and rappelling for qualified individuals requires a valid permit, issued daily at the park office.

Approximately 5 miles of hiking trails wind up the sides of the mountain or across its summit. Buzzard Loop is an easy-to-moderate trail, roughly 3/4 mile. The 1-mile Prison Camp Trail passes the former site of inmate housing before connecting with Hollow Rock Trail at the top of the mountain. Grindstone Trail is a mile-long, moderate-to-strenuous switchback path up the south side of Rocky Face that also connects to Hollow Rock Trail at the top.

Hollow Rock is a 2.5-mile loop trail along the summit; rated moderate-to-strenuous, it provides rock overlooks. For safety, the trails are marked with station numbers; should emergencies arise, it’s easy to report your position when calling the park office or 911.