Lately we’ve been recommending some day trips, that are easy to take from our Bed & Breakfast in Asheville. I have to say - these little adventures we have been going on have been pretty cool and lots of fun. Our latest expedition took us south of Asheville to Hickory Nut Gorge area, Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. Many of our guests ask about these destinations so we ventured down to check them out again. It has been some time since we were in that area and it appears that not a lot has changed. The view from Chimney Rock is still awesome and the town and the lake perhaps a little more touristy. If you are visiting just for a weekend, this is probably not a side trip we would recommend — since there is just so much to see and do in and around Asheville. If however, you are planning on staying longer, or if your trip into or out of Asheville can take you that way, then it is great way to spend the day or a long afternoon.
Lake Lure is nestled in the heart of the Hickory Nut Gorge and is fed by the Rocky Broad River that makes its way down a series of rapids through the Gorge. Lake Lure is a town in Rutherford County. As of 2009, the population was 1007 – down 5 folks since 2008. Lake Lure was incorporated in 1927 and acquired its namesake lake in 1965. The town and lake make up all of 15 square miles and boasts a new marina and a beach front. You can rent just about every type of water craft at the marina or take an hour guided tour around the Lake. The guide lets you in on all the secrets of the lake including an underwater city and the scoop on filming of the Dirty Dancing movie. It is a picturesque lake and was designate one of the “top ten man made lakes” by National Geographic. We hit the beach and swam in the lake for a short bit before dark clouds and lightening swept in forcing us to change plans – much to the chagrin of our little tourist who was having fun on the two water slides. We took a drive around the lake and ended up at “Larkin’s on the Lake,” situated as it name implies right on the water. We sat outside under the awning, sipped on drinks, ate a bite and watched the storm roll in and eventually over us. As the sun began to reappear, we ventured back out and headed back toward the beach and toward Chimney Rock about 2 miles away.
Once you turn into Chimney Rock State Park you drive along a narrow road, up and up, paying at the gate approximately half way up and then arriving at the Welcome Center, further up and approximately 3 miles from turning in. Out of your car, you face a difficult decision: whether to venture up to the towering 315-foot monolith located on the very edge of a mountain, perched above the Hickory Nut Gorge at 2280 feet, by your own two feet by trail OR take a leisurely 30 second ride up an elevator to the Old Rock Café and entrance to breathtaking views. Built within the mountain is a 198 foot tunnel which cuts into the mountain to a 26 story elevator, which was constructed in 1949 (using 18 tons of dynamite).
Whatever your choice, you arrive at the top of the “Rock” where the gorge unfolds around you with a view that extends 75 miles with Lake Lure directly below. I must confess that we took the elevator, but mainly because of the time we had and that we were tugging a 7 year old along with us. The view was spectacular, but should come with a word of caution. If you have any fear of heights, you may have some difficulty crossing the bridge and then walking up the stairs to the actual “rock”. It is well fenced and safe, but it could make anyone a bit nervous. Our son was a little hesitant, but we all made it out onto the rock and it was well worth it. Even though the focal point of the park is the “rock” there are many hiking trails and an amazing 404 foot waterfall. The Park holds special events throughout the season so check before launching your own expedition at http://www.chimneyrockpark.com/index.php
The trails are surrounded by oak, hickory, maple, beech, poplar, locust and basswood harbor trees. The plant life includes rare and endangered wildflowers as well as native Solomon’s-Seal and Jack-in-the-pulpit. An easy ¾ mile trek that leads to the aforementioned waterfall: Hickory Nut Falls. If you have ever seen the movie, “The Last of the Mohicans” you are sure to remember the climatic fight scene at the end of the movie. This scene was filmed at the top of Hickory Nut falls. It’s an easy walk and well worth experiencing. Admission to the park is a little steep at $15 per adult, but if you are planning a day of it, you will get your money’s worth. You can eat at the café or take a picnic along. Enjoy! For more information about accomodations or local attractions, please call Pinecrest Inn, a premiere Asheville Bed and Breakfast at 888-811-3053.