Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina

7:00 AM

The location of this state park has some spectacular views. From Lake Lure, made famous by the movie Dirty Dancing, to the beautiful forest, and 404ft waterfall, this park has a bunch to see. The granite 315ft monolith, Chimney Rock,  protrudes from Hickory Nut Gorge and sits at an elevation of 2,280ft. Luckily for visitors, there is an elevator that will take you to the top so you do not need to tire yourself.  I highly recommend taking the stairs if you have it in you because you can take tons of photos along the way and it really puts into perspective just how high up you are.

Gneiss Cave

Before reaching the beginning of the staircase to the top of Chimney Rock is the Gneiss Cave, pronounced "nice". This tiny fissure is home to some bats, so the deeper parts of the cave are closed to visitors. Heading down the granite steps you will enter this itty-bitty cave where you can look over the railing into the darkness below.
The only photo I got of the inside of the small cave.

The Opera Box

The trek up the stairs was not too bad, but there is a reason it has the nickname of “The Ultimate Stairmaster”. But it really was worth the climb because the 75 mile view was breathtaking. We could see the lake far below, surrounded by the forest which was barely beginning to show spots of orange and red.
After taking a bunch of photos at the top, we decided to check out where the rest of the stairs went. Taking the Skyline Trail up, you’ll reach the “Opera Box”. From here you can sit on a bench under a rock overhang and see Chimney Rock. The shade from the above rock makes that bench a nice spot to rest before climbing the steps again.
View from the Opera Box!

Exclamation Point!

If you keep heading up then you’ll get to Exclamation Point, the highest peak in the park. At 1400ft above the entrance to the park, the sheer cliff face drops into the greenery below.

On the way down, we poked around some different paths and found a neat tunnel carved into the granite. We had to stoop to walk through it and discovered it leads to the top of a set of steps that join the main staircase.

Hickory Nut Falls

After going back down the winding stairs to the very bottom, we followed the signs to Hickory Nut Falls. This 1.5 mile hike is very easy and the trail is well-maintained. There are signs along the way describing the plants and rocks surrounding the path. When you near the end, you’ll see a viewing area where a staff member is posted.
Feel free to climb down from the viewing area to step in the stream below the falls, just be careful on the slippery rocks.

On our way out of the park we stopped to meet Grady the Groundhog, the mascot of the State Park. Just near the park entrance, Grady lives outside a small building which is home to some other critters that are natural in the area.

I hope this was helpful and inspires you to get outside and explore!


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