52 Places to Go: Week 38
|Chimney Rock, North Carolina|
We stood at the railing and gazed almost one thousand feet below to Hickory Nut Gorge and the hills beyond. Like a silver ribbon, the Rocky Broad River threaded its way down the valley into Lake Lure. Above us, steep granite cliffs rose another 400 feet and the towering monolith of Chimney Rock was just a few steps away. We were with our family in Western North Carolina at Chimney Rock State Park for a day of hiking and sightseeing.
|View of Hickory Nut Gorge from the patio outside the Sky Lounge at Chimney Rock|
Chimney Rock has a long history. After nearly a century of private ownership, when Chimney Rock was operated as a popular tourist attraction and nature preserve, it became a North Carolina State Park in 2007. During our family vacation at Lake Lure in August, it was on the top of our list of things to do. At Chimney Rock Village, a small community with hotels and tourist shops along the river, about a half hour from our rented house, we followed the sign into the park.
After crossing the river we wound our way up to the entrance and bought our tickets for the day. By the time we arrived (about 11:00 am) the upper parking lot was full. We were directed to the lower parking area, the Meadows, and caught a shuttle bus to the parking area at the base of Chimney Rock. But we weren’t there yet!
|Stairway from the upper parking lot to Chimney Rock.|
The energetic members of our family climbed a series of stairs from there to the top. Art and I took the elevator–blasted into the rock in the past by the original owners--and shot up nine stories to the top in less than a minute, and with much less effort than it would have been to walk.
|Chimney Rock, Elevation 2280 feet (315 meters)|
From the patio outside the Sky Lounge a short stairway led to the top of Chimney Rock–but even from the railing of the patio the view was spectacular. After appreciating the view, we bought sandwiches at the café inside the Sky Lounge and ate them at a picnic table outside.
|Beginning of Hickory Nut Falls Trail.|
There are numerous opportunities for hiking in the park. After lunch, we took the Hickory Nut Falls trail, which begins at the end of the upper parking lot, going down stairs to join the trail.
|Trail to Hickory Nut Falls is 1.4 miles round trip.|
Following a wide, shaded path we walked gradually uphill through thick woodland. Scenes from several movies have been shot in Chimney Rock park, including Last of the Mohicans, and as we walked through the forest it was easy to imagine that the scenery must have been much the same long ago when the area was inhabited by Native Americans.
|Hickory Nut Falls is formed by Falls Creek, which starts from natural springs on the top of Chimney Rock Mountain. |
At the end of the trail, Hickory Nut Falls cascade down the granite face of the mountain. At a height of 404 feet, it is one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi.
|View from the bottom of Hickory Nut Falls toward Hickory Nut Gorge. The stream continues down a rocky ravine into the Rocky Broad River.|
While resting on the rocks at the base of the falls, we caught our breath and watched dozens of fish swimming in the shallow pool. While our family was not alone admiring the falls, it wasn’t crowded, and it was easy to keep our social distance from other people.
|Hickory Nut Falls.|
We visited Chimney Rock on a sunny August day, midweek. The temperature was warm, but comfortable for hiking. The park is open year-round with activities to fit the season. For more information about visiting Chimney Rock, click HERE.
|The round trip to Hickory Nut Falls (1.4 miles) takes 45 minutes--1 hour.|
All text and photos copyright Caroline Arnold at The Intrepid Tourist.