We have five tips for visiting Chimney Rock State Park that will help you experience all the wonders it has to offer! As a fairly new (as of 2007) North Carolina State Park, Chimney Rock is a worthy bucket list item for anyone thanks to its spectacular beauty.
Why we love Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock offers incredible views of the North Carolina mountains without requiring too much effort (more on that later). Its a well-maintained park with clear paths and gated in areas that made us feel extra safe as parents of two young children.
Entrance fees are $17.00 for adults, $8.00 for youth, and kids four and under are FREE! Ticket prices become even more affordable when you purchase an annual pass and you’ll receive discounts at local restaurants as well as special offers to other NC icons like the Biltmore Estate.
Now that I’ve convinced you to visit, you’ll be needing a few pointers!
Tips for visiting Chimney Rock State Park
Leave time to explore Chimney Rock Village
As you approach the entrance to Chimney Rock State Park, you will pass through Chimney Rock Village, a quaint road lined with shops, restaurants, and activities. We loved exploring the village and checking out the local shops with souvenirs and cool trinkets.
We had lunch at Old Rock Café which we thought was delicious and in the back you’ll find the river with some great shallow access points to wade in.
Our boys loved throwing rocks into the river and looking at the fish after lunch. Some people even brought along beach toys and chairs and spent a few hours enjoying the river!
After lunch, we took the kids to Chimney Rock Gem Mine. They loved getting to dig and sift for gems of various sizes and colors and they still talk about their “treasure” from this outing!
Take the elevator…or the stairs if you’re feeling brave!
One of the coolest aspects of Chimney Rock is the elevator that will take you up 26 stories in about 30 seconds. This elevator brings you to a gift shop and outdoor space that has incredible views even without taking the final 40 stairs up to the top of the official “chimney.”
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can skip the elevator and climb the 500+ stairs up to this point for a great workout and wonderful payoff.
We love that the elevator gives visitors of all abilities the chance to access those views! It would have been really difficult for us to climb all those steps while carrying our kids. The elevator was heaven-sent!
You can grab a bite to eat at the top!
After riding the elevator all the way up, you’ll enter a gift shop that is also home to a deli. Here, you can purchase an ice cream cone, snacks, or a sandwich. The patio outside leads to Chimney Rock and the tables boast stunning views of Lake Lure. You can take a moment to relax, eat some yummy food, and take in the sights from up high.
Take a hike to one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi
As you drive up the road to the parking area for Chimney rock, you’ll pass a few lower parking areas and an entrance to Hickory Nut Falls, a famous waterfall that was featured in the iconic film “Last of the Mohicans.”
This hike is about 1.5 miles roundtrip and is doable for most hikers. It is unpaved (strollers and wheelchairs not recommended), has a few inclines, and uneven terrain, but is short and mostly even enough for novice hikers to enjoy themselves. Our four year old was able to hike the entire thing easily. Mom on the other hand… let’s just say I did have to take a couple breaks!
The waterfall is a glorious pay off and you’re able to walk right up to the base to feel the mist on your face, a most welcome refresher after a summer hike. It is truly a beautiful waterfall and worth taking an hour and a half out of your day to see!
As is the case with most State Parks, you’ll want to arrive early in order to find prime parking and avoid crowds. We arrived around 9:30am and were able to park close and only had to share the chimney with a few other families. We were also able to walk right on to the elevator, but the line can get as long as a 30+ minute wait!
As we were leaving the park, the parking was filling up quickly. You’ll definitely have a smoother experience the earlier you go to opening, but you will certainly have a wonderful time no matter when you show up!
We hope these five tips for visiting Chimney Rock State Park are helpful!
We truly are so lucky to have such a gorgeous, protected park in our state. We encourage everyone to take the trip out to Chimney Rock! If you’ve been before and have tips to share, please drop a comment!