ULTIMATE GUIDE to Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park offers some of North Carolina’s most stunning scenery. It encompasses over 6,500 acres of wondrous wilderness. The signature eponymous cliff is a granite spire towering 315 feet above the mountaintops and overlooking some spectacular landscape features, like Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge. 

A visit here is one of the best things you can do in North Carolina, especially if you are looking for fun hikes in the state!


About Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park

This majestic rock formation is over 500 million years old. It’s an all-in-one attraction for the natural wonders of western Carolina, with miles of extensive trails to traverse throughout, rare native flora and fauna to spot, and even the highest waterfall in the state. Yes, Hickory Nut Falls at 404 feet, is one of the most famous waterfalls in North Carolina as it was featured in “The Last of the Mohicans.”

It’s a more recent addition to the NC state park scene, as it existed privately until 2007. The preserved ecology and geology of the area make it a special highlight of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a mecca for outdoor adventure. Chimney Rock State Park boasts some of the most unique and alluring uninterrupted panoramas around. 


Where is Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park is set just southeast of the cultural city of Asheville. It’s nestled right on the edge of the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains within western North Carolina. This picturesque park lies in the little village of Chimney Rock, which is in Rutherford County. 

Another popular hub nearby is Hendersonville, one of the best mountain towns in North Carolina, and a bit more off the beaten path and full of Southern charm. You can find the park by taking I-240 East, Highway 74A, or US Highway 64. If you are visiting the beautiful North Carolina lake, Lake Lure, you’ll want to visit Chimney Rock State Park too.

The street address for the GPS is 431 Main Street, Chimney Rock, NC. Be sure to study the park map upon arrival, there are so many magical spots to see within the wild grounds, other than just the main formation of course. 


Hours and Admission

Chimney Rock State Park

It’s always best to arrive early here, as in before 8:30 am, to avoid any crowds especially on weekends and holidays, and to help beat the heat. Saturdays in the summer months are often the busiest time in Chimney Rock State Park. 

Unless you’re under 4 years old, there’s a small entrance fee. Adults pay $17 and kids under 15 cost $8. If you’re thinking of going even a few times within a year, look into getting the annual pass for $32 to save a few bucks. 

  • Adult – $17
  • Youth (ages 5-15) – $8
  • Ages 4 and under – Free

The opening hours always depend on the time of year, as the season will affect weather patterns and daylight.

  • January 1- March 12 (08:30 am to 4:30 pm)
  • March 13- November 6 (8:30 am to 5:30 pm, which is the high season.)
  • November 7 to December 31 (8:30 am to 4:30 pm)
  • *Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day – Closed / Christmas Eve – Close at 3pm

It’s also important to remember that regardless of the time of year, the park stays open 1.5 hours after the ticket office closes, which offers a considerable amount of extra hiking time. In addition, this means that if you purchase a ticket after 3:00 pm, it’s also usable for the entire next day. 


Parking Information for Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park

There is a main parking area that lies at the top of the entrance. From here, there’s direct access to many of the trails within the park and an easy entrance to the main attraction, the Chimney itself. It also happens to be the hub for many of the amenities in the park. 

The tunnel takes you to the elevator for the cliff viewpoint, the Cliff Dwellers and Sky Lounge gift shops, a delicious deli, and restrooms all around the parking area. Parking is included in the entrance fee price.

The lot has been recently renovated and provides convenient and safe parking with enough space for everyone. 


Facilities at Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock State Park

The two main areas on the entrance road will offer all of the facilities here. The Old Rock Cafe can be found right at the state park entrance. Restrooms are located at the Sky Lounge, the parking lot, and in the Meadows near the entrance. We recommend going before setting out on a trail, as there won’t be more bathroom facilities along the way. 

Scattered across the Chimney Rock access road, you’ll find many picnic tables and grills for enjoying a snack or a meal with a beautiful backdrop. Also, the entire Village of Chimney Rock is set right at the park’s base and offers its enticing array of adorable shops, cafes, and restaurants to try out. 


Picnic Spots at Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park

Right after the ticket office, you’ll find the open scenic area deemed the Meadows. It offers views of the mountain tops and a gorgeous picnic pavilion. Using the space is free and operates on a first come first serve basis. Clean drinking water is also available here. 

The Old Rock Cafe actually sells a Hiker’s Lunch (or picnic pack) alongside their tasty sandwiches, so even if you don’t come prepared, it’s super easy to pick up some portable snacks upon arrival. The large deck that overlooks Hickory Nut Gorge at the Sky Lodge is a wonderful little spot to chow down during a hike here. 

When we’re feeling adventurous, we love to wander the trails and wait until we find that perfect little shady spot to rest, relax, and have a bite while basking in the natural beauty. Try the Opera Box for one of the best vistas in the park, or the base of a waterfall for a more wet and wild experience. 


Camping Spots at Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock State Park often hosts seasonal and community events. This includes guided hikes, educational programs, and special happenings like the Llamapalooza, the Full Moon Series or Yoga at Sunrise.

Sometimes these scheduled festivities will also encompass an overnight camping component. Check their online calendar full of upcoming excitements to see if there’s something that matches the time frame of your visit to Chimney Rock. 

Otherwise, there isn’t really a chance to camp at Chimney Rock State Park. There are many cozy cabins around Asheville and cottages, glamp sites, resorts, inns, and vacation rentals in the area though, so you won’t be at a loss for amazing abodes you can crash in, regardless of the preference and price point. 

KOA and River Creek are nearby campgrounds that offer plenty of private and group sites for tents and RVs in the stunning mountain surroundings with all the amenities needed.


Best Hiking Trails at Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park
Hickory Nut Falls / One of the best waterfalls near Asheville

Chimney Rock 

There are two routes to get to the top of the iconic Chimney Rock formation, for which the park is named. One, more strenuous than the other, is a climb up 500 manmade steps. This is called the Outcroppings Trail. The other, much more manageable, is an elevator ride to a shorter set of stairs of only 44. 

Be ready to compete with some crowds, but also to experience a vast sweeping vista that stretches out over 75 feet into the rugged landscape of western North Carolina. Either way, the payoff of a panorama 2,280 feet above sea level is well worth the journey. 

Hickory Nut Falls Trail

This famous foray within the park culminates in a 400-foot cascade that is not to be missed. It’s an easy North Carolina hike that is both wide and gentle and only 1.5 mile round trip. We love how shaded it is, especially on those hot Southern summer days. It’s a mostly wooded path, with some beautiful wildflowers around it. 

These falls were featured in the film Last of the Mohicans and are some of the tallest east of the Mississippi. It’s an awe-inspiring adventure, frozen into magical icy formations or covered in vibrant fall foliage. 

Exclamation Point

This short sojourn can be accessed after reaching the top of Chimney Rock. It’s a 20-minute diversion up to an even higher peak in the park, 2,480 feet above sea level.

Along this path is where you’ll find the Opera Box, a hidden gem that actually offers the most impressive overlook for Lake Lure and the Chimney. This moderate to strenuous hike follows along the cliffside and is mostly uphill. 

Skyline Trail

This is the perfect pick for those interested in a venture into the more remote rugged terrain in Chimney Rock State Park. It starts off from the end of Exclamation Point Trail and takes you into the beautiful backcountry for a 2.2 miles round trip. 

It’s a moderate to strenuous trek and follows a series of switchbacks up the mountain ridge to Peregrine’s Point. This is the highest peak here, reaching 2,640 feet above sea level, and a stunning vantage point of the captivating scenery. After, it travels to the high point of Hickory Nut Falls for another gander at these gorgeous cascades. 

Four Seasons Trail

This trail is short but strenuous, climbing nearly 400 feet in elevation in just over half a mile. It meanders through dense deciduous forest and eventually connects with the Hickory Nut Falls Trail. You can easily access this path from the parking lot.

As the name suggests, every seasonal hike here has a special highlight to offer. It’s also a great spot for trying to spot some local wildlife. 

Great Woodland Adventure

This family-friendly trail offers fun for nature lovers of all ages. It’s a half-mile loop that includes the added bonus of 12 discovery stations along the route. It’s a wonderful blend of ecological education and whimsy. 

Outdoor sculptures handcrafted by North Carolina artists represent all the cute creatures whose habitats are here. Learn about how these animals exist while exploring their beautiful home. Be sure to visit the Animal Discovery Den, set right at the entrance of this trail, to meet some of the native critters in real life. 

Rumbling Bald Trail

Rumbling Bald Trail is a lesser-known part of the park actually has its own entrance, parking lot, and no admission fee. It’s a great pick to avoid some of the bigger crowds and stay on a budget. It’s a 1.5-mile loop located only about two miles from the Chimney Rock entrance. It winds its way around impressive boulders at the base of the Rumbling Bald Mountain. 

It's best to study the Chimney Rock Trail Map Before Venturing Out!

Other Things to Do at Chimney Rock 

 Rumbling Bald Mountain
Lake Lure Below Rumbling Bald Mountain

Birding

Chimney Rock State Park is one of the best spots for avian enthusiasts to spot some special flying friends. There’s such a wide variety of terrains within the grounds that there’s quite a diverse array of habitats as well. 

Autumn, in particular, provides an opportunity to see the mass migration of hawks, falcons, eagles, and vultures. It’s earned a spot on the official NC Birding Trail and offers many guided walks, workshops, and programs throughout the year. The fastest bird in the world, the Peregrine Falcon, can often be spotted soaring rapidly about the gorge. 

Rock Climbing

Set on the south face of Rumbling Bald Mountain are numerous rock climbing opportunities for all skill levels. There is no fee to try your hand at some scrambling here, but it’s important to plan ahead as a registration and permit are required beforehand. 

They also offer courses with expert instructors from Fox Mountain Guides on these routes, if you’re looking to learn for the first time or simply improve. In addition, there’s a climbing tower to hone your abilities in a more controlled environment before hitting the craggy rock face of Chimney Rock State Park. 

Fishing 

Along the bottom of the scenic Hickory Nut Gorge runs the rushing Rocky Broad River, from Chimney Rock to Lake Lure. There are several types of fish living in these warm waters.

The upper waters near Bat Cave offer a teeming population of trout and small and largemouth bass in the lower area. There are several access points along Highway 74, but be sure to have the proper permits first. 


When is the Best Time to Visit Chimney Rock State Park?

Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock is wonderful any time of year. During the summer months of June, July, and August, it’s best to arrive early when the park opens or in the evening. The middle of the day can be quite crowded.

The best time to visit Chimney Rock is during fall in North Carolina. Come mid to late October, the area is awash with colors, and Chimney Rock will be even more of a spectacle.


How Long Should You Spend at Chimney Rock?

Chimney Rock State Park

Of course you could spend a quick hour at Chimney Rock, but where would the fun be in that? We recommend at least a half day at Chimney Rock to enjoy the views, go on a hike, and have a picnic in the park. Wear comfortable walking shoes for hiking!


Are Pets Allowed at Chimney Rock?

The park is pet friendly, so feel free to bring any furry companions along in your adventure.


Events at Chimney Rock

  • Groundhog Day: If you find yourself near Chimney Rock on Groundhog Day, come and see if Pumpkin the groundhog sees his shadow.
  • Easter Sunrise Service: See the sunrise over Chimney Rock on Easter!
  • Santa on the Chimney: Usually happens on weekends in the beginning of December. Come here and see Santa “practicing” for Christmas as he rock climbs on Chimney rock.
See all the events for the year here. 

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About Natasha

Natasha moved to North Carolina for college years ago (but she's not trying to age herself here). Her days were spent reading a book on the beach and enjoying a cold glass of sweet tea in between classes at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Upon graduation, she met her partner, Cameron, and they traveled the world together crossing 85 countries and six continents. After, six years of international travel they settled down and launched Lost in the Carolinas to share their experiences about and travel tips on South Carolina and North Carolina.

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