Located about six miles from Hot Springs, North Carolina, Paint Rock is considered North Carolina’s best pictograph. Estimated to be 5,000 years old, Paint Rock has been a landmark for natives and settlers alike for millennia.
Early American Indians created the designs on the cliffs while en route to the healing waters at nearby Hot Springs, which they considered a sacred site. First recorded by European settlers in the 1790s, the site is one of the most historically significant in the area. The outcropping in the cliff provides a natural shelter, and a climb to the top provides a view that stretches for miles. A rough trail still leads up to the top of the cliff and it’s worth the hike if you can do it. This strategic location later bordered Cherokee lands and sat on the only road for miles, right next to the French Broad River. In the late 1800s, a guard’s blockhouse was erected there to protect the settlers’ border with Cherokee country.
The pictograph that gives the rock its name consists of rectilinear patterns etched into the stone and marked with indelible paints created from local ingredients. Centuries of campfire soot has somewhat obscured the pictograph on the cliff side, and today it takes a sharp eye to see them from the road. However, they are still visible.
Considering that the designs have weathered sun, rain, and soot for over 5,000 years, they are amazingly well preserved and worth the visit.