On the website for Chimney Rock State Park, they mention that this destination is “part living classroom, park outdoor gym,” and that really sums up well the opportunities when you visit this park.
Chimney Rock features such interesting cliff faces and rock formations that many people come here for beginner to strenuous hiking as well as rock climbing. At the same time, the history of the park and its flora and fauna bring families who want to learn about nature during park programming or through observation.
This combination draws big crowds during the warm summer months and temperate springs and autumns in North Carolina. Here are some tips for making Chimney Rock State Park a destination when you’re visiting Asheville or want a day trip or weekend away from Asheville.
Part of why Chimney Rock State Park can offer great options is that it is a ticketed park. As of this article’s publication, day tickets were $17 for adults and $8 for children. However, there are various ways to make it more affordable if this is a high price for you: individual and family annual passes pay for themselves within two visits to the park, and a family day pass is $45 for two adults and three children, a substantial discount that is available only online.
Another perk is that if you enter the park after 4 pm, your pass will work for the following day, making your one-day pass admit you for a little extra hiking and enjoyment in total!
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Activities in Chimney Rock State Park
One of the ways that Chimney Rock State Park stands out is that there are so many things to do. At the heart of the park, of course, is the actual Chimney Rock, which has an elevator as well as a 499-step trail to the top for unparalleled views and a feeling of accomplishment. However, whether getting to this view is the main event for you or not, the park boasts a much wider range of options than you might think.
1. Rock Climbing
Chimney Rock State Park works with an accredited professional rock-climbing guide company, Fox Mountain Guides, to allow safe but exciting rock climbing adventures in the park. They’ve designed 2-hour clinics to grow your skills while you’re at Chimney Rock, or half- and full-day trips where they’ll guide you to the best rock faces where you can experience the thrill of rock climbing under experienced supervision.
For experienced rock climbers and people who love bouldering, nearby Rumbling Bald features free permits at the trailhead, and there are a variety of bouldering routes that range in difficulty.
There are a variety of trails of different levels within Chimney Park State Park and in nearby areas. Here are some of your options:
- Great Woodland Adventure Trail – a children-focused trail with exhibits.
- Hickory Nut Falls Trail – A 0.7-mile one-way trail that gives you views of the Hickory Nut Falls.
- Four Seasons Trail – A 0.7-mile one-way trail with lots of beautiful flora and fauna and a fairly substantial (400 vertical feet) climb.
- Skyline Trail – a 1.1-mile one-way trail along the ridge.
- Exclamation Point Trail – A 0.3-mile one-way trail that brings you uphill, climbing 150 feet and showing off interesting rock formations to Exclamation Point.
- Outcroppings Trail – The iconic 0.2-mile uphill climb to the main view from Chimney Rock!
For a longer trail, consider nearby Rumbling Bald, where a 1.5-mile loop lets you see even more of these beautiful mountains.
3. Children’s Learning
Various permanent installations make Chimney Rock come alive for children who visit. A great place to start is with the Animal Discovery Den, where educators share facts about snakes, toads, turtles, and even possums that cannot be returned to the wild.
Then take a hike along the Great Woodland Adventure Trail, where hiking is combined with 12 discovery stations that help you learn about the animals that live here and keep kiddos engaged with the walk. A cool program called TRACK (Trails, Ridges, and Active Caring Kids) offers self-guided brochures to help various trails in Chimney Park appeal to children by offering interpretative information and details to discuss as you hike.
4. Special Programming
Before planning your visit, check out the calendar on the Chimney Rock State Park website. There are often events like naturalist talks, yoga and hiking gatherings, Nature at Night hikes, and so much more.
There are special animal encounter events, evening events like a combination family craft and dinner after the park closes, special days for homeschoolers, and even gatherings for bird-watchers. Events can make your trip more special – check the website for details on any additional fees associated with upcoming opportunities.
Guidelines for Inside Chimney Rock State Park
Here are some of the key rules to remember when planning your visit to Chimney Rock State Park:
- No drones are allowed in Chimney Rock State Park by state law – get your photographs with your selfie stick or just use your phone.
- Plan your trip based on the ticket plaza’s open hours: 8:30-5:30 pm during the temperate months and 8:30 am-4:30 pm in the winter. That being said, hikers are welcome to continue their hikes until 7 pm during the summer.
- Dogs are permitted in the park when on a 6-foot leash – no off-leash dogs are permitted. A few other policies, like no dogs in the Chimney Rock elevator and no leaving dogs in parked cars, mean that bringing along your four-legged friend is a bit discouraged since you will need to be able to follow the rules, and your dog will need to be able to accompany you on all your hikes without getting too tired.
- Tickets are leave-and-return as long as you keep your receipt, so if you head out to find lunch or shop in the area, keep that receipt so you can come back for an afternoon activity in the park.
- Even a casual trip to Chimney Rock requires safe clothing and preparation. Aim to wear either your sturdiest sneakers or actual hiking boots, even if you’re a beginner at hiking – better to have your feet well supported if there has been recent rain that makes the routes wet and slippery. Hats and light weatherproof jackets are a great idea in case of an abrupt change in weather, and bring lots of water – better to be well hydrated! They also recommend sunscreen and backpacks to keep your hands free of gear.
- If you or a member of your group will need access to the elevator that helps bring visitors up to see the views from Chimney Rock, check in before you arrive to make sure that no preventative maintenance is scheduled during your visit. While this elevator provides valuable accessibility, it is also in very frequent use and must be maintained to stay in safe order.
Places to Eat Near Chimney Rock State Park
One way to make your trip to Chimney Rock State Park affordable is to bring a cooler of picnic items for snacking throughout your time there – add some energy bars or granola bars because snack attacks might happen any time on the hiking trails!
There is also the Old Rock Café, which is right next to the entrance of the park, with a beautiful deck that looks out on the Rocky Broad River. There are grilled sandwiches, juicy burgers, and fresh salads, making it a crowd-pleasing lunch choice after a big hike in the morning. There’s also craft beer.
Inside the park, the Sky Lounge Deli offers drinks, snacks, popcorn, and ice cream, as well as to-go sandwiches in the heart of Chimney Rock State Park. It’s nice if you end up eating more of your energy bars earlier than you expected and are craving a snack or more substantial fare.
Also not far away are a variety of other food and drink options:
- Chimney Rock Brewing Company: 461 Main Street, Chimney Rock.
- Bayou Billy’s: 401 Main Street, Chimney Rock.
- Chimney Rock Smokehouse: 430 Main Street, Chimney Rock.
- Riverwatch Bar and Grill: 379 Main Street, Chimney Rock.
- Genny’s Family Restaurant: 451 Main Street, Chimney Rock.
- Stagecoach Pizza Kitchen: 339 Main Street, Chimney Rock.
Places to Stay Near Chimney Rock State Park
Especially if you’re visiting for special event programming, you may want to stay overnight in the area and be looking for lodging. You’ll find that there’s generally no camping inside the park (barring a few occasional special events), so you’ll want to find a nearby campground or lodgings for your trip.
If you opt to stay for multiple days, there is plenty to explore between Chimney Rock State Park, Lake Lure, and the small downtown areas in each town, where there are shops, dining, and more.
Here are a few of the options nearby:
Campgrounds near Chimney Rock State Park
- Hickory Nut Falls Family Campground: 639 Main Street, Chimney Rock.
- Dogwood RV Park: 695 Main Street, Chimney Rock.
- Hitching Post Campground: 620 Girl Scout Camp Road, Mill Spring.
Lodgings near Chimney Rock State Park
- Check vacation rental sites like Airbnb.com and VRBO.com for options to rent entire homes in Chimney Rock and nearby Lake Lure. During the warm seasons, these can book up quite early, however, so consider looking as early as possible.
- The Riverside Lodge at Chimney Rock: 289 Main Street, Chimney Rock.
- Broad River Inn: 339 Main Street, Chimney Rock.
- 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa: 2771 Memorial Highway, Lake Lure.
- The Carter Lodge: 273 Main Street, Chimney Rock.
- Chimney Rock Inn and Cottages: 126 Main Street, Chimney Rock.