August 13, 2023 There was fog hanging over the mountains and in the valley when we woke up this morning, but the sun took care of that. We had breakfast and got ready for our 25 mile drive to Chimney Rock. Chimney Rock is a 315 ft. rock outcropping/monolith in Chimney Rock State Park where you can hike or take the elevator to the top and get 75-mile views of the surrounding area. The skies were clear and blue–perfect for a visit to Chimney Rock. The temp was a pleasant 78. We packed a lunch and left at 10:00 for our drive up to Chimney Rock on scenic Highway 9. It is a narrow road with a lot of twists and turns, but very scenic.
The road climbed up into the mountains and we reached the Eastern Continental Divide.
We arrived in Chimney Rock Village and found the entrance to the state park through this thick-walled gate.
The sign on the gate said there was a 5K run this morning, but we found out the run began at 8:30 and the park delayed opening until 9:30. When we reached the ticket gate, there were a few cars in line, but not many.
We paid the $17/pp to enter and drove 2 more miles to the parking lot.
The top parking lot was not full and we were able to park really close. The view from the parking lot was amazing of Hickory Nut Gorge, Carolina Piedmont, Lake Lure, and the surrounding area.
We had a choice of climbing the 499 stairs to the top or taking the elevator. We chose the 26-story elevator to take us the 258 ft. to the top and save our energy to hike to the falls.
We had to walk through a 198 ft. pedestrian tunnel to get to the elevator.
There were signs along the way explaining how the elevator and tunnel were built.
There were only 10 people ahead of us and the elevator carried 8 people at a time, so we only had to wait a couple of minutes before it was our turn. We got in and made the quick ride up to the gift shop. From there, we walked out to the base of the 44 stairs that would take us to the top of Chimney Rock at an elevation of 2280 ft..
Bob looked at the stairs and decided to pass. He would wait in the shade below while I made the climb.
The climb was easy as I joined the other people on Chimney Rock.
The view from up above was just as amazing as they claimed.
I could see all around for miles in every direction. The park has many other trails that you could take as well. This was the walk from the gift shop to the base of the stairs of Chimney Rock.
Lake Lure is 936 acres and has 24 miles of shoreline. From up above, I could see lots of boating action on the lake. It was a beautiful day for it!
Two ladies who were up on the rock with me were discussing how to take each other’s picture, so I offered to take theirs if they would take mine.
Bob also took my picture on his phone from down below.
I spent a few minutes on the rock with everyone else who was enjoying the view. The wind came up and the flag unfurled, so I snapped a picture. Other than that moment, there was no breeze at all.
When I returned to where Bob was waiting, we discussed taking the walk to Hickory Falls. We took the elevator back to the parking lot and picked up the path to Hickory Falls from there. The walk/hike started with a descent on quite a few stairs which took us down to the path through the woods. The path was shady 95% of the time, but it was on a slight incline most of the way over sometimes rocky terrain.
There were picnic spots and benches to rest on along the way. We took our time and it was hot, but we made it to Hickory Falls. Hickory Falls is 404 ft. high, one of the tallest of its kind east of the Mississippi and cascades down the rocks to a small pool below.
I was tired and trying to conserve water for my walk back, so Bob volunteered to climb the few remaining stairs to the base of the falls and take some pictures for me.
Bob said you could climb down and get in the water at the base of the falls, but you had to climb over some slippery wet rocks to get there. Bob said no one got in the water. There was a ranger (in green) on site keeping everyone safe.
Hickory Falls was featured in the movie “Last of the Mohicans” and the final fight scene with Magua and Chingachgook was filmed at the brink of the falls. The park was heavily featured at the end of the movie. We’ll have to watch it again and pay special attention to the end of the movie. With the 1″ of rain we got yesterday, the water flow over the rocks was significant, but during a drier time, it might have been just a trickle. After Bob returned and we caught our breaths, we started our descent. Thankfully, it was almost all downhill. We reached the intersection of where we could climb the stairs up to the top where we came down OR continue on the path straight to the parking lot. We decided to go straight to the parking lot. Thanks to Bob for checking it out and saving us the climb and the extra steps.
We got back to the Jeep and immediately turned on the AC. It was 1:00 as we made our drive back down the mountain. By now, there was more traffic going up the mountain, so we had to make sure to stay on our side of the road through the hairpin twists and turns. The lower parking lots were filling up and so the park was running their shuttle buses to get people to the top. We passed one of these shuttle buses on our way down and it was a tight squeeze to pass each other on the road.
Once we got back to the entrance gate, we sat on the bridge over the river waiting for the cars ahead of us to be able to ease into traffic in town.
Once we were able to exit the park, we could see all the people out on a Sunday afternoon enjoying the day in Chimney Rock Village. It was a busy place. We took the same route back.
We stopped along the highway to see Hickory Falls from a distance.
We got back to the campground around 2:00. We have been thinking over the last couple of days about making some changes to our plans for the rest of our trip and our drive home. We had planned to stop in Savannah and St. Augustine for a few days each on the way home. Since we have been to both places multiple times before and it would be hot there, we decided to spend another week here in the mountains where it is cooler. We decided to stay here and skip our visit to Savannah and St. Augustine and take fewer days to get home. We are less than 700 miles from home so we can make that drive in 3 days. We will arrive home on the same day as originally planned. We changed our reservations, but have to move to a different site on Wednesday. No problem! We made new reservations and all was well. Our reservation near Ocala stayed the same and we will be back in Palmetto on the 24th as originally planned. We are really enjoying the cooler weather here in North Carolina. We relaxed outside on the patio with Auggie after all our new plans were settled. We enjoyed the breeze while sitting in the shade watching the new campers arrive. It was a gorgeous day! We had leftovers from yesterday’s lunch for dinner and reflected on the great day we had. Now that we have a few extra days here, we can explore some of the areas we haven’t seen yet.