Chimney Rock - Lake Lure
Updated 4-3-16 In 2005, the North Carolina General Assembly wisely voted to authorize a new state park in the Hickory Nut Gorge area near Lake Lure in Rutherford County. Lake Lure is a popular visitor's destination and areas of ecological importance were being bought up and privately developed. Hickory Nut Gorge is home to a number of rare plant and animal species and many people recognized the need to save as much of this area as possible. Hickory Nut Gorge had been a conservation priority for The Nature Conservancy for over 20 years. Earlier acquisitions in the Gorge by TNC included 186 acres at Bat Cave and 788 acres on Rumbling Bald Mountain. In 2005, the World's Edge property in the Gorge became available and TNC along with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and other local organizations teamed together to save the 1,568 acre tract that bordered the privately held tourist destination Chimney Rock Park. Ownership of this property was transferred to the NC Division of Parks and Recreation to be included in the new state park. Early on, it appeared that the park would be called Hickory Nut Gorge State Park, but in 2006 the owners of Chimney Rock Park put their property up for sale and began negotiations with the state. Governor Mike Easley announced in May 2007 that the state had purchased Chimney Rock Park and it would now be the centerpiece of the new state park.
The park will now be called Chimney Rock State Park. Click here for the official web site and remember to always follow their rules and regulations! The only area that is currently opened to the public is Chimney Rock Park, but the master plan for the state park that tells and shows what will be open in the future has been released and is available for viewing. You can read the entire plan here. Saving land in the Hickory Nut Gorge is a continuous effort. TNC was able to purchase an additional 56 acres in September 2008 as a buffer to the Bat Cave Preserve and will eventually transfer the property to the state for inclusion in the state park. In 2008, the Conservancy also purchased 134 acres on the slopes of Round Top Mountain across from Chimney Rock and an additional 362 acres on the slopes of Rumbling Bald Mountain called the King tract. The Foothills Conservancy of NC has also secured 330 acres of ridge, summit and slopes of Cane Creek Mountain for inclusion in the park. Cane Creek Mountain has excellent views of Chimney Rock, the World's Edge tract, and Lake Lure. To date, about 4,300 acres have been saved for inclusion in the park.
Below are areas of the park that I have visited or have found information on. The best way to gain access to areas currently off limits to the general public is to get involved! Join the Foothills Conservancy of NC or the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and volunteer or keep track of member hikes into these areas. Below is an aerial shot I took in late October 2006 looking at a lot of the Chimney Rock State Park property. Rumbling Bald is in the far right with Chimney Rock left center from a finger of Lake Lure. The World's Edge property is to the left with Cane Creek Mountain in the lower left. The Bat Cave Preserve is beyond Chimney Rock. This section of my site is a work in progress and I'll try to keep is as updated as new info becomes available. I have more pictures posted in my Chimney Rock State Park PBase gallery, but the photos are from before the work began replacing the old boardwalks and staircases. The views are still the same.
Chimney Rock Park - Chimney Rock Park had been a privately owned tourist attraction for years. There's still a fee to get in, but I'm not sure if that will continue once the state park becomes really established. There have been recent trail closures, so be sure to check with the official site for all the latest news.
World's Edge - this area has views from the high cliffs of World's Edge and waterfalls on both Pool and Wolf Creeks
Rumbling Bald Mountain - The state recently completed a new parking area for climbing access on the SE side of the mountain. Another old road climbs to the top of the mountain and continues on to Eagle Rock for some excellent views.
Bat Cave Preserve - I hope to be able to join one of the organized hikes to Bat Cave Preserve this summer. This area isn't in the state park and I'm not sure if it will be, but it's worth knowing about. For more info, please click here for The Nature Conservancy's page.
Little Bearwallow Falls is also in the area. Hiking to this waterfall is now possible because of the efforts of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. In 2013, the conservancy acquired what's known as the Wildcat Rock tract on the north slopes of Little Bearwallow Mountain. The beginning of the trail needed to be across private property, so a permanent public trail easement was purchased from the property owners. Eventually, a 15 mile trail known as the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail will be completed which will feature waterfalls, rock outcroppings, and expansive mountain summit views. The trail to Little Beawallow Falls is a part of this trail and when I was there in April 2016, construction of the trail beyond the waterfall was in progress. This will be one jewel of a trail once it is completed. The other end of the trail features hikes to Bearwallow Mountain and the Blue Ridge Pastures via the Trombatore Trail. These sections of the trail are already completed and open to the public, so be sure to do a search for more info and photos. Parking for Little Bearwallow Falls is the same as for the trails in the Florence Nature Preserve - another CMLC land save. Click here for more info from their site.
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