Chimney Rock State Park: The Complete Guide

Hickory Falls at Chimney Rock State Park

 Alex Grichenko / Getty Images

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Chimney Rock State Park

Address
431 Main St, Chimney Rock, NC 28720, USA
Phone +1 828-625-9611

Chimney Rock State Park offers a scenic escape full of recreational activities for visitors of all ages. Located 25 miles southeast of Asheville, North Carolina, on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this 8,014-acre wildland is named for its defining 315-foot granite rock outcropping, a famous backdrop for movies like "Dirty Dancing" and "The Last of the Mohicans." The park is home to more than 90 rare species of plants, the 14-mile Hickory Nut Gorge, granite cliffs, hardwood forests, and waterfalls, making it great for exploring by foot, rock climbing, or embarking on guided, interpretive activities.

Things to Do

An ideal daytrip from nearby Asheville or Greenville, South Carolina, Chimney Rock State Park offers several activities for visitors of all skills and ages. The incredible hiking trails here will bring you deep into the forest or on top of cliffs overlooking a lush gorge. If you're not up for hiking, take the elevator up to the Sky Lounge located atop Chimney Rock.

Granite outcroppings carved deep into the mountain offer world-class climbing opportunities via a short 1.5-mile hike from the main parking lot. You can also check out the Rumbling Bald Climbing Access area. Here, there are climbing routes and bouldering problems suitable for all levels of climbers, including multi-pitched routes.

The Great Woodland Adventure Trail and the Animal Discovery Den offer exploratory fun for the little ones in the group with 12 discovery activities and an interpretive center, complete with live animals. Then, when your family's had its fill, gather near the tent at Cliff Dwellers Gifts on a sunny day to hear local musician John Mason play his hammered dulcimer.

Best Hikes & Trails

Several hiking trails put you on top of the cliffs and into the forest at Chimney Rock State Park. Some trails even have built-in staircases to accommodate the rugged terrain here, giving you access to majestic waterfalls and overlooks. Take care with your step after a rainfall, as the steep terrain can get slippery and dangerous.

  • Outcroppings Trail: The Outcroppings Trail is deemed the "ultimate Stairmaster," as its 494 steps ascend more than 300 feet to the summit of Chimney Rock. Of course, you can skip the climb and take the 26-story elevator from the parking lot to the top of the 535-million-year-old rock instead, on a ride that lasts approximately 30 seconds.
  • Great Woodland Adventure Trail: If you're visiting with kids, opt for the gentle 0.6-mile path, complete with animal sculptures created by local artists and 12 discovery stations dedicated to the park's wildlife (chipmunks, owls, and butterflies). The Animal Discovery Den—home to critters like snakes, turtles, and toads—is located next to the trailhead and offers interactive encounters throughout the year.
  • Skyline Trail: The breathtaking Skyline Trail literally puts you on top of the mountain as it switchbacks up from Exclamation Point. This 2.2-mile moderate-to-strenuous hike travels through hardwood forests and offers you views of the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls and the surrounding Hickory Nut Gorge.
  • Hickory Nut Falls Trail: This shorter 1.4-mile, kid-friendly rolling descent also offers views of the falls, yet from the bottom. Hike through the forest canopy over rocky sections and a few moderate uphills to the unique ecosystem located at bottom of the falls.
  • Exclamation Point Trail: This moderate-to-strenuous hike climbs through lush forests and natural cliffs to the park's highest peak, Exclamation Point, which stands at 2,480 feet and overlooks Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. Along the trail, check out points of interest like Opera Box and Devil’s Head.

Rock Climbing

There are many technical climbing routes found within the park, including a mixture of top roping and traditional routes. A 1.5-mile hiking loop takes you from the main parking lot to the climbs within the park. The Rumbling Bald Climbing Access area contains 1,500 bouldering problems that are easily accessible in this non-fee section of Chimney Rock State Park. However, you need to get a permit for climbing, rappelling, and bouldering in this area. Permits are available at the trailhead of the Rumbling Bald Trail.

The park has partnered with Fox Mountain Guides and Climbing School to offer individual and group instruction to guests of all levels. The guide school runs sessions year-round, weather permitting for individuals, families, and groups. The minimum age to register for a session is 7 years old, and all climbs must be booked in advance.

Where to Camp

There are no campsites inside the park itself, but you can camp nearby in the town of Chimney Rock or farther down the road (about 5 miles) in Lake Lure. Tent sites, RV hookups, and cabins are available to rent in these perfectly groomed campgrounds.

  • Hickory Nut Falls Campground: Located only five minutes from the entrance to Chimney Rock State Park, Hickory Nut Falls Campground offers riverside tent sites, complete with water and electric, full hookup RV sites, covered deck sites, and rustic cabins. The campground has an on-site bathhouse, laundry facility, pavilion, and playground. Reservations are recommended.
  • Hitching Post Campground: The Hitching Post Campground is located about 6 miles away in Lake Lure and offers tent sites, full hookup RV sites, and long-term lease sites, as well as winter camping. There is a campground store, bathhouse, playground, and pond on-site, and pets are allowed here on a leash. Lake Lure, located nearby, gives you quick access to boating, swimming, and water activities.

Where to Stay Nearby

The town of Chimney Rock offers many different lodging options, all within close proximity to Chimney Rock Village and its quaint shops and restaurants. You can also stay near Lake Lure if you want to combine water activities with your trip to the park.

  • Broad River Inn: Located at the base of the mountain along the banks of the Rocky Broad River, the Broad River Inn offers king rooms, queen rooms, and suites. Many rooms include private porches and Jacuzzi tubs. All stays come with a complimentary hot breakfast and you can enjoy on-site mini-golf, as well.
  • Carter Lodge: The Carter Lodge offers 16 rooms, some complete with balconies and river views or covered seating areas. Each room offers mini-refrigerators, free Wi-Fi, and a shared yard with outdoor games like cornhole and checkerboard. It's located on the town's main street, just around the corner from Chimney Rock Village.
  • Chimney Rock Inn: Book an intimate room, cabin, or cottage at the Chimney Rock Inn, located only a half-mile from Chimney Rock Village. In addition to a heated pool, fireplaces, and air conditioning, this inn also has a large porch with rocking chairs. Cottages can house two to four people and some come complete with a kitchen.
  • Lake Lure Inn and Spa: Located just 5 miles from the park in Lake Lure, the historic 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa offers upward of 70 rooms, on-site dining and a lounge, and a world-class spa. The hotel's lobby houses fine art and antiques, and right outside the door is a scenic view of the nearby mountains and lake.

How to Get There

Chimney Rock State Park is located about one hour southeast of Asheville, and about an hour and a half north of Greenville. From downtown Asheville, take I-240 East and continue to US-74 ALT East for 20 miles. Turn right on Chimney Rock Park Road and continue straight for approximately 2 miles. Parking will be on the left.

From downtown Greenville, take US-276 West and then merge onto US-25 North. Continue straight to I-26 West/US-25 North for 5 miles, then take Exit 49A to merge onto US-64 East toward Chimney Rock Road and Bat Cave. Follow US-64 East for 15 miles, then turn right onto Chimney Rock Road and follow the directions to the park.

Accessibility

Chimney Rock State Park welcomes visitors of all ability levels. The elevator to the top of the Chimney is wheelchair accessible and wheelchairs are available to rent. There are four marked handicap-accessible parking spaces in the upper lot, as well as one accessible restroom. The Meadows restroom is paved with one parking spot, and the gift shop and deli are ADA-compliant. However, none of the trails in Chimney Rock State Park can be accessed by a wheelchair.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Consider purchasing an annual park pass, which costs less than a two-day single admission. This pass also offers you a 15 percent savings at park gift shops and restaurants, invitations to workshops and special events, and special offers from other area attractions.
  • Dogs are not allowed in the park's elevator, as it also provides access to a food service area.
  • Arrive early, especially on weekends during peak season (summer and fall) to avoid crowds.
  • The park has an on-site restaurant, the Old Rock Café, which is open year-round. Or, you can bring your own snacks to enjoy at the picnic tables in the Meadows area or at the top of the access road. You can also visit the open-air Sky Lounge concession stand for treats like ice cream and cold drinks.
  • Adjacent to the park sits 720-acre Lake Lure with 27 miles of sandy shoreline, giving you options for boating, waterskiing and wakeboarding, fishing, and canoeing.
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Chimney Rock State Park: The Complete Guide