Lake Lure and Chimney Rock State Park, Hickory Nut Gorge

Sometimes your hiking plans just don’t work out. That happened when our plans were kiboshed by a closed and padlocked gate. They say when the world gives you lemons, go take photographs, or something like that. There isn’t much more beautiful in Spring than Lake Lure and Chimney Rock State Park. Morse Park on Lake Lure features beautiful vistas of the mountains of Hickory Nut Gorge and is a popular choice for an impromptu picnic, sunbathing, reading, bird watching or catching an afternoon nap in a lawn chair by the lake. Only minutes from Lake Lure, Chimney Rock offers the best of the mountains in one place – spectacular 75-mile views, hiking trails for all ages, a 404-foot waterfall, a variety of events and more. We brought Grace the Wonder Dawg along for a stroll through both on Friday, April 17, 2015.

How to Get There: Lake Lure and Chimney Rock are approximate 20 miles from Asheville, NC on Hwy 64/74A. From South Carolina follow Hwy 108 East to the intersection of 108 and Hwy 9. Turn left onto Hwy 9 North. Go 14 miles to the stop sign (Lake Lure will be in front of you). Turn left at the stop sign onto Highway 64/74A West. Go 4 miles and the Park entrance will be on the left.


Morse Park is a 23-acre community property in the center of town at the western end of Lake Lure. The park is conveniently located next to the Municipal Center and Washburn Marina… and it’s open year round. Morse Park consists of four distinct areas, the meadow, the gardens, the wetlands, and the riverside. Walkways with finely crushed gravel traverse the park making a fine trail for walkers, joggers, families out for an afternoon picnic, or disappointed hikers like us searching for photo spots. The southern tip of the park looks out on the community beach and the Lake Lure Inn.

Chimney Rock State Park is part of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. There is a fee to enter Chimney Rock, but if you purchase an annual pass you lessen the expense on just your third visit. Chimney Rock is home to Hickory Nut Falls, at 404-feet in height, a prominent landmark. The waterfall has been cast in Hollywood movies. Chimney Rock itself is a towering 315-foot granite monolith that stands tall above the village far below, and offers magnificent views of Lake Lure and the North Carolina Piedmont. You can climb beyond the Chimney to Exclamation Point with its panoramic views to the north up Hickory Nut Gorge.

Spring is an outstanding time to visit Lake Lure and Chimney Rock State Park. The wildflowers are abundant, the forest is popping with bright new greenery, flowering dogwood and silver bells, and the cool mountain air is refreshing when it tickles your lungs. I promise I don’t work for the Chamber of Commerce. I simply love spending time in Hickory Nut Gorge and know you will too.



Updated November 5, 2015


Fall is also a great time for a visit to Hickory Nut Gorge. The prime colors of the forest tend to arrive later than most of Western North Carolina because of the relatively low elevation. Plan your visit for the first or second week of November to enjoy the best leaf peeping. The villages are quieter too. Expect fewer visitors.

On this day I passed through Chimney Rock Village, did a walk around the loop at Morse Park in the community of Lake Lure, then drove up the mountain to stand beneath the fantastic power of Hickory Nut Falls. As you will see in the gallery below, there was a very low lying cloud cover hanging over the gorge.



Update: August 17, 2018



This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.


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  1. Tim Truemper

    Nice to see a detailed post of the area. Was glad the state took over the property but a bit down on the fact they kept a high price tag on entry. Plus, when I went a couple of years ago, they had closed off a good bit of the park for some (much needed) renovation. I plan to go back but with the price, will have to be an all day trip when its not busy to make the cost worthwhile. I have been there two other times back in the early 90’s and was fascinated by the incredible geology of the mountain. Perhaps I should check out the master plan of the area so as to go at a really good time. BTW, liked the post on the local park on the lake as well. Looks like a gem!

    • Tim, you can purchase an annual pass for less than what two visits to the park would cost. So from your third visit on it’s free. Good for 365 days from date of purchase. If you’re a long way away, it obviously becomes more difficult though.

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