After being on the road for roughly 5 hours from Lexington, KY to Asheville, NC, we were looking forward to stretching our legs. Chimney Rock State Park was recommended as a must-see hike in Asheville that could easily be accomplished in an hour or two. As we approached the gate entrance, we were told that the mountain elevator was closed and that the visitor entry would be $5.00 off. I didn’t realize that the mountain had an elevator but the park website states that it has been under construction since August of 2015 due to eletrical issues. It is unclear when the elevator will be reopened but I’ve always feared being trapped in an elevator or roller coaster so it was no trouble for me to take the stairs that day.
We followed the directed parking to an open field and hopped on a school bus to shuttle the remaining distance to the beginning of the stair climb. It was a bit of a bumpy ride on the narrow, winding road with only about 16 feet wide in two-way bus traffic. However, the view alone from the shuttle parking lot was incredible as we took a moment to breathe it in.
The hike to the top of Chimney Rock was a popular destination on a Saturday afternoon with people of all ages (including dogs) taking the stairs, some even in flip flops and slides. It is a manageable hike for those looking for a great view without getting lost on trails. However, there are quite a few steps to the flag pole, 499 steps one-way to be exact, so your heart rate will be pumping. It’s always a good idea to bring water or Gatorade along in the heat even if you have good physical fitness. The stairs were in good condition and we felt safe climbing the stairs while holding onto the railing. For two people who aren’t completely comfortable with heights, we appreciated their sturdiness.
When we had made it to the top of Chimney Rock at an elevation of 2,280 feet, I climbed out onto the rock with the American flag. Many people were sitting on the rock and it was overly crowded. The view was nice but I didn’t spend much time there. Most visitors turned around at this point and headed back down the stairs but Derek encouraged me to continue on to the highest point of the mountain along the Skyline trail to the Exclamation Point at 2,480 feet.
The Skyline trail began with an open-air tower structure similar to a water-park staircase. I felt a little anxious looking down on the expanse below in-between my steps and I realized that it was a good idea Derek had decided to stay at the flagpole level. At the top of the tower, the trail continued on with a much steeper incline. There were only a few people on the trail and I was surprised that was the case on such a busy day at the park. While some sections had a wire barrier, many areas of the path did not and I knew that would have been a problem for Derek. I hugged the inner side of the trail and made my way to the top for the remaining 300 steps one-way, taking brief stops at the Opera Box and Devil’s Head, rock overhangs with a cool breeze passing through.
The panoramic view of Lake Lure and the Blue Ridge Mountains was aboslutely stunning. It was quiet and cool from above and I looked down upon the flagpole overlook with a sneaky smile. That last climb to the Exclamation Point is most certainly worth it.
After a few photos from the top, I returned to Derek’s level to go back down the stairs. We took the Subway underpass on the way down that rejoins with the main staircase. It was fun to crawl through the crevice like we were explorers traversing the mountain.
While there are more trails available at Chimney Rock State Park, after our hike to the flagpole we were ready for a good meal. We went into town for one of Derek’s favorite hot-spots for lunch. So much to see in so little time! On to Asheville we go!
**Update: July 25, 2017 Local Construction Chimney Rock State Park “Chimney Rock receives several updates expected to be completed by Labor Day.”