Stairs to the Top- Chimney Rock State Park {North Carolina}

Our last morning in Asheville and we were getting ready to leave for home. We had experienced the lively downtown area of Asheville but felt we couldn’t leave without seeing some of the beautiful natural areas outside the city. Brad’s aunt suggested a visit to Chimney Rock State Park which is a local favorite for trails and fresh air.

We drove into the lovely small town at the base of the state park and looked up towards the mountain where a large rock jutted out from the rest of the mountainside. When I pointed it out, Brad’s aunt laughed and said that was where we would be hiking to. The flag at the top is barely visible from the bottom of the mountain.

Chimney Rock from the bottom

We drove up to the parking lot and got our first real glimpse of Chimney Rock. Most state parks, if there is a cost at all, is charged per vehicle but here there is a $10 per person fee. There are three different options to get to the top. You can start at the town and do the three hour hike to the top by way of the trails. You can start at the parking lot and take the hundreds of stairs to the top. Or you can take an elevator from the visitor center to the top of Chimney Rock. We opted for the medium option and took the stairs.

While the 5 year old cruised up the stairs with her boundless energy, the rest of us took a little bit longer since we had to stop to catch our breath. There are about 500 steps making switchbacks across the mountain face to get to the top. We understood a little more the long line to take the elevator.

Even at the tail end of winter the view of the mountains and the river below were incredible. This park sits close to the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway that takes visitors on an unforgettable drive up through North Carolina and into Virginia following the Blue Ridge Mountains. Even from here the mountains had that hint of blue to them.

Part of the trail, named the Grotto, cut into the rock requiring a brief time of bending down to get through to the other side. This was a very short space and not cramped at all so even those nervous about tight spaces were okay. Besides being an interesting part of the hike, it also gave us a break from taking the stairs if only for a minute.

The Grotto

The mid point of the trail takes a little detour over to Vista Rock that sits just below Chimney Rock. This smaller peak adjoins the Chimney Rock but still offers the beautiful views of the valley below.

Finally we could see the flag at the top and we knew that we were almost there. There are more landings on the stairs the higher you go up. I was further back because I was taking pictures of the family (**she says clutching her side trying to catch a breath while her 5 year yells ‘Hurry Up Mama!’**)

But when we made it to the top, it was all worth it to stand on that rock and look out over the beautiful piece of North Carolina. The area was packed full of people as they all celebrated the climb and the euphoria of reaching the top.

view from the top

Going back down the stairs was a much easier venture than going up had been. We didn’t go back through the Grotto but instead took the Subway path through the small slot canyon.

We got back down to the parking lot and still were not quite ready to leave the park. So we decided to take a short trail just off the parking lot. We took the Harvest Nut Trail and it was an easy trail that was just about 1 1/2 miles there and back. The trail follows a path around one side of the mountain and was pretty flat the entire way. But at the end we were rewarded with a stunning view of a waterfall cascading down the mountainside. You can get right next to the bottom of the waterfall or you can admire it from the benches of the resting area.

With one last look at the waterfall we turned back down the trail towards the parking lot. We may not have done the hours long trails from the town but we had at least had taken this trail and got to see the beautiful dark rock with the water flowing down it.

the Harvest Nut Trail Waterfall

After climbing all the stairs and taking the short trail to the waterfall we were far more ready to get in the car for the drive home. Chimney Rock and all its stairs was a challenge but also so rewarding when you see the view from the top and marvel at how far you have come.

If you have enjoyed this hike up to Chimney Rock, you may be interested in these other state parks:

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

Burgess Falls State Park, Tennessee

Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia

Before this trip the only part of North Carolina I had seen was the small section of Smoky Mountain National Park that shares the border with Tennessee. But I think we will be putting this beautiful state on regular rotation in our travels after this weekend.

16 thoughts on “Stairs to the Top- Chimney Rock State Park {North Carolina}

    1. How fun that you had heard of it before. I’m learning how little I know of some of these southern states. It was really beautiful and probably all the more so when the green of summer is in full swing. I hope your packing/moving process it going well. Moving is such a headache

      1. I have seen a few of the southern states, and what I saw was quite beautiful; as you have shown in your recent blog posts. We arrived in France on Monday and are slowly getting settled into our rental. We were mostly concerned about our elderly cat; but he made the long journey without any problems and seems to be settling in just fine. Thanks for asking! And you’re right – moving is a pain!

        1. So glad you and your cat have made it safe and sound 🙂 So excited to follow along on your new chapter! we actually just booked our tickets for Paris in November so we’re now in the fun planning phase for our trip. I don’t know how close to Paris you are but it would be fun to meet up with you.

          1. Thanks! We’re feeling a little overwhelmed, but once the jet lag has cleared I’m sure we’ll be fine. Your trip in November sounds fabulous! It would be great to meet up; we’re in Normandy, about three and a half hours from Paris. Will you be seeing areas outside of Paris?

          2. I think we will be in Normandy one of the days we are there. I’ll keep you posted as we figure out the specifics of our trip so we can make a plan to meet 🙂

  1. Another previously unknown state park I’ve learned about through your writing Meg. Well done for not succumbing to the temptations of the elevator. Great shots throughout, particularly from the top where the vista seems infinite.

    1. Thanks Leighton 🙂 The thing I love about hiking is you go one minute from thinking you may die in the middle of the trail and the next minute thinking you are king of the mountain with great views and marveling at how far you came to get there. Chimney Rock definitely proved true in both of those.

    1. so true! that is my favorite part about hiking is going from thinking you might die on the trail to feeling like you just conquered the world when you get to the top 🙂

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