Chimney Rock State Park
Rutherford County, North Carolina
The attraction: Located 25 miles southeast of Asheville, North Carolina, Chimney Rock is a state park. It offers a variety of hiking trails for all skill levels, spectacular vistas, a waterfall, and perhaps its most recognizable feature, the 315 foot (96 meter) rock formation, a granite monolith, Chimney Rock. It operated as a privately managed park for more than a century until 2007 when it became a state park.
Pros to visiting: There’s no denying that all of the Asheville area is gorgeous in terms of natural scenery. At Chimney Rock it’s even more so because you’re even higher up, that much closer to “heaven.” From serious hikers to those who regard hiking as more of a recreational pursuit, there are a total of five different trails, including one designed with children in mind (Great Woodland Adventure). There’s also a 404 foot waterfall (Hickory Nut Falls), which is one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River, reachable by one of the park’s more leisurely trails. The park has also been featured prominently on the big screen, most noticeably in the 1992 film Last of the Mohicans staring Daniel Day-Lewis. Most of the final scenes of the film were shot at the park including the fight between Uncas and Magua, Alice’s decision, and the climactic fight scene between Magua and Chingachgook. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my dad immediately recognized the area upon seeing my photos, I can instantly picture the scenes from the film in my head. The view from atop the “rock” is also spectacular, one of the prettiest sights I have ever admired. On a clear day, views of 75 miles away are offered.
Cons to visiting: Although there is a lot to do once there, park admission costs are somewhat on the expensive side especially for a family. (Adults 16 and over cost $15, children between the ages of six and 15 cost $6.) I am all for supporting state parks but for a group of four or more, a visit to the park can end up eating a large portion of your traveling budget. Starting in April of this year, Chimney Rock began a series of improvement projects resulting in the closure of the elevator that takes you to the top of Chimney Rock so I wouldn’t recommend a visit right now if you or anyone in your group is unable to climb to the top. (It’s at an elevation of 2,280 feet which equates to hundreds of steep steps.)
Conclusion: Most people come to Asheville for Biltmore and yet a morning, afternoon or even a whole day spent at Chimney Rock State Park is time well spent. The Blue Ridge Mountains are some of America’s prettiest and are easily accessible for a lot of people. Finally I really enjoyed the ride to Chimney Rock that was full of curvy roads around mountaintops that you literally had to take at 20 miles per hour for how hazardous they were. Driving through the small community of Chimney Rock, you observe a way of life that didn’t look like it’s changed in hundreds of years. It was like taking a trip back in time, living the fictional world that was created on the pages of Charles Frazier’s North Carolina based Civil War novel, Cold Mountain.