Chimney Rock Park from the Air  10-30-06

 

8-7-15  There has been a lot of upgrading to Chimney Rock park since I last visited, but I hope to go back soon for new pictures and updated information. All of the old stairways have been replaced and trails have been improved. There is still work being done, so it's best to check the official web site before you go. All the info you need including directions and times of operation can be found here at the Chimney Rock Park web site.

Chimney Rock Park's history dates back well over 100 years when Jerome B Freeman first built a stairway to the top of Chimney Rock in 1885. In 1902, Dr. Lucius B Morse purchased the property from Freeman with dreams of a park and development of a town at Lake Lure. He had previously witnessed the grand view from Chimney Rock. The park remained in the Morse family until the recent sale to the state of North Carolina to be included in the new state park. Chimney Rock Park was developed as a tourist attraction and has gift shops as well as a lounge and an elevator built in solid rock to take you most of the way up if you can't handle the stairs.The park is still operated by a private contractor and there is a fee to get in.

The park is home to the 404' high Hickory Nut Falls as well as some really cool rock formations and excellent views. The Skyline and Cliff Trails to the top of the falls are currently closed for improvements to the many wooden steps and walkways that take you along the edge of the mountain. You can still take the trails to the base of the falls however. Check the Chimney Rock site before heading over there for any up to date info on closings or special activities that occur throughout the year. My first visit wasn't until 2007 - mainly because of the $14 fee to get in. When I heard it was to become part of the new state park, I couldn't put it off any longer and purchased a yearly pass. I have a gallery of photos I have taken on my different visits to Chimney Rock Park if you would like to see more pictures than I can post here. Please click here to see it.

Please see the Chimney Rock Park site for specific directions to the entrance. Be warned that the entrance is among some businesses along the Rocky Broad River and may not be that obvious on your first visit. There is a sign and a locked gate if you get there too early. Once in, continue over the bridge and on up to the ticket plaza which is maybe a mile up. Just past the ticket plaza is The Meadows and parking for some easy hiking and kid's stuff at Grady's Animal Discovery Den and the Great Woodland Adventure Trail (0.6 miles loop). You can also park here and walk across the road to the Four Season's Trail which offers a more moderate to strenuous hike depending on how far you go. It's 1.2 miles out and back. This is a good wildflower trail in early spring and you can continue up and connect to the Hickory Nut Falls Trail and on to the base of Hickory Nut Falls for an extended hike. The azaleas bloom in mid to late April and are spectacular along sections of this trail and along the road continuing up to the main parking area. There are sheltered picnic tables at The Meadows and I assume they are for general public use. You could also bring a blanket and spread it out and enjoy a great view of Chimney Rock Mountain while munching. The shot below was taken from The Meadows at a Bark in the Park event I attended.


Chimney Rock Mountain View from The Meadows

The main road continues past The Meadows, winding up the mountain. There are several pull offs with picnic tables along the road if you choose to pack a lunch. Near the top of the mountain the road passes by the Hickory Nut Falls trail head on the left. Don't park here, but pull up a short distance to the obvious parking spaces. Or you could continue up to the main parking area and look for the steps back down to the trail near Moonshiner's Cave. The Hickory Nut Falls Trail is 1.5 miles round trip and easy to moderate. It's kid friendly, but strollers are not recommended. You can rent a kid carrier backpack up top if you don't have one. Hickory Nut Falls is low volume by nature but I'd like to see it after some gushing rains. Best time to go to avoid the crowds is right when the park opens.


Hickory Nut Falls 

The combination of the huge rock wall and waterfall make for a spectacular sight. There's an observation deck right at the base of the falls. Another stone look out farther back would have a good view if a tree weren't blocking it. So naturally the first time I climbed farther up the rock for a better view. There was no sign saying I couldn't but the rules do say to stay on trail. One of the employees was up there reading before his shift and politely told me I wasn't supposed to be up there, but let me shoot a few pictures. Here's that view and the lighting you will encounter on a sunny day right after the park opens -

Just around the bend from the Hickory Nut Falls trail head is the main parking area. Park and walk up towards Cliff Dwellers gift shop. To the left is the tunnel entrance to the elevator that heads up to Sky Lounge and an easy walk over to the view from Chimney Rock. If you are more adventurous and don't mind climbing some steep stairs, continue past Cliff Dwellers and the elevator and explore The Outcroppings. You'll find hidden views from the Grotto, a rock tunnel called Subway, and other interesting natural features. One end of the Cliff Trail is also in this area. Below is a view from the Grotto with Round Top Mountain on the left and Rumbling Bald Mountain in the background.


view from the Grotto

If you keep wandering up through the Outcroppings you'll eventually end up at the Sky Lounge and access to Chimney Rock, Opera Box, Devil's Head, and the beginning of the Skyline Trail. Be sure to get the free trail map offered when you purchase your tickets to help you find your way around. The main attraction of the park is Chimney Rock and the excellent view. The picture below is a view of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure from Opera Box. Be sure to check it out!

 

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