Chimney Rock – Only 25 miles from Asheville is a mountain paradise worth exploring: the Chimney Rock State Park. A 315-foot granite monolith that is 535-million years old is the main attraction. You can see a 75-mile panorama with breathtaking Hickory Nut Gorge, impressive Lake Lure and an incredible range of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In addition, there are many attractions for children, including the Great Woodland Adventure Trail (with 12 stations displaying sculptures of native animals). Grady the Groundhog, the Park’s Animal Educator, illustrates how his forest friends live, including chipmunks, frogs, owls and butterflies. No matter your age there is something wondrous to discover when you hike the numerous trails at Chimney Rock State Park.
August tours and events stack the calendar to entice visitors to explore the rugged mountainous terrain. Chimney Rock State Park is filled with incredible vistas, forest trails, a spectacular 404 foot waterfall and a wide range of animals and wildflowers. Travel & Leisure magazine listed it as the best state park in NC and one of the best 50 parks in the country. After parking (for free) at the base of the Park, it is easy to get to the iconic monolith near where the American flag waves in the wind. Just purchase a day ticket ($17 for an adult; youth ages 5-15 – $8; ages 4 and under – free). Then, you can either walk to the top on a winding trail with your accompanied pet on a leash, or take an amazing Otis elevator ride to the top that was carved through the mountain. For the average adult, it takes about 25 minutes to walk up Outcroppings Trail to reach the top. Or you can take a short ride in an elevator which has been carved out of solid rock—a 198-foot tunnel led into the mountain to this 258-foot elevator shaft. This massive construction project took eight tons of dynamite and 18 months to complete. The elevator was officially opened to the public in May 1949, has been updated and kept operational since.
On Saturday, August 15, you can join a hike to the waterfalls with a guide from 9:00 am – 12 pm. Hickory Nut Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. It has a straight vertical drop, which is dramatic and awe-inspiring. This waterfall journey will take you to the base of the falls and is considered a moderate hike. In the early ’90s, the movie The Last of the Mohicans, with Daniel Day Lewis, filmed a fight scene at the base of these Falls.
As you walk en route you will undoubtedly encounter some beautiful carpets of wildflowers and rare species of plants as well.
According to the Chimney Rock State Park website, “Our mix of topography, rocks, soils, availability of moisture and exposure to sunlight give them just what they need to thrive. More than 550 species of vascular plants—including 32 ferns and fern allies—have been identified.”
Animal encounters too may easily be a part of the walk. You may encounter an Eastern Block Turtle, an American Toad, a Black Rat Snake or even if looking into the sky, see a Peregrine Falcon flying overhead. This waterfall event costs $25 for an adult, and $15.00 for ages 5 – 15. This includes entry to the Park, is subject to change as weather could cause cancellations, and pre-registration is required.
Later in the month of August two other unusual and intriguing events will take place—both at night under the stars: Yoga under the Full “Sturgeon” Moon on Sunday August 22, 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm and a Nature at Night Hike on Saturday, August 28, 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm. For the yoga, lightweight yoga mats are provided by the certified yoga teacher. This class is open to all levels of expertise, but advance registration is required. For Nature at Night, you can join a park naturalist as you hike along the Hickory Nut Falls trail to bump into nocturnal animals. Perhaps you will hear some owls or see a raccoon. It is advisable to bring a head lamp or flashlight, dress appropriately for the weather, wear comfortable hiking shoes and bring water. Space is limited to 15 and advance registration is required, so be sure to sign up online at www.chimneyrockpark.com
General Activities Throughout the Year
Chimney Rock State Park offers other activities throughout the year. There are many levels of rock climbing instruction geared to individuals, families and groups. However, there is no bicycling, (except perhaps mountain biking on Eagle Rock Access Trail), no horseback riding and generally no overnight camping allowed. There is an Animal Discover Den where you can visit some live critters, and you can find a butterfly and moth garden. Throughout August on weekdays at 11:00 in the morning, a Park Naturalist will be discussing the kinds of wildlife that inhabits the Park and their role in the ecosystem. For camera buffs, photo contests are held in both summer and winter. In addition, throughout the year there are Boy and Girl Scout Programs where badges can be earned. In early October this year, there will be a fun-filled day of hands-on learning and exploration for Girl Scouts, with an overnight option allowed for camping out.
Notable annual events do take place throughout the year, such as the Easter Sunrise Services (streamed virtually on Facebook this year) or the annual Santa “training at Chimney Rock State Park” for his big night of deliveries. What a sight it is to see Santa in full gear climbing with a rope on Chimney Rock. Be sure to explore the website, www.chimneyrockpark.com, to learn more, and visit one of North Carolina’s great treasures.