Day Trip Idea: Chimney Rock State Park

By Rachel Hoeing

We’ve had such a great response to our day trip and travel idea blogs this summer! I thought it would be the perfect time to “re-run” my blog on our trip to Chimney Rock. Sadly, we have not visited since I originally wrote this blog in 2011, but after scouring the website, looks like my info is still applicable for 2016! If you have tips of your own, please comment at the end of the blog. Enjoy …

My family drove to Chimney Rock State Park and had an incredibly glorious day together! Depending on where you live in the Triad, Chimney Rock will be a 2-3 hour drive for your family. We left our house around 9am and returned home by 8pm (We stopped and had dinner in Hickory). The best part of the day was that during our trip, no one whined, no one cried, and no one fought! One child had a wee bit of a meltdown on the way home, which was expected, but the experience at the park itself was enjoyable for all!

Those who read my Hebron Rock Colony Day Trip Blog, know that I am not the most athletic or coordinated person. I will tell you that I made it through this experience with no problems and was quite invigorated by it all! I’ll share the sequence of events from our day in hopes that it will help you plan a stress-free trip for your family.

We arrived at the park around lunchtime. We ate fast food on the way there, but you can pick up a sandwich, or snack in the Sky Lounge Deli after entering the park as well. You can sit out on the deck and enjoy a beautiful view while you eat. You also have a plethora of cafés and diners along the main street as you enter Chimney Rock.

We parked and decided to hit the main attraction, the Chimney Rock, first. This is an easy hike for adults and children, and there is even an elevator that goes up inside of the rock for an even easier route or for someone with disabilities. (Even if you don’t ride the elevator to the top, it is still fun for the kids to walk inside the cave that leads to it, so make sure you pop in!) As you step out onto the rock, you will be in awe as you gaze upon the mountains around you and Lake Lure below. This is a great photo spot and the entire rock is surrounded by a fence, so you feel safe even if you have little ones with you.

From here, we decided to hike up to Exclamation Point. This includes a lot of steps! Even with my 90-year-old knees, I was able to climb to the top and was not disappointed in the view. The children (almost five and seven years old) made it up easily as well. Along the way, you can stop at the Opera Box for photos, which was a really cool spot.

During all this, you are still around the main attraction, “the rock,” so it is easy to grab an ice cream cone or a few souvenirs. We did not buy our souvenirs at this point, which was a mistake. We told the kids they could each get a little toy, magnet, or t-shirt and had intended on stopping back by at the end of our day. When we finished, we did not want to go back up to the top of the rock, so we figured we could get some cute souvenirs on the main street below. Wrong. All the shops down there were fairly junky. A few had some unique items, but overall we liked the items sold on the rock the best.

At this same location by “the rock,” you can choose to do some rock climbing with a guide, which could be really fun! There is also an old mine, which was cold, creepy, and awesome all at the same time.

After this, we decided to hike the .75 mile trail to Hickory Nut Falls. The trail felt a little long after already having our hike to Exclamation Point, but don’t give up! It is well worth the hike. Once we arrived at the base of the 404 foot Hickory Nut Falls, we were in for a great surprise! The kids were able to climb on the rocks and enjoy the cool refreshing waterfall! We hung out here for at least thirty minutes while the children played in the water. The entire area was just breathtaking. As always, photos do not do it justice.

After the falls, we walked back to our car. We then drove down to the bottom of the mountain, where the Great Woodland Adventure begins. Shortly after we got out of the car, the skies started to turn black and we decided we better cut our exploring off here instead of getting caught in the rain. But, I took the following description of this area from the Chimney Rock website so you know what all it includes: “Woodland critters take the spotlight at 12 discovery stations along this easy .6-mile winding trail. Grady the Groundhog, the Park’s mascot, illustrates how his forest friends live, including chipmunks, frogs, owls and butterflies. Try to jump as far as a spider, spot the salamanders or name the birds of prey soaring above. Larger-than-life whimsical sculptures bring the trail to life. The Park’s
32-foot climbing tower and Grady’s Discovery Den, home to live critters, are located next to the trailhead.”

After we exited the park, we headed indoors for a delicious treat at an ice cream shops along the main street. By then, we’d missed the rain and decided to head over to the shops. You could definitely spend a few hours popping in and out of the shops here as well!

Adjacent to Chimney Rock is Lake Lure, where Dirty Dancing was filmed. (Nobody puts Baby in a corner!) It is such a quaint area, with a playground, man made beach, and other attractions that you can visit if desired.

As I mentioned earlier, we stopped in Hickory on our way home for a relaxing dinner. It was a perfect Day Trip and a wonderful way to spend time with the family. Be sure to check out the Chimney Rock State Park website to get directions, hours, fees, and other detailed information you may need. On the website, you can also view some of the areas that my family did not get a chance to explore. I’ve included more photos from our trip below.

If you have been to Chimney Rock, we’d love to hear about your experience!  Please leave a comment with your tips! See other day trip ideas here.
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