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Chimney Rock State Park - Chimney Rock, NC

Efficient Admin (aka Michelle) has been hiking for eight years on the wonderful mountain trails of North Carolina and South Carolina.

One of the Focal Points at Chimney Rock State Park is this Famous Rock Formation.

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Introduction

The Skyline Trail at the top of Exclamation Point has once again reopened to the public. When Chimney Rock was privately owned, this trail was available to hike. When the state of North Carolina bought the property they closed down this trail (probably for liability purposes). The Skyline Trail comes in contact with the top of the Hickory Nut Falls. Be careful of your footing in this area. As with all waterfalls everywhere, it can be very slippery.

Chimney Rock State Park is located next to Lake Lure in the western part of North Carolina near Asheville, in a town called Chimney Rock, NC. At the base of this mountain is a quaint cute town with shops and restaurants, and the spectacular Rocky Broad River. It costs $15 per person to get in, however if you have an AAA, AARP, or REI membership you get a $2.00 discount per person on the entry fee. Parking options include the lot in front of the Four Seasons Trail and then hike up to Hickory Nut Trail. Another option is to drive all the way to the top where the Gift Shop / Elevator is located and start hiking from there. There are bathrooms located at both locations. You can either take the 26-story elevator to the very top, or climb stairs to the top. I always take the elevator. When you walk down the corridor to get to the elevator, it is nice and cool and stays around 55-65 degrees, even on a hot day. Once you get off the elevator you go through another Gift Shop which also contains a small deli and outdoor seating. Cross over the Sky Walk to visit the Rock. The Skyline Trail will take you to see Opera House , Devils Head, and Exclamation Point. All these views show Lake Lure and the surrounding mountains. There are many stairs at this Park so be prepared for that.

The Hickory Nut Trail is easy and takes you to a magnificent waterfall. Once you are finished hiking you can visit the small quaint town at the bottom, but good luck in finding a parking spot. The town provides tourist parking spots all up and down Main Street but this is a very popular place so the spots fill up fast. This is a very popular tourist attraction and it does get crowded very quickly, even in the morning.

You may need electrolytes on this hike

Lake Lure in the Background. This View is From the Stairs Leading to Exclamation Point.

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Things You Need to Know

  • Days and hours of operation and admission prices vary by season; visit www.chimneyrockpark.com or call 1-800-277-9611 for the latest specifics.
  • If you arrive after 4pm, the next day is free with receipt.
  • Children under 5 are always free.
  • Parking is included with admission.
  • Strollers and wheelchairs don’t move well on the natural surfaces but for little children kid-carrier backpacks are offered for rent in Cliff Dwellers Gift Shop.
  • Pets are welcome on a leash except in the elevator and in the Sky Lounge Deli (state health law). Service dogs for the disabled are allowed. Please do not leave pets locked in hot vehicles.
  • Rest Rooms are located on the upper parking lot, in the Sky Lounge, and on the Meadows. There are no rest rooms available on the trails.

You will need hiking poles on this trail

The Legacy of Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park has is a historical area that goes back to the 1900s. A man by the name of Dr. Lucius B. Morse rode his horse through Hickory Nut Gorge for the first time in 1900. He was awed by the rugged beauty and intrigued by the towering Chimney Rock. He believed this area could be developed in a way that would preserve its natural beauty while making it accessible to the world. In 1902, he and his brothers Hiram and Asahel pooled their funds and for $5,000 purchased a 64-acre tract that included Chimney Rock, Hickory Nut Falls and the surrounding cliffs. Their dedication to provide access to the magnificent views on top of the Chimney led to the construction of a bridge spanning the Rocky Broad River (which you can view as you enter the Park from Main Street). In 1916 this bridge was swept away during Hurricane Hilda so the brothers built a second bridge which remained in use until 1984 when it was replaced by an improved concrete and steel structure.

Other features include lodging and restaurants added to the property – among them the original Cliff Dwellers Inn, for which the present-day gift shop is named after, and the elevator inside the mountain itself. During the 1970s, Hiram’s grandson, Lucius (Lu) B. Morse III, became involved in the overall operation of the Park. But it was not until 1986, when Hiram’s great-grandson, Lu’s son Todd B. Morse came to Chimney Rock as President and General Manager, that a Morse descendant was actively involved in the day-to-day business operation since Dr. Lucius himself. Under Todd’s leadership, facilities were upgraded, new trails were added, nature centers were developed, botanists and naturalists were hired and botanical surveys were completed which identified multiple species of rare and endangered plants.

Despite adverse weather and economic conditions, Todd persevered with dedication to the original plans of his family. In 2002, the Park celebrated 100 years of the Morse family dream “to acquire, protect and share this natural wonder with the world.” On May 21, 2007 Todd and Lu sold the Park to the State of North Carolina for $24 million, ensuring that the family legacy will be forever preserved and generations to come will have the opportunity to witness the awesome spectacle that is Chimney Rock Park.

Distance and Travel Times to Chimney Rock State Park

Travelling From:MilesTime

Asheville, NC

25

40 minutes

Charlotte, NC

90

2 hours

Greenville, SC

55

1 hour

Atlanta, GA

200

3 hours

Raleigh, NC

250

4 hours

The 26-Story Elevator Built Inside the Mountain

This elevator is a man-made wonder and is truly an engineering victory. Hiram Morse’s dream of making this mountain accessible to everyone was no easy task. Work began in November 1947 to excavate a tunnel and shaft to make way for the installation of a 26-story elevator.

How do you begin such an amazing feat? Fortunately, the bridle trail that was created in 1938 to take visitors on horseback to the Chimney was used as a way for heavy equipment to be hauled to the site for drilling the shaft.

This diamond drill winched itself up the bridle trail to be used to bore the first hole as a guide for the elevator shaft. The success of the whole project depended on the accuracy of this drill grinding a three-inch hole down 258 feet through solid granite to meet the end of the tunnel being blasted in from the parking area! A sled attached to a faithful horse was loaded with building materials each day for the tedious trek up the side of the cliff.

Moving anywhere from four to six feet a day, the tunnel crew drilled by day and blasted by night. As drilling was going on at the top, a construction crew with Salmon and Cowin, Inc. from Birmingham, AL, also worked on the tunnel below with handjacks, machine drills and dynamite toward their point 198 feet inside the granite cliff.

A standard mining railcar was used to remove the shattered rock each morning. At the end of the excavation of the eight by eight foot tunnel, the crew amazingly had to blast only a couple of feet in each direction to find the shaft hole. The ceiling and upper walls of the tunnel were later treated with gunite, a special cement spray, which will prevent weathering and seepage.

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