Chimney Rock State Park - Chimney Rock, NC
One of the focal points at Chimney Rock State Park is this famous rock formation.
The Skyline Trail at the top of Exclamation Point has once again reopened to the public. When Chimney Rock was privately owned, this trail was available to hike. When the state of North Carolina bought the property they closed down this trail (probably for liability purposes). The Skyline Trail comes in contact with the top of the Hickory Nut Falls. Be careful of your footing in this area. As with all waterfalls everywhere, it can be very slippery.
Chimney Rock State Park is located next to Lake Lure in the western part of North Carolina near Asheville, in a town called Chimney Rock, NC. At the base of this mountain is a quaint cute town with shops and restaurants, and the spectacular Rocky Broad River. It costs $15 per person to get in, however if you have an AAA, AARP, or REI membership you get a $2.00 discount per person on the entry fee. Parking options include the lot in front of the Four Seasons Trail and then hike up to Hickory Nut Trail. Another option is to drive all the way to the top where the Gift Shop / Elevator is located and start hiking from there. There are bathrooms located at both locations. You can either take the 26-story elevator to the very top, or climb stairs to the top. I always take the elevator. When you walk down the corridor to get to the elevator, it is nice and cool and stays around 55-65 degrees, even on a hot day. Once you get off the elevator you go through another Gift Shop which also contains a small deli and outdoor seating. Cross over the Sky Walk to visit the Rock. The Skyline Trail will take you to see Opera House , Devils Head, and Exclamation Point. All these views show Lake Lure and the surrounding mountains. There are many stairs at this Park so be prepared for that.
The Hickory Nut Trail is easy and takes you to a magnificent waterfall. Once you are finished hiking you can visit the small quaint town at the bottom, but good luck in finding a parking spot. The town provides tourist parking spots all up and down Main Street but this is a very popular place so the spots fill up fast. This is a very popular tourist attraction and it does get crowded very quickly, even in the morning.
Lake Lure in the background. This view is from the stairs leading to Exclamation Point.
Things You Need to Know
- Days and hours of operation and admission prices vary by season; visit www.chimneyrockpark.com or call 1-800-277-9611 for the latest specifics.
- If you arrive after 4pm, the next day is free with receipt.
- Children under 5 are always free.
- Parking is included with admission.
- Strollers and wheelchairs don’t move well on the natural surfaces but for little children kid-carrier backpacks are offered for rent in Cliff Dwellers Gift Shop.
- Pets are welcome on a leash except in the elevator and in the Sky Lounge Deli (state health law). Service dogs for the disabled are allowed. Please do not leave pets locked in hot vehicles.
- Rest Rooms are located on the upper parking lot, in the Sky Lounge, and on the Meadows. There are no rest rooms available on the trails.
The Legacy of Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock State Park has is a historical area that goes back to the 1900s. A man by the name of Dr. Lucius B. Morse rode his horse through Hickory Nut Gorge for the first time in 1900. He was awed by the rugged beauty and intrigued by the towering Chimney Rock. He believed this area could be developed in a way that would preserve its natural beauty while making it accessible to the world. In 1902, he and his brothers Hiram and Asahel pooled their funds and for $5,000 purchased a 64-acre tract that included Chimney Rock, Hickory Nut Falls and the surrounding cliffs. Their dedication to provide access to the magnificent views on top of the Chimney led to the construction of a bridge spanning the Rocky Broad River (which you can view as you enter the Park from Main Street). In 1916 this bridge was swept away during Hurricane Hilda so the brothers built a second bridge which remained in use until 1984 when it was replaced by an improved concrete and steel structure.
Other features include lodging and restaurants added to the property – among them the original Cliff Dwellers Inn, for which the present-day gift shop is named after, and the elevator inside the mountain itself. During the 1970s, Hiram’s grandson, Lucius (Lu) B. Morse III, became involved in the overall operation of the Park. But it was not until 1986, when Hiram’s great-grandson, Lu’s son Todd B. Morse came to Chimney Rock as President and General Manager, that a Morse descendant was actively involved in the day-to-day business operation since Dr. Lucius himself. Under Todd’s leadership, facilities were upgraded, new trails were added, nature centers were developed, botanists and naturalists were hired and botanical surveys were completed which identified multiple species of rare and endangered plants.
Despite adverse weather and economic conditions, Todd persevered with dedication to the original plans of his family. In 2002, the Park celebrated 100 years of the Morse family dream “to acquire, protect and share this natural wonder with the world.” On May 21, 2007 Todd and Lu sold the Park to the State of North Carolina for $24 million, ensuring that the family legacy will be forever preserved and generations to come will have the opportunity to witness the awesome spectacle that is Chimney Rock Park.
Photos of the tunnel leading to the ElevatorClick thumbnail to view full-size
Is Chimney Rock State Park a Destination you would love to have?
Distance and Travel Times to Chimney Rock State Park
The 26-Story Elevator Built Inside the Mountain
This elevator is a man-made wonder and is truly an engineering victory. Hiram Morse’s dream of making this mountain accessible to everyone was no easy task. Work began in November 1947 to excavate a tunnel and shaft to make way for the installation of a 26-story elevator.
How do you begin such an amazing feat? Fortunately, the bridle trail that was created in 1938 to take visitors on horseback to the Chimney was used as a way for heavy equipment to be hauled to the site for drilling the shaft.
This diamond drill winched itself up the bridle trail to be used to bore the first hole as a guide for the elevator shaft. The success of the whole project depended on the accuracy of this drill grinding a three-inch hole down 258 feet through solid granite to meet the end of the tunnel being blasted in from the parking area! A sled attached to a faithful horse was loaded with building materials each day for the tedious trek up the side of the cliff.
Moving anywhere from four to six feet a day, the tunnel crew drilled by day and blasted by night. As drilling was going on at the top, a construction crew with Salmon and Cowin, Inc. from Birmingham, AL, also worked on the tunnel below with handjacks, machine drills and dynamite toward their point 198 feet inside the granite cliff.
A standard mining railcar was used to remove the shattered rock each morning. At the end of the excavation of the eight by eight foot tunnel, the crew amazingly had to blast only a couple of feet in each direction to find the shaft hole. The ceiling and upper walls of the tunnel were later treated with gunite, a special cement spray, which will prevent weathering and seepage.
A small mucking engine swiveled to scoop up the debris and then dumped it overhead into the car. All of the loosened granite, from chips to small boulders, was hauled out of the tunnel and poured over the edge of the parking area to the foot of the cliff. There it was crushed into gravel for pavement of the three-mile drive and to enlarge the parking area to accommodate additional visitors.
The Salmon and Cowin miners had agreed to complete their job in 91 days and by all indications, they did just that. Did they earn their pay? The job foreman actually rode the winch up the side of the steep rock face to the summit. From the winch a cable was then lowered through the three-inch hole and attached to a three-foot bucket in the tunnel down below.
Two men stood in the bucket and drilled overhead with jackhammers for weeks to blast the four-foot rough shaft through granite until they broke through to the top. The final job of making the hoistway eight by twelve feet wide then began to make way for the elevator. This seemed easy since the excess rock was dropped into the four-foot hole and hauled through the tunnel.
Close to eight tons of dynamite was used to complete this project. It was now ready for the Otis Elevator Company to install a high-speed electric elevator. This engineering marvel was accomplished, and no one was injured during the entire year and a half of excavation, installation, and general construction of this unique elevator access to the Chimney.
This elevator is capable of carrying 3,500 lbs. at a speed of 500 feet per minute. The cab, which is still in use today, is stainless steel throughout for both appearance and protection from moisture. The elevator is run by a gearless traction machine, controlled by push buttons, that levels itself automatically as it stops at upper and lower landings.
The controller, or the “brains” of the elevator, directs its acceleration and deceleration, and the leveling speed of the car. In the interest of safety, and to provide an exit in case of power failure, a steel stairway was built behind the elevator hoistway. It was then possible to make an emergency exit at the back of the elevator car by which passengers could finish the climb up or down it if became necessary.
Originally, a small hut was planned for the elevator entrance at the top, but the owners realized the potential and decided to build the Sky Lounge, a gift shop and snack bar instead. A walkway and bridge were built making it safe for everyone to reach the “Rock”. The original elevator investment was $41,800 while the overall project cost around $150,000. General admission to the Park the first year of elevator operation was $2.00 per person, plus an additional $.25 to ride the elevator. When installed, Chimney Rock’s 26-story elevator was the highest of any elevator in the state of North Carolina, fifty feet more than the 18-story elevator in the Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Building in Greensboro, NC. A brief ceremony on May 15, 1949 officially opened the elevator which provided access to the mountain for everyone.
Hang on to your hats! Let's take a walk up towards Exclamation Point and see the incredible views!Click thumbnail to view full-size
For the Hiker
There are miles of trails, from moderate to strenuous that are ecologically and geologically diverse and beautiful. There are many picnic areas located within the Park for lunch during your hike.
Four Seasons Trail: Moderate to Strenuous; 1.2 miles round trip
This trail is geared towards bird watchers and those who are looking for a good invigorating workout. Beginning at the upper Meadows and leading to the Hickory Nut Trail, it provides a way to hike from the Meadows to the bottom of the Falls and/or the Chimney. This trail has a 400-foot elevation gain and is steep. Make sure you make arrangements for your vehicle to be at your final destination if you plan to hike the entire mountain and don’t wish to return to your starting point by the trails. Be prepared for plenty of log stairs on the way up. There are also several wooden bridge crossings. It is a wonderful walk in the woods. This trail deadends into a flight of stairs which take you to the Hickory Nut Trail.
Hickory Nut Trail: Moderate; 1.5 miles round trip.
At the end of this trail is the magnificent Hickory Nut Waterfall. You can take your shoes and socks off and wade in the water at the base of the falls. Keep in mind that there are water snakes that live in this area. They are not venomous and probably try to stay away from people. The last time I was out there I saw three of them sunning themselves in a bush growing out of the water. A photo is provided, even though the photo looks scary I included the photo so you can see them sunning themselves (this photo is with the waterfall photos below).
Skyline Trail: Moderate to strenuous; 1.1 Mile Round Trip and takes about 1 hour.
This trail will take you upwards another 200 feet to the highest lookout point in the Park – Exclamation Point! The name speaks for itself! There are stairways and switchbacks that will take you to some of Chimney Rock’s most popular geological formations and spectacular viewpoints, including the Opera Box and Devil’s Head. It is an uphill climb so be sure to take plenty of water with you.
Scenes Along the Hickory Nut Falls Trail at Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina. This trail leads to the Hickory Nut Waterfall.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sights and Sounds at the Hickory Nut Waterfall
The Waterfall -- Hickory Nut Falls
Hickory Nut Falls waterfall is 404 feet and is located inside Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina. Falls Creek starts from natural springs on top of Chimney Rock Mountain and continues eastward down a rocky ravine into the Rocky Broad River below. Because of lack of sunlight on much of this rock wall, it supports several rare species of plants that prefer cooler climates such as Deerhair Bullrush, Galax, Tassle-rue, and Yellow-root among the shady rocks and moisture-laden air.
This 404-foot waterfall is the tallest on the east of the Mississippi River. This trail has several moderately rolling hills and a small set of stairs at the base of the falls. It is not stroller and wheelchair accessible. This waterfall was also featured in the film The Last of the Mohicans.
Photos of the Hickory Nut Falls and Surrounding AreaClick thumbnail to view full-size
For the Kids
For the kids and kids-at-heart the Great Woodland Adventure trail features 12 discovery stations with large hand-crafted sculptures by local artists. The trail helps kids explore nature through the use of fun and educational self-guided brochures. Stop by Grady’s Animal Discovery Den, which contains exhibits and live critters.
This trail is an interactive, user-friendly loop trail as the Park’s ambassador Grady the Groundhog introduces you to his woodland friends. Handcrafted wood and metal sculptures help bring these animals to life. It is an easy walk with a few short uphill sections and sets of stairs. Be sure to stop at the Grady’s Animal Discovery Den before you leave so you can meet some of Grady’s live animal friends. You can also pick up one of the TRACK Trail brochures to turn your hike into a self-guided and fun adventure.
If you decide to join Grady the Groundhog’s Kids Club annual membership, kids will receive:
- Unlimited visits to the Park for one year
- Grady the Groundhog button and membership card
- Discount admission for friends that also come
- Deals at other family attractions
Photos of the tall rock wall used for rock climbing lessons.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lessons in rock climbing are offered at Chimney Rock State Park! A company called Fox Mountain Guides offer climbing lessons as follows: a customized half-day rock climbing instruction, a two-hour clinic or a 15-minute ‘taste’ of the thrill of the climb. Fox Mountain Guides at this time is the Southeast’s only American Mountain Guide Association-accredited climbing school.
There are educational field trips, homeschool days, motorcoach tours, corporate outings, reunions, church group activities, car or motorcycle club gatherings, birthday parties and weddings. The Park is the perfect place for boy and girl scouts to learn new skills. The Park even offers full service catering.
Various plants and flowers seen at Chimney Rock State Park.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Plants and Trees
While walking through this forest, you will notice the large number of tree species. Some of the most common trees are Chestnut Oak, Red Maple, Northern Red Oak, Flowering Dogwood, Fraser Magnolia and White Ash. You will not be surprised to see a variety of hickory trees in a placed named Hickory Nut Gorge. We are also fortunate to have many rare plant species. Deerhair Bulrush can be seen growing on the rock faces at the bottom of the Hickory Nut Falls. Biltmore Sedge and Wafer Ash are easily spotted on the way up to Exclamation Point. Biltmore Sedge is a bluish-green, grass-life plant and is one of the many unusual plants found growing in the Park. It is on the North Carolina Endangered Species list. Wafer Ash was named because of its wafer-like winged fruits. It looks like poison ivy but it is not poisonous and the plain, greenish flowers have a rather unpleasant odor. Also Rock Alumroot can be found growing on and under rock ledges throughout Chimney Rock Park.
Along the Hickory Nut Falls trails you will pass through a mixed-hardwood forest. A few common members of this forest are the Cucumber Magnolia, Tuliptree, Silverbell and Black Locust.
Entrance to The Gneiss Cave
Birds, Reptiles, and Mammals
All kinds of animals, plants and trees live here, even some that are threatened and endangered. Do not pick any plants and keep your distance from any wild animal, even those that look cute and cuddly. This is their home – please do not disturb them. While there are many animals in Chimney Rock, squirrels, groundhogs and raccoons are the most commonly seen scurrying to and fro. On an early morning or late afternoon, you may find deer grazing on the Meadows. On a rare occasion, you might see a black bear – if you do, please keep your distance and report your sighting to a Park Associate.
The Gneiss Cave and a few Bat Myths
The Gneiss (pronounced “nice”) Cave is a talus (fissure) cave created when a large piece of mountain slid down and formed a small cavern. Often fissure caves are not as well known as the larger cave systems created by water. However, one of the longest fissure caves in the world is not far from Chimney Rock, in Bat Cave, NC on land now owned by The Nature Conservancy.
Gneiss Cave was never known for bat activity until early Spring 2012, when a large number of bats were seen roosting in the cave. Due to the recent spread of White Nose Syndrome (WNS) into North Carolina, the cave was closed to the public. WNS is a disease responsible for killing millions of hibernating bats since its discovery in 2007. Although research shows the disease is most likely transferred bat-to-bat, scientists have not ruled out that humans can spread the disease, and therefore many public caves have been closed. WNS is named for a white fungus that is found on the muzzles and wings of affected bats. WNS causes bats to awaken too quickly during hibernation, using stored fat reserves. Bats may freeze or starve to death. Scientists are busy studying WNS in hopes of finding a way to protect these magnificent creatures.
Seventeen species of bats fly through North Carolina at least part of the year and they can be found roosting in caves, hollow trees, buildings, and bat houses. Big brown bats are one of the most common and beneficial bats. They eat many crop and forest pests. The Indiana bat is one of North Carolina’s most rare bats. Their numbers are down, most likely due to the loss of habitat and/or disturbance at hibernation spots. Just like the brown bat, they love to eat mosquitoes.
A few bat myths:
- Seeing bats at night is a good thing.
- They do not suck your blood – all of North Carolina’s bats eat insects.
- They do not nest in your hair – bats roost in colonies in natural habitats.
- They will not fly into your hair – they use echolocation and have fantastic aim!
- Most bats do not have rabies – less than half of one percent carry the rabies virus.
- Bats are not blind – bats cannot see in color, but they can see better at night than we do.
Good Things to Eat
The Sky Lounge Deli offers sandwiches, salads, snacks, drinks and ice and is open all year. It is a great place to stop to eat before or after your hike. Old Rock Café is located next to the entrance to the Park in Chimney Rock Village. They offer appetizers, sandwiches, salads, desserts, daily specials, and beer and wine. You can either sit inside the café or on the deck overlooking the Rocky Broad River. They also do catering and can be reached at 828-625-2329. Open all year with seasonal hours. Once you leave Chimney Rock, take a right towards Lake Lure and stop at LaStrada Itailian Restaurant. I have eaten here twice and must say it is the best restaurant in the area (especially after hiking Chimney Rock!).
The Sky Lounge is an elevator ride up through the mountain and offers souvenirs and apparel as well as everything you need to help you get ready for your hike. Cliff Dwellers Gifts is located at the tunnel entrance is a great place to pick up local mountain crafts, music, CDs and books, apparel and other souvenirs of your visit. It was named after the old inn that used to be situation on the mountainside before the elevator was installed. Also at the entrance to Chimney Rock there is a small village called Chimney Rock Village which has many locally-owned cute stores that offer a variety of goods such as apparel, soaps, candles, and many souvenirs of your visit. There is an ice cream shop and a few restaurants to choose from as well.
Other Sights to Behold around Chimney Rock State ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
Caution: For Your Safety!
- An adult must accompany children under 16 at all times.
- Do not pick wildflowers or harm snakes and other wildlife in any way. This is their home!
- Do not damage or remove any rocks or minerals in the Park.
- Stay on the trail…no climbing on railings. Rappelling and rock climbing are prohibited unless with a guide.
- Never throw or kick rocks. There may be people or vehicles below.
- There are no restrooms or water fountains on the trails.
- Please do not litter. Dispose of all plastic bottles in a recycle bin.
- No smoking on any trail, inside the tunnel or public buildings.
- Do not write on trees, rocks or trail signs.
- Boardwalks and stairs are very slippery when wet so walk with caution.
- Pets must be on a least at all times.
- Find shelter or low area when lightning is present. Avoid water and tall trees.
- Strollers are not recommended on the trails. Kid backpacks may be rented in the Sky Lounge and Clifr Swellers Gifts.
- Never walk on the road and use caution in crossing. Because of the curves, drivers have limited sight distance.
- Please be sure to plan your hike so you are at your car and ready to leave the Park at closing.
- Thanks for your help in keeping the Park safe and beautiful for everyone.
© 2014 Michelle Dee