Picturesque winding roads through dense mountains, small local farms and towns, and along beautiful Hickory Creek and Broad River just 40 minutes from Asheville and a little less than 2 hours away from Charlotte would lead you to this one of a kind State Park in North Carolina – Chimney Rock State Park.
The outline of the massive Rock formation perched on the top of the mountain is visible from afar and you’ll be sure to know which way to go to get there. First you will be greeted by the small town of Chimney Rock nestled between the lush mountains, following the river, full of small shops and cafes that will be sure to prolong your visit after the park. You’ll notice the large sign to the Park before entering by following a narrow two lane windy road.
A small booth is located a little after the entrance and pass a bridge that collects the payments for entering the State Park. The admission for Adults is $17 and kids 5-15 are $8 as of October 2020. Visitors can upgrade their admission ticket to an Annual Pass for only $15 for adults and $6 for youth on the day of purchase or within 30 days. Make sure you keep your receipt and stop in to the Ticket Plaza on your next visit.
After paying, keep following the steep road for three miles to the top of the mountain. You’ll pass by the trail leading to Hickory Nut Falls to your right before finally reaching the large parking lot, viewing deck which is wheelchair accessible, the gift shop, elevator and restrooms. A pretty good view of the Chimney Rock Profile is visible from this spot. You can get pretty nice views from here and if you have someone in your party that isn’t interested in climbing the hundreds of stairs to the top of the Rock they can wait for you here. Benches are located right by the stone wall offering endless views of the valley bellow.
Once you’ve taken the views in and checked out the cute gift shop, prepare yourself for the 500 steps awaiting you and leading to the top of the Rock. Take your time. although the steep climb is pretty strenuous the 75-mile views overlooking Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge are worth every step and make for a good motivation. There is an elevator you can take but make sure you call in advance to make sure it is in working condition. It was not operating during our visit so we had no other choice but to go up the stairs (which we didn’t mind one bit).
The stairs are very well constructed and the top of Chimney Rock is boarded and pretty safe. Make sure to keep small kids close by just in case. There are plenty of spots here where you can take a seat and enjoy the magnificent views. If you packed a picnic, here is the best spot to enjoy it. At an elevation of 2,280 feet above sea level the views are absolutely jaw dropping.
Multiple hiking opportunities are available up the monolith with fun names for passages and views galore. Make sure to stop by the Bat Cave if you are not too claustrophobic or go in the Subway if you don’t mind crawling through a small rock tunnel in the dark. Catch your breath and enjoy the views of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge from the Opera Box before reaching the Devils Head. The Menacing Rock face overlooking the Nut Gorge and Lake Lure was formed when huge sheet of rock slid down the mountainside and broke into many pieces, one of which came to rest on this ledge. If you look close enough you’ll even notice the eyebrow, nose, chin and ear, while softer layers have eroded out, shaping the eye and the mouth.
If you are still interested in more hiking continue on the trail to what would be the highest point in Chimney Rock exceeding the Chimney Rock’s elevation by 200 feet. The Exclamation Point trail marks over 1,400 vertical feet in elevation from the entrance to the Park, which you can see way, way down beneath you. The spectacular views of the Hickory Nut Gorge from here are breathtaking.
If you still have energy and are ready to continue even further follow the trail up higher for the Skyline Trail or down low for the hike to Hickory Nut Falls that snakes through the dense forest and leads to the top of the Hickory Nut Falls. The shaded path is perfect on hot summer days and crossing the stream and letting kids splash makes for a great pit stop and a good way to catch your breath.
There is one more thing that you wouldn’t want to miss here. The picturesque Hickory Nut waterfall set in a lush forest is one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. Follow the 1.4 mile Hickory Nut Falls trail that leads to the base of the magnificent 404-foot natural wonder which was featured in the epic film, “The Last of the Mohicans.”. Wildflowers framed enchanted path weaves through an eclectic mix of Oak and Hickory trees and often if quiet enough you’ll be lucky to hear migrant birds chirping and deer crumbling leaves walking in the forest near you.
The trail is perfect for small kids as it’s mostly flat and very interactive. If you visit here the winter months when the leaves had fallen off the trees and look to your right you’ll be able to see another large waterfall on the side of the mountain.
If you brought the kids with you make sure to check out the Great Woodland Adventure located next to the trailhead where woodland creatures take the spotlight at 12 Discovery Stations along this rolling .6-mile winding trail. Grady the Groundhog, the Park’s Animal Educator, illustrates how his forest friends live, including chipmunks, frogs, owls and butterflies. Visitors can attempt a jump as far as a spider, spot the salamanders or get in the shell of a turtle! Larger-than-life wood and metal sculptures made by local crafters and artists bring the trail to life.
Once you get back to the village and find a parking spot make sure to find a spot down by the river. Sit on the boulders and enjoy the fresh mountain air while the kids are splashing in the water skipping rocks before taking a stroll around town for some yummy ice-cream for the kids and coffee for the grown ups. We highly recommend Village scoop and Bubba O’Leary’s General Store. If looking for a place to grab a bite to eat checkout the Riverwatch Bar and Grill. Sitting by the river at the end of December soaking up the sun (it was 70 degrees that day. I know! Crazy, right) was one of the highlights of our visit here. And the food came out fast and was delicious.
If looking for an experience for your kids and something to bring home for a keepsake, you can pick between the few mini golf adventure parks or visit the Chimney Rock Gemstone Mine and have an unforgettable adventure.
Whether you choose just walking around town and checking out the little quirky shops or doing the whole hike up Chimney Rock from town ( The Rumbling Bald Climbing Area off Boys Camp Road and the Riverwalk Trail) you are sure to have an unforgettable time!