December 04, 2022
I’ve always loved the thrillingly high and scenic views from the cracked tower of stone known as Chimney Rock, 25 miles southeast of Asheville, North Carolina. I came here many times as a kid and young adult when I lived in the Carolinas. Privately owned and managed as a tourist attraction until 2007, today this beautiful place is part of Chimney Rock State Park. We made time to see it again and explore its trails during our stay in Asheville at the end of October and early November.
The fall color was just past peak but still good on the day we visited. My husband climbed the steep stairs from the parking area to the top of the chimney. Behind the rock, a thigh-burning trail climbs even higher, allowing you to look down on Chimney Rock. I’ve climbed all those stairs before — most recently in 2011 — but was happy this time to take the elevator that delivers you to a scenic overlook, where you can then climb the final stairs to the top of the rock.
Views for miles! That’s Lake Lure in the distance.
Fall color, blue skies, and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Let’s climb the stairs to the top of the rock.
Those who climb from the parking area come up the stairs on the left.
A couple of trees somehow have a toehold up here on the rock.
Looking over the rail at an exposed section of the stairs below, and Chimney Rock Village far below that.
Looking up, you see where Exclamation Point Trail continues up the cliff via a tower of winding stairs.
Sandwiched between massive layers of rock is the Opera Box — look for the white railing — which offers stunning views. Above Exclamation Point is the Skyline Trail, which runs along the clifftop. My husband did that one too while I hung out on Chimney Rock.
Afterward we descended some 400 steps on the Outcroppings Trail to reach a spacious picnic deck that hugs the side of the cliff. (Here’s the trail map for orientation.) Looking up from here you see the lip of Chimney Rock above.
After lunch we walked down another long flight of steps to the Hickory Nut Falls Trail, which leads through a hardwood forest to Hickory Nut Falls. The trees glowed gold and rusty red along this trail.
Stairs, stairs, and more stairs. Near the base of the falls, we climbed another short flight to a small overlook. The approximately 350-foot horsetail waterfall is dramatic from a distance but not really from this angle…
…nor from the base of the falls, since the biggest drop is out of view above. Still, it’s a nice hike and refreshing to feel water misting around the pool at the base of the cliff. My husband took this photo and shared it with me, since I neglected to take a photo here.
We spotted this beautiful blushing tree on our way out of the park.
Afterward we drove to Lake House Restaurant (formerly Larkin’s) on Lake Lure for a tasty dinner and lake views.
That wraps up my posts about our Asheville stay, but I’ll be sharing two destinations from our road trip home. Next up: A somber visit to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. For a look back at North Carolina Arboretum’s gardens and bonsai collection, click here.
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