From panoramic mountain vistas in the Blue Ridge Mountains to pristine sandy beaches along the Atlantic Coast, North Carolina's 41 state parks and recreation areas offer scenic escapes and recreational activities for visitors of all ages.
Located 25 miles southeast of Asheville at the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 8,014-acre Chimney Rock State Park is named for its defining 535-million-year-old, 315-foot granite rock outcropping, and has been the 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 water falls, making it ideal for hiking and mountain biking, rock climbing, birdwatching, and water-based activities like canoeing and water skiing. The area also has an animal discovery den and a children's adventure trail.
From things to see and where to stay to how to get there and general tips for visitors, here's a guide for your next trip to Chimney Rock State Park.
Things to See and Do
An ideal day trip from nearby Asheville or Greenville, Chimney Rock offers several activities for visitors of all skills and ages. Single day admission costs $17 per adult and $8 for youth ages 5 to 15; children under 5 are admitted for free.
For hiking, choose from six separate trails, including the short but steep Outcroppings Trail, which includes 494 steps and ascends more than 300 feet to the summit of Chimney Rock. Or skip the climb and take the 26-story elevator from the parking lot to the top—a ride that lasts approximately 30 seconds. Other exceptional hikes include the 2.2-mile roundtrip Skyline Trail—which travels through hardwood forests and offers views of the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls—and the shorter, 1.4-mile roundtrip Hickory Nut Trail, a rolling, kid-friendly descent through forest canopy and local wildflowers to the bottom of the falls. For a more challenging trek, try the Exclamation Point trail, a moderate-to-strenuous hike that 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.
If traveling with little ones, opt for the Green Woodland Adventure trail, a gentle, 0.6-mile path with animal sculptures from local artists and 12 discovery stations dedicated to the park's wildlife (think 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; check the website for the full schedule.
Try your hand at rock climbing and rappelling at the onsite Fox Mountain Guides and Climbing School, which offers individual and group instruction to guests of all levels. The minimum age is 7 years old, and all climbs must be booked in advance. Experienced climbers can register for a special activity permit 14 days in advance for access to the Rumbling Bald Climbing Access, a designated climbing area located at the end of a 1.5-mile hiking loop from the parking area.
Mountain bikers will enjoy the Weed Patch Mountain Trail—a strenuous, 20-mile roundtrip rugged path managed by the park—and Lake Lure, which connects into the Buffalo Creek Loop Trail. Parking is available at Buffalo Creek Park and at the Eagle Rock Reserved Parking Area; note that both options have limited parking and the latter must be reserved in advance.
While not technically inside the park, the adjacent 720-acre Lake Lure has a sandy shoreline of 27 miles, with options for boating, water slides, fishing, and canoeing. Beach access is available Memorial Day through Labor Day, seven days a week from mid June-through mid-August (it's open on weekends otherwise). Admission is $9 per person.
Where to Stay
Currently, there are no accommodations inside the park itself, but the town and nearby areas offer several options for overnight stays.
In the town of Chimney Rock, opt for the historic Broad River Inn, located at the base of the mountain along the banks of the Rocky Broad River. Many rooms include private porches and Jacuzzi tubs, while all stays come with a hot breakfast. The nearby Carter Lodge has 16 rooms with either balconies and river views or covered seating areas, plus mini refrigerators, free Wi-Fi, and a shared yard with outdoor games like cornhole and checkerboard. Located on the town's main street, the Chimney Rock Inn offers intimate cabins and cottages in addition to a heated pool, fireplaces, air conditioning, and a large porch with rocking chairs.
In Lake Lure, just 5 miles from the park, the historic 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa has more than 70 rooms, a lobby boasting fine art and antiques, and scenic views of the nearby mountains and lake. The village also has several cabin rentals available.
For additional hotels, cabins, RV parks, inns, vacation rentals, and campsites, check listings in nearby cities of Arden, Asheville, Bat Cave, Flat Rock, and Hendersonville.
How to Get There
From downtown Asheville, take I-240 E and continue to US-74 ALT E 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 W and then merge onto US-25 N/Asheville. Continue straight to I-26 W/US-25 N Hendersonville/Asheville for 5 miles, then exit on 49A to merge onto US-64 E/Chimney Rock Road toward Bat Cave. Follow US-64 E for 15 miles, then turn right onto Chimney Rock Road and follow directions above.
Tips for Visitors
- Consider purchasing an annual park pass, which is less than the cost of two days of single admission and includes 15 percent savings at park gift shops and restaurants, invitations to workshops and special events, and special offers from other area attractions.
- Note that 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.
- Bring your own snacks to enjoy at picnic tables in the Meadows area or the top of the access road, or visit the open air Sky Lounge concession stand for treats like ice cream and cold drinks. The park also has an onsite restaurant, the Old Rock Café, which is open year-round.