A Visit To
Chimney Rock Park
Chimney Rock Park has been a favorite destination for vacationers since 1885. Then as now, the primary attraction is the magnificent view from the top of Chimney Rock itself. No doubt about it - it's a knockout - stretching over 75 miles on a clear day, taking in the deep, rocky splendor of Hickory Nut Gorge in one direction and reaching beyond the sapphire waters of Lake Lure in the other.
In the old days, visitors had to hike a trail from the parking area and climb over 400 steps to reach the base of Chimney Rock. All that changed when, in an incredible feat of engineering, an elevator shaft was blasted straight up through 198 feet of rock. Today this 26 story elevator offers an easy route from the parking area to the base of Chimney Rock, but you can still hike it all on foot if you want to.
The elevator lets visitors out into a restaurant and gift shop. On summer weekends there is often a band playing lively mountain music just outside the restaurant. This is also the start of the Skyline-Cliff Trail, which leads a short distance to the base of Chimney Rock and a stairway to the summit.
After admiring the panoramic views of mountains, lake and valleys from Chimney Rock, we recommend continuing along the Skyline-Cliff Trail, which climbs along the cliff face to a rock ledge beneath an overhang called The Opera Box. This spot offers an awe-inspiring and often-photographed view of Chimney Rock itself, rising like a temple pillar, with Lake Lure far below in the distance. You can also enjoy excellent views in the other direction, into the ever narrowing rocky chasm of Hickory Nut Gorge.
Farther along the Skyline Trail is Moonshiner's Cave, a deep fissure cave which legend has it, was used by moonshiners in the early days. And true to its name, Skyline Trail reaches the highest spot in the park, the 2480 foot Exclamation Point.
The second big attraction at Chimney Rock Park is Hickory Nut Falls, a 404 foot high waterfall that is one of the loveliest in the Blue Ridge. A 1.5 mile round trip trail leads to the falls and offers a relatively easy and scenic hike along the way.
In total, Chimney Rock Park features several miles of trails, including the gentle Woodland Adventure Trail which is geared towards families and kids, with signage that introduces the flora and fauna of pretty Hickory Nut Gorge.
Admission is charged.
Summer hours for the ticket booth are 8:30am to 5:30pm with somewhat shorter hours in fall and winter.
The park is open an hour and a half longer than the ticket booth.
Spring and fall temperatures can be cool, and it can be windy at any time of year at the top of Chimney Rock, so dress accordingly. Comfortable hiking shoes are recommended.
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