Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chimney Rock State Park

You wind down a two-lane road trying to snatch glimpses of the mountainous terrain surrounding you. Ahead, a dome of granite, shaggy with brush, comes into view and below it, a placid lake reflects the sky and nearby trees. A portion of the scenic Hickory Nut Gorge, home to a lake with ties to Patrick Swayze, the Bat Cave, and a mountain that once started a revival.

Copyright 2013, KBuffaloe
Within this gorge, towering above a quaint town and boulder-strewn river is Chimney Rock, one of North Carolina's most popular destinations and one of its newest state parks. Here, visitors can hike to breathtaking and sometimes terrifying heights, visit Hickory Nut Falls, seen in Last of the Mohicans, or cross a footbridge to stand atop the unique geological formation that gave Chimney Rock its name.

During our visit this past autumn, we wound our way up the mountain beneath a canopy of squash- and pumpkin-colored leaves. After parking in slots along the road's summit, we walked to the gift shop and then headed up Chimney Rock's engineering marvel, an elevator constructed in the mountain. At the top, we entered a gift shop and a cafe, a trailhead of sorts to magnificent views and to the rock they call Chimney.

For those in the mood for more exercise, steps from the base lead to the upper level.


After enjoying the dazzling view from Chimney Rock, we stopped at the Opera Box, an overhang located in the wall of rock seen in the photo above. For those terrified of heights as, unfortunately, your blog host is, this can be a challenge, but the view includes Rumbling Bald, the mountain that sparked a revival (www.discoverlakelure.com/1311644.html) and beautiful Lake Lure, filming location for Dirty Dancing.

Panoramic view from the Opera Box. Copyright 2013 K Buffaloe


Well worth the effort

To my knowledge, the Bat Cave cannot be seen from this vantage point, but at Chimney Rock's base, you can step into the old moonshiners cave.


During our visit, the park was hosting a rock climbing event for the boys and girls club. For information on activities at Chimney Rock, such as scheduling group or rock-climbing events, go to www.chimneyrockpark.com/

For more information on the geology that created Chimney Rock and the Hickory Nut Gorge, read Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas (Stewart and Roberson, Chapel Hill Press).

Photos from our trip (for mobile users, see our Smugmug site.)


Note: Though Chimney Rock is now a state park, admission is still charged as it was when the park was privately owned. At the time of our visit, the trail to Hickory Nut Falls was closed and admission was reduced. We requested, and received, a AAA discount as well.

4 comments:

The Official Chimney Rock'er said...

Great photos, and thanks for sharing your experience! You caught Chimney Rock at one of the most beautiful times of the year. Glad you were able to overcome your fear of heights to marvel at this special NC icon and it's incredible scenery.

Kimberli Buffaloe said...

It was my pleasure! We visited Chimney Rock years ago during the summer, and while the views were fantastic, it's breathtaking in the autumn. We really enjoyed our visit, and we loved that you all hosted the rock climb for the boys and girls. They looked as if they were having a great time.

After reading about the Skyline Trail, I would love to explore it someday. Don't be surprised if you see a woman scooting up those steps wearing a blindfold. From what I've read, it will be worth it!

kathyinozarks said...

I really enjoyed this Kimberli-thank you

Kimberli Buffaloe said...

Thanks, Kathy!

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