New Chimney Rock trail restores access to falls

For decades, one of the primary attractions at Rutherford County’s Chimney Rock Park was the loop formed high atop the mountain ridge on the west flank of the Hickory Nut Gorge by the Cliffside Trail and the Skyline Trail.

This loop took hikers across perilously narrow rock ledges and over the flowing waters of Falls Creek, just above the precipitous 400-foot drop of Hickory Nut Falls. The dramatic scenery provided the backdrop for the climactic fight scene in the 1992 film, “Last of the Mohicans.”

The loop was also the scene of a tragedy, however, as a 9-year-old girl slipped around a barricade and fell to her death in August of 1994, and a 2-year-old boy plunged to his death off a cliff in May of 2008.

Shortly after the latter accident, which occurred soon after Chimney Rock was incorporated into the North Carolina State Parks system, the park decided to close the loop until a safer, more pedestrian-friendly route could be established.

Nearly 10 years have passed since that closure but earlier this autumn a new Skyline Trial was opened at the park – a trail which safely takes hikers to the park’s highest elevation, Peregrine’s Point, and to the upper cascades of Hickory Nut Falls.

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