Last Updated on January 31, 2023
Last Updated on January 31, 2023
Ask anyone here about the best things to do in North Carolina, and the famed Chimney Rock should come up. Standing 315 feet tall and 535 million years old, the Chimney Rock is the highlight of Chimney Rock State Park near downtown Asheville.
From the top, you can enjoy 360 views of the Hickory Nut Gorge, the Rocky Broad River, nearby Lake Lure, and more North Carolina landmarks. This guide will focus on the monumental Chimney Rock, nicknamed “The Rock,” and how you can reach it.
Hint: there’s an easy access way and a hard way.
We also include a lot of background info and have organized the guide into the following sections:
- Fast Facts
- History of “The Rock”
- Visiting Today (Plus Special Events)
- Driving Directions
- Where to Park
- Admission Info
- Ticket Office Hours
- Safety Tips
- How to Reach the Chimney Rock (By Elevator and Hiking Options)
- More Chimney Rock State Park Trails
- Things to Do Nearby (The Village, Lake Lure, and Related Articles)
You can skip ahead to any of these sections or keep reading about some interesting facts and the history of the Chimney Rock.
Read More: All North Carolina State Parks Sites (and Things to Do in Each!)
Chimney Rock Fast Facts
- The Chimney Rock (also known as “The Rock”) is a 315-foot spire on the southern side of the Hickory Nut Gorge, within the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Southern Appalachian Mountain range.
- It is located just north of the Village of Chimney Rock in Rutherford County, about 25 miles southeast of Asheville in Western North Carolina.
- The Rock is managed as part of Chimney Rock State Park, originally established as Hickory Nut Gorge State Park in 2005. However, it’s been a tourist attraction since 1885 and has offered park facilities since 1916.
- You can access Chimney Rock State Park via Alt US-74, which US-64 joins to pass through the Village of Chimney Rock.
- If you’re not already staying in the Village (or nearby), spend time shopping, eating, and responsibly drinking after exploring Chimney Rock State Park.
Read More: Western North Carolina (and 100+ Wonderful Places to Visit)
The History of the Chimney Rock
- Before the Chimney Rock was a tourist attraction, we know that Catawba and Cherokee people occupied the area around the Hickory Nut Gorge. Both groups viewed the Gorge as sacred ground and agreed not to fight over it.
- In the 1810s, a road was built in the Gorge, connecting Rutherfordton and Asheville.
- A stairway to the Chimney Rock’s summit was built in 1885, allowing it to become a tourist attraction.
- In 1902, the land that included the Rock was purchased by Dr. Lucius B. Morse. He was a physician who came to North Carolina in search of a warmer climate to help with his tuberculosis diagnosis.
- Over the next few years and decades, Morse cultivated the park by adding more stairs, bridges, and even an elevator up to Chimney Rock, which we’ll elaborate on later.
- The State of North Carolina acquired the park in 2007, two years after authorizing a state park in the area.
Read More: Interesting Facts About North Carolina
Visiting Today (Plus Special Events)
Today the Chimney Rock attraction itself is a must-visit NC destination, attracting millions of tourists every year. You can visit throughout most of the year, but should keep the following special events in mind:
- Seasonally Themed Photo Contests
- August: Race to the Rock (5k Run)
- October: Annual Passholder Sunrise Breakfast
- December: Santa on the Chimney
You can keep tabs on Chimney Rock events here. Additional fees may apply.
Chimney Rock is in a convenient location only 25 miles from Asheville and accessible from Chimney Rock Village, Hendersonville, and Black Mountain.
- From Asheville, you’ll follow Alt US-74 until reaching the park’s entrance.
- From Hendersonville, US-64 will take you northeast to the intersection with Alt US-74.
- From Black Mountain, NC-9 will take you south to the intersection with Alt US-74.
Read More: Day Trips from Asheville
Once you arrive at the park, multiple parking lots are depending on how much you want to reach the Chimney Rock:
- The Easy Access Way: You can drive all the way to the parking area near the elevator and closest set of stairs, also known as the Outcroppings Trail.
- The Hard Way: You can park at the first parking lot you see after passing through the gates. The Four Seasons Trail is a 1.5 mile strenuous hike that leads to the stairs and elevator that go up to the Chimney Rock.
We mention this trail and others inside the park below in our “More Chimney Rock State Park Trails” section. First, we think you should about how to get into the park.
Read More: 100+ of the Best Hiking Trails in North Carolina
Chimney Rock State Park is one of the few parks that require admission fees. Those fees are crucial and go toward the upkeep of the park’s beauty.
- Adults: $17
- Youths (Ages 5 to 15): $8
- Children 4 and Under: Free
Here are some things to know about your tickets, including purchasing options:
- You can buy tickets online to beat the line or purchase them directly at the Ticket Office.
- Even though the Ticket Office closes earlier (see below), visitors can stay until 7:00 pm.
- Chimney Rock State Park has a unique policy that allows free re-entry the next day if you buy your ticket past a certain time.
- If you buy your ticket past 4:00 pm during Daylight Savings Time or past 3:00 pm in the winter months, then your ticket is also valid for re-entry the next day.
- As with any popular tourist spot, we always recommend arriving as early as possible. For example, we once arrived exactly at opening time on Labor Day Weekend and were about 10th in line trying to get in. Be prepared to wait for parking or to get in and be patient!
Read More: 25 of the Most Amazing Winter Hikes in North Carolina
Ticket Office Hours
- January 4 to March 13: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
- March 14 to November 6: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm
- November 7 to December 31: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Chimney Rock is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. It also closes at 3:00 pm on Christmas Eve.
Read More: 50+ Great Things to Do in Asheville (Downtown, Biltmore, and More!)
Safety Tips and Additional Info
Safety is always on our mind, especially when visiting parks. Here are a few things we think you should know:
- A word of caution: be mindful of the bears that roam the mountain range. Try to stick with others at all times and keep any dogs leashed, as there have been stories of bears attacking when provoked by people or unleashed dogs. The bears will usually leave people alone; if not, they’re supposedly easy to scare off by jumping and making noise. Just be careful!
- Of all the parks we’ve visited, we noticed that this one has the largest presence of volunteers and employees around to answer questions and oversee visitors. Feel free to ask them as many questions as possible about the park and its history! But also listen to volunteers’ warnings about following the signs.
- And finally, as with any outdoor area, always pack out what you pack in and leave no trace.
Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)
How to Reach the Chimney Rock
Now that we’ve shared how to reach the parking lot and stay safe, here’s exactly how to reach the Chimney Rock.
There are multiple ways to reach the top of the Chimney Rock, with the easiest way being simply taking the elevator up from the Chimney Rock Access.
For those of you looking for little to no walking, this is perfect as you only have a short walk through the gift shop and across the walkway connecting you to the Rock.
If you prefer to hike to the top, there are two popular options:
- The Outcroppings Trail begins from the parking lot near the elevator and comprises about 500 steps to the top of the Rock. It’s a workout, but the vantage points along the way are worth it!
- The Four Seasons Trail is a longer hike leading you to the top. It begins from the first parking lot after the admission gate and eventually connects with the Outcroppings Trail. In total, this trail is about 1.4 miles. This is somewhat of a climb, so we recommend hiking this on a weekday when the Rock won’t be too crowded by those who hopped on the elevator first thing.
More Chimney Rock State Park Trails (and Landmarks)
Along with the Outcroppings Trail and Four Seasons Trail, there are 10 official trails inside Chimney Rock State Park. 6 are in the Chimney Rock access portion.
Here are a few you can do before or after you reach the top of the Chimney Rock.
Exclamation Point Trail
Exclamation Point Trail is one trail that begins directly across from the Chimney Rock. This trail climbs up about 150 feet using stairs and switchbacks to take you to popular spots such as Opera Box and Exclamation Point.
Opera Box is an observation point with expansive views of the Rock, Lake Lure, and Hickory Nut Gorge. It offers a unique perspective of the park not found anywhere else.
At 2480 feet above sea level, Exclamation Point is another spot with epic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and surrounding North Carolina mountains. One such mountain is Bearwallow Mountain, a popular hike near Hendersonville.
Read More: Hikes near Asheville
Continue on Exclamation Point Trail and meet the 1.1 mile Skyline Trail. It will take you to the top of Hickory Nut Falls, though there is no view of the waterfall.
Hickory Nut Falls Trail
In order to see Hickory Nut Falls, you’ll need to hike the 1.4 mile roundtrip Hickory Nut Falls Trail. This popular hike leads to the base of one of NC’s tallest waterfalls, at 404-feet.
Read More: Upper Whitewater Falls (How to See NC’s Highest Waterfall)
The Great Woodland Adventure Trail
The 0.6 mile long Great Woodland Adventure Trail leaves from the same parking lot as the Four Seasons Trail. This is a kid-friendly interpretive trail, with 12 “Discovery Stations” and locally created art.
Next to the trailhead is the Animal Discovery Den, which is home to live animals.
Things to Do Near Chimney Rock State Park
After a day of exploring Chimney Rock, there are many places you can stop for dinner or spend the night. The Park is an easy day trip from downtown Asheville, Black Mountain, Hendersonville, and Brevard.
It’s also about two hours from Boone to the north and Charlotte to the east.
The Village of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure, however, are the two towns that most people use as a base for exploring Chimney Rock.
Read More: Winter in Boone (20 Great Activities, Snow Tubing, and More!)
Village of Chimney Rock
We mentioned the Village at the beginning of the article, but we’ll talk more about the cool stuff this town offers! Home to a unique assortment of shops, restaurants, and activities, this is a great place to relax after hiking.
Hickory Nut Gorge Brewery is along the Rocky Broad River, with great beers and delicious food waiting for your post-hike meal. Across the street is Burntshirt Vineyard’s Chimney Rock location, which hosts special events and produces some of the best wine in North Carolina.
Read More: The Best North Carolina Breweries
Lake Lure is full of magic and beauty, from its namesake lake to a swimming beach and more fun. While in Lake Lure, you can’t miss the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, a truly special blooming garden spanning across the Rocky Broad River.
More Things to Do
Here are some more things to do in Western North Carolina beyond Rutherford County and Chimney Rock.