This place Rocks!
Chimney Rock Village Travel Blog› entry 36 of 55 › view all entries
Up and on the road bright and early to make the one hour drive to Chimney Rock State Park. The only drag was crawling through Hendersonville. I had heard good things about this town, but the horrendous traffic squelched my desire to explore it later. No traffic in Chimney Rock. The town is little more than a clutch of buildings around the entrance to the state park, clearly aiming to seize a few tourist dollars.
A learning curve on entering Chimney Rock. There is an impressive stone gateway marking the park’s entrance off the main drag, but no need to stop here. Just wheel on in, then twist and turn for a mile (gaining a chunk of elevation) to reach another gate, where you do stop and pay admission. Relatively steep prices accompanied the climb: usual tariff is $15 per person.
After this gate it was onward and upward. I made one stop, at “The Meadows where several trailheads originate and other amusements are located. There is a nice climbing tower and Grady’s Animal Discovery Den. Grady is a groundhog, one of several critters enclosed in outdoor pens (and looking terribly bored). Inside the spiffy building snakes and other smaller animals are on display.
Pressing on to the top (probably a mile beyond the gate where you pay), I parked and made for Chimney Rock. This granite spire is visible for miles around and a spectacular natural formation.
The very first diversion you encounter is Gneiss Cave. I guess it was nice, but disappointing. Merely a single, short stairwell leading into a very small cave with no stunning features. Of course it only takes a minute to check out, so really no downside to ducking in.
But on to the main event. I found Chimney Rock to be worthwhile, though not jaw dropping.
I had fun scrambling around all of the many side jaunts up here, but eventually descended back to the Sky Lounge to score some lunch.
After picking up a wrap I trooped back downstairs and scoured the trail map made for Hickory Nut Falls. This probably rates as the park’s #2 destination, owing to being the setting for the final fight scene in “Last of the Mohicans” (the 1992 flick starring Daniel Day-Lewis).
Disappointment was multiplied by a less than satisfying hike. The trail was short and level along a wide path (park vehicles clearly used it), so no challenge whatsoever. Consulting my trail map, however, revealed there were only two more trails to traipse and thus conquer every inch of available hiking in the park.
So I returned to The Meadows to stroll the Four Seasons Trail and Great Woodlands Adventure Trail. Four Seasons was okay.
Circling back I enjoyed the Great Woodlands Adventure Trail, a short jaunt that was fun. This trail was built for youngsters and includes a lot of visual aids, many interactive. But geez, I had planned on spending an entire day here and with trails exhausted, it was time to head back and seek other diversions.