Hiking in Chimney Rock State Park
This new and growing state park is located on the edge of the Hickory Nut Gorge, around the monolithic rock formation which gives the area its name. Carved out of the side of the Blue Ridge, the Hickory Nut Gorge is an area of special geology and ecology and the park preserves some of the best of what this area has to offer.
The park's namesake, a huge pillar of granite standing apart from the mountain, provides views that are are second to none from its flat top. You'll see the Gorge, the surrounding mountains, and the lake at the mouth of the gorge - Lake Lure. The second main landmark within the park - 404' Hickory Nut Falls - is accessible from the bottom. Both the Chimney and the Falls are dramatically visible from the road below.
Chimney Rock Park was purchased from private ownership by the State in early 2007. Before that, many acres of land around the park in the Hickory Nut Gorge had already been purchased, and the State had authorized the creation of Hickory Nut Gorge State Park in 2005. However, now that the state owns Chimney Rock Park, the name of the entire park has been changed to Chimney Rock State Park. Due to its long tradition of being privately owned and the extra amenities that brings over a traditional state park, a new company was formed, Chimney Rock Management, LLC, to manage the visitor facilities in their existing state. This arrangement (and the entry fee) will remain in effect for the forseeable future.
The park offers modern conveniences at the main parking area such as restrooms, refreshment stands, gift shops, and an elevator that takes visitors nearly to the top of the Chimney.
Hiking in the park is also extremely unique, owing to its rugged terrain (it's basically located on the side of a cliff). To reach the chimney itself by the most direct route, it's more of a stroll than a hike. You'll walk through a neat man-made tunnel in solid granite, ride an elevator 26 stories straight up, then walk through a gift shop, and along a cliff-top path leading to a set of stairs which make the final ascent. (This route is wheelchair accessible up to the base of the stairs and chimney).
Several so-called trails - including the Outcroppings and Skyline trails - are primarily on man-made, steel and wood structures, which wind straight up boulders and cliff faces! (The State has replaced many of the old, all-wood structures this year, for visitor safety and long-term stability of the structures themselves).
Other trails have a more traditional dirt surface, including the Hickory Nut Falls, Four Seasons, and Great Woodland Adventure trails. The last one is perfect for kids!
Plan to spend several hours in the park exploring all the paths and trails. Even though they may seem short and highly developed, there is a lot of climbing and elevation change in the park, making the Outcroppings, Four Seasons, and Skyline trails deceptively strenuous. But the climbs are worthwhile - there is something great to see around every turn!
This is just an overview of the trails in the park. For more details, visit the Trails page.
Since long before the park was purchased by the State, a fee has been charged to enter the park. This will continue for the foreseeable future. Get more information about fees on the Park's official website.
For more information, including entrance fees, hours, trip planning, information on park facilities, and more, visit the park's official web site at http://www.chimneyrockpark.com.
From the North/West (Asheville and along the I-26 corridor)
Make your way to Asheville and take I-240 East to US 74A East. Follow 74A East for approximately 25 miles to the entrance for the Park in the town of Chimney Rock, on the right.
From the East
From the I-40 corridor - points east such as Hickory, Statesville, or Raleigh - take exit 103 for US Hwy. 64. Turn left and follow 64 West for just over 50 miles to the park entrance on the left in the town of Lake Lure. US 64 merges with Hwy. 74A in Rutherfordton; just stay on US 64 the whole way.
From the Charlotte area, take US Hwy. 74 East toward Forest City. Take exit 167 for NC Hwy. 9 North and go just under 12 miles to Lake Lure. Turn left on US Hwy. 64/74-A and go about 5 miles to the park entrance on the left.
From the South/West
Take I-26 West across the North Carolina border. Take Exit 67 for NC Hwy. 108 and go about 5 miles to NC Hwy. 9 North. Turn left on NC Hwy. 9 North and go about 9 miles to US Hwy. 64/74A. Turn left on US Hwy. 64/74A and go aout 5 miles to the park entrance on the left.