Chimney Rock State Park: Our Family Experience in 2023

Anna and her sons write about their experience of Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina.

Chimney Rock State Park: Our Family Experience in 2023

Anna, the Mom

Chimney Rock State Park is a nature park belonging to the state of North Carolina, in the United States of America. While there, we always go hiking on two of its most famous trails, one leading up to a granite monolith called the Chimney Rock which is the main attraction of the park and the other leading to the Hickory Nut Falls.

In our January 2018 visit to Chimney Rock, when the American flag was still on display on Chimney Rock. Not anymore this year, what a shame…

Chimney Rock is a 350-foot (96 meters) tall granite monolith that resembles a chimney sprouting out of the one-mile-long Blue Ridge escarpment called the World's Edge. A wooden structure has been built on these very abrupt, stony slopes to provide an accessible way to the top of this monolith.

The structure towards the Chimney.

Once on top of Chimney Rock, a beautiful view of the valley below opens up, with Lake Lure in the distance and forest covered milder slopes. The view is stunning, the photos don't do it credit.

View from Opera box of the Chimney Rock Top and Lake Lure in the distance. 

From the Chimney Rock, access by way of a staircase to higher ground is provided. Even if it is a difficult ascent on the stairs, we were never disappointed when we get to the top. The view of the Chimney Rock from the Opera Box is worth the climb. A little further up, and we get to a strange balanced rock called the Devil's Head. A chilling shaped rock anchored in the cliff behind it looks like a dark creature watching the beauty below, devising some cunning devilry to destroy it.

Can you see the weirdly shaped rock on the left? It looks like an out of this world being cloaked in a dark robe and looking down below. 

At this point, the access higher up on the cliff, was at this time, closed. The thin veil of water that covers the straight-up face of the cliff was frozen, so the further climb was deemed dangerous. In some parts, even the stairs that were opened for public, were frozen and slippery.


The second trail we did while at Chimney Rock, after we climbed down to the base of the cliff, was Hickory Nut Falls Trail. It is a pleasant walk in the forest, with the World's Edge escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the left. From place to place, shiny ice sheets on the slopes of the cliff disclosed the places where water is trickling down from the top of the cliffs.  The access to the Hickory Nut Falls was this time closed because of the ice surrounding the place, even on the structures built next to the falls.

Back in 2018 when we visited Chimney Rock with my parents, we could get a bit closer to the falls.

These falls became more famous after they were featured in the movie The Last of the Mohicans, in 1992.

We were a bit disappointed we couldn't go closer to the falls this time when we went there. I can think of many potential dangers that are lurking at every step just going outside of home, not to mention the possible dangers people might encounter inside their very home. But, is it me who feels that this trend in our world of taking every imaginable precaution for our safety and security feels like it is getting out of hand?

From the Opera Box with the Chimney Rock in the background. 

Mihai, 15

I groan, looking at the long stairs leading to Chimney Rock and beyond. I hear the deafening roar of Hickory Falls from a respectful distance, the lookout for the falls was blocked by a chain. The cold, rough stone reminds me of that one time I broke my leg while skiing. Don't ask me why. I see the most dreaded of all things on this good earth: THE RULES SIGN!!!

Chimney Rock is a truly wondrous place, full of stairs, rocks, and RULES!

When we got to the state park, we saw a large sign pointing us to the elevator that takes the average person to the top of a cliff, where Chimney Rock is situated. However, I am not average in any respect, especially in the number of dead brain cells I have floating around in there. So, we decided to USE THE STAIRS. Something which I regretted.

The stairs to the Chimney Rock with an empty pole and no flag. :(

After a long climb, we made it to a crossroad. Literally. There were two paths leading up to Chimney Rock, one of them was called "The Subway", which made me hungry, and the other was called "Vista Point", which reminded me of the most underappreciated Windows release under the sun. Of course, I wanted to go the route of the Aero theme, but then I remembered that there were many bugs in Vista, so I decided to go on the road of the sandwich.

The entrance to the Subway

The Subway is a tiny tunnel in the rock, so small that you can't fit inside of it without crouching. After getting out of claustrophobia land, I trudged up some more stairs and made it to some MORE stairs. However, these stairs were special: they had ice all over them. An unlucky child, stepping on the wrong spot, slid on the ice and fell down the stairs in front of my eyes (traumatic!), but I had to keep going.

The exit of the Subway 

Finally, we made it to Chimney Rock, which in my opinion, was very disappointing. Guess what it was. Guess! A ROCK!!! WHAT ELSE DO YA THINK IS UP THERE??? However, the view was nice. You could see Lake Lure in all of its half-dry splendor.

The rock on top of Chimney Rock with Lake Lure in the distance. 

After getting disappointed and scammed (the flag wasn't flying like in the official picture); we pressed on, seeing the Devil's head (another rock!), and going to the Lookout, we decided to see Hickory Nut Falls.

So came the torturous climbing back down all of those stairs (I didn't go to Vista Point because I wanted to avoid being eaten by bugs), we got to the waterfall, only to be disappointed again. The rules signs were back, and they had come with a vengeance (and also a sly trick). A sample, straight from the state park itself: "FoR yOur SaFeTY, dO noT sIt oN tHe wAll", minus the ridiculous lettering.

It got even better, the lookout to the waterfall was not roped, but CHAINED off, and there was a GUARD there to make sure you didn't go the extra five feet to take better photos!!!

The boys on the way to the falls. Dad made a turban of mom's scarf to keep his head warm. :)

Paul, 12

I crawl up a small hole in the side of the mountain. The fit is tight, but I make it through. Standing up, I see the large flagpole jutting into the horizon like a tall metal tree on top of Chimney Rock. The rest of my family gets through the hole, and we start the trek up the mountain. While on the stairs leading up to the Chimney Rock some ice shards fell from the cliff nearly hitting the people on it.

Lake Lure in the distance. 

We got up to the rock with no more incidents. The last part of the hike was to climb some stairs that were suspended far above the ground below.  My brain generated a swaying motion as I crossed this final obstacle. I tightly grip a rock on top of the chimney, trying not to look down at the far distant ground.

Next to the Subway

Alas and alack, this was not the end of our journey. We yet had to hike to the Opera Box and the Devil's Head. The Opera Box was a box carved into the side of the mountain that overlooked the trail to Chimney Rock. A staircase and a small path later, we arrived at a point where we could see a rock shaped like a head leaning down toward the trail below, this was the Devil's Head. At any moment, I thought it would fall, but luckily, it did not, restrained by the power of God!

Last stop on the hike up. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should you spend at Chimney Rock

If you're considering visiting Chimney Rock, you should plan to spend at least half a day there. We recently took a trip to Chimney Rock with our kids, and we were able to hike on both the Skyline trail and the Hickory Nut Falls trail in that amount of time.

If you're looking for more of an adventure and are wanting to explore many of the existing trails in the park, then you should plan to spend a whole day there.

Is Chimney Rock free?

Admission fees vary depending on whether you plan to visit one or multiple days and the time you are visiting. Currently, until March the 3rd, for a single day pass, adults pay $10 while children ages 5-15 pay $5, for ages 4 and under admission is free.

How long of a walk is Chimney Rock

Walking to Chimney Rock from the parking lot is quite a trek, but it's worth it in the end. It typically takes about 45 minutes to get to the Chimney Rock, but if you take the elevator, it's a lot shorter. Keep in mind though that you might have to wait in line for access. There are also numerous steps along the way, so be sure to take your time and pace yourself. If you're visiting during wintertime, remember that some parts of the walk may be slippery or icy due to the snow and ice—so be cautious as you make your way up!

What movie was filmed at Chimney Rock Park?

Have you ever heard of the movie "Last of the Mohicans"? It was filmed right here in this very park back in 1992. The breathtaking views and lush, green grounds provide an ideal backdrop for the classic film.

If you're a fan of the movie, you'll be glad to know that many of the memorable scenes were shot right here at Chimney Rock Park. From the impressive vistas to Daniel Day Lewis chasing after Madeleine Stowe and Steven Waddington on horseback, it's no wonder why this park has become so popular with fans of the movie.

Is Chimney Rock State Park worth it?

We loved visiting Chimney Rock State Park! We've been here three times now, and it's a great place to explore. If you like hiking, then it's definitely worth your time. The views are absolutely stunning. However, if you're coming with small kids, it might not be the best idea – the many stairs on Skyline trail can be difficult for them to climb. But all in all, Chimney Rock State Park is great and worth visiting if you can.

Is Chimney Rock state park dog friendly?

Dogs are allowed in the park, as long as they stay on a six-foot leash at all times. However, for safety reasons, dogs are not permitted in the elevator. Be sure to bring water and treats for your dog, and never leave them in a parked car. Additionally, consider your dog's comfort level with meeting new people or other dogs and being around crowds before visiting the park.