Adventure Pet-Centric

Chimney Rock Park: Stairway to Bliss

Chimney Rock Park is named after a 535-million-year-old monolith rock in the Hickory Nut gorge. If you are planning to visit Asheville, Biltmore Estate, or the Blue Ridge Mountains, you must plan a visit to see Chimney Rock.

Although you can take an elevator up to a short staircase leading to the top of the Rock, it is much better to climb. My 499-step hike to see the dramatic mountain vistas multiplied to a 1,996-paw path for my Golden Retriever puppy in April. We climbed a series of staircases on the Chimney Rock Trail, stopping at different platforms to take photos and enjoy the views.

As it turns out, Chimney Rock Park is a favorite for residents as well as travelers who want to hike with their dogs. It offers every dog’s dream pursuits: hiking, splashing and jumping.

“In the foothills of Hickory Nut Gorge you’ll discover this North Carolina treasure, boasting a 404-foot waterfall and 75-mile views.”

Admission Price

Chimney Rock State Park charges $17 for a one-day ticket, $8-youth (age 5-15), and free (ages 4 and under). And dogs are also FREE!

But the best deal is to buy an annual pass if you visit at least twice in one year. The Annual Pass for Adults costs $32 and the Rockin’ Discovery Pass for youths (age 5-15) costs $14.

“For less than the cost of two-day tickets, you can come back and visit the Park as much as you want for a full year.”

The annual pass option also offers other benefits, such as discounts in the Park and the Old Rock Cafe, invitations to Annual Passholder events, and special offers from Biltmore, Dollywood, and Grandfather Mountain.

Park Entrance

Now from the second I turned into the entrance of Chimney Rock State Park, I could feel my excitement building. We had a long drive up the skinny mountain road to buy my ticket and then reach the parking lot.

Behind me, I could see Parker’s head pop up. Apparently, he was no longer asleep in the hatchback. He stood up to keep vigil as my Suburu CrossTrek took some crazy zigzag turns. The long drive up the mountain road made me queasy.

“Parker, I promised you will have hours to roam in the park, as soon as I park the car.”


Parking Lot

I don’t think I have ever parked anywhere where I saw such extraordinary mountain vistas from the ground level.

Chimney Rock State Park’s entrance features rocking chairs, benches, and stone walls.

So to misquote Joni Mitchell, while “they paved paradise, put up a parking lot,” the founders of Chimney Rock did have the vision to create a major tourist attraction for western North Carolina. So “ooh, bop-bop-bop-bop, ooh, bop-bop-bop-bop!”

After unlocking my trunk, I released Parker from his seatbelt. He bounded out of the hatchback. This puppy was ready to run. I grabbed my backpack, so I had a dog water dish and a bottle of water.

Elevator Access

If you are not able to climb the steep staircases, Chimney Rock State Park offers an elevator to the top. The original Otis elevator dates back to 1946 when the owners decided to invest in a conveyance that would transport guests from the parking lot to the Sky Lounge.

Elevator access

First, a 198-foot tunnel had to be dug in order to create a 258-foot elevator shaft. The interior was blasted with 18 tons of dynamite. After 18 months, the elevator opened to the public in May 1949. Sixty years later, the State of North Carolina began a renovation project in 2010. But there were still electrical issues so the elevator had to be closed down. In May 2018, the elevator reopened to the public.

Your pooch cannot ride the elevator. Only service animals are permitted.

“Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed in the elevator because it leads to a food service area (state health law).”

Chimney Rock State Park
No dogs permitted on the elevator

Chimney Rock

Parker and I were eager to hit the trails, so I didn’t let him take a rest on the bench near the parking lot. We immediately headed past the gift shop to start our climb.

Hikers can choose from eight trails at Chimney Rock State Park. Our goal was to reach Chimney Rock then continue onto Exclamation Point Trail. Here is a video of Parker beginning the long walk up the steep staircase. At the ground level, we passed groves of trees. The river snaked along. It was a straight shot forward until the staircase turned left around the side of the mountain, then turned right. Progress was slow because I constantly wanted to stop and look at the mountain views.

Mountain and river views during the climb to Chimney Rock

Vista Rock

I really appreciated that we could stop at different decks to admire the views without impeding the hikers behind us.

One of our first stops was Vista Rock. A sign reminded visitors: “DO NOT THROW ROCKS! There are people below.” We had already climbed so high that the cars and trucks in the parking lot resembled Matchbox toy cars.

The sides of the mountains resemble organic sculpture. I could see tufts of moss, grass, weeds and skinny tree stalks growing out of the face of the mountain.

Pulpit Rock

Over the next 30 minutes, we had to zig zag up staircases and paths to reach the top. I made Parker stop at Pulpit Rock so I could take his photograph. I could easily see how you could spend an entire day at the park. There is so much to see.

Mostly, we wanted to catch our breath as we had a daunting staircase ahead to climb. I felt like I might touch the pale blue sky when I reached the top.

What awaited us at this landing were closeup views of the river, mountain tops, and acres of green vegetation.

Chimney Rock Plaque

While I was busy catching my breath and gazing in awe at the views around me, Parker had his nose to the ground. He wanted to sniff the rock floor and roll around. Then he discovered the metal tablet embedded in the rock.

The plaque commemorates the Morse brothers who operated the Chimney Rock Company. Dr. Lucius Morse and his two brothers purchased 64 acres, including Chimney Rock, from J. B. Freeman on December 12, 1902. The Morse brothers subsequently purchased other lands in the area.

For nearly seven decades, the Morse brothers ran the Chimney Rock Company. They built a restaurant and entertainment facility. In 2007, the State of North Carolina purchased the property from the Morse family. It is now a state park.

” . . . three brothers whose vision and faith developed Chimney Rock and made the beauty of its area accessible to all future generations.”

Exclamation Point

After we explored this area, we decided to walk the last stretch up to Exclamation Point (at 2,480 feet). A sign read “Devil’s Head (right-pointing arrow) and Exclamation Point (left-pointing arrow). We took the path on the left.

Instead of a wooden staircase, there were logs built into the ground. I definitely had to watch my step because I kept tripping on the uneven path.

During this last stage of our climb, we were both fairly exhausted. Parker pretty much had to drag me up the last staircase. Then we reached a rock ledge that we had to scale. I took a lot of small steps. My reward was a 360-degree view of more than a dozen mountains.

There is a large sign on the deck that lists the names as well as the heights of these mountains.

Map of mountain ranges seen from Exclamation Point

If you don’t want to continue on the Skyline Hike, this is a great place to stop and sit on a bench.

” . . . guests can see more than 75 miles across Lake Lure, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Carolina Piedmont.”

I decided to ask a fellow hiker if she would take a photo of Parker and me. It was a windy day, so it was hard to keep my long hair off my face. Parker, on the other hand, looked quite stoic!

Skyline Hike

Now I do recommend continuing the adventure by hiking along Skyline Trail. This is your chance to get back into the woods. Although you won’t be alone, you do get more time to commune with nature.

“This out-and-back trail is approximately 2.2 miles roundtrip and takes 2-2.5 hours to complete.”

Parker and I followed the trail which began with a lot of switchbacks. As we left the ridge at Exclamation Point, we began climbing further up the mountain. We were following the ridge. Working our way toward Peregrine’s Point, we had gorgeous views of Hickory Nut Gorge.

Our plan had been to hike to the Hickory Nut Waterfalls, which is featured in The Last of the Mohicans film. But I decided to turn around out after I reached Falls Creek. I didn’t want to walk all the way back down to the parking lot in wet shoes. But I definitely could hear the falling water as Parker and I walked toward it.

Afterward, I learned that I should have taken the shorter and less strenuous Hickory Nut Falls trail. It ends at the base of the Falls.

On our loop back from Falls Creek, Parker and I stopped at Peregrine’s Point. The elevation is 2,640 feet. I am not sure who named this overlook. Certainly, I felt like a peregrine falcon perched in a tree, surveying the vast wild country below me. But peregrine is also an adjective that means “wandering, traveling or migrating.”

Chimney Park State Park is a wonder to wander.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees.”

John Muir

Chimney Rock Village

Chimney Rock State Park is located less than an hour’s drive from Asheville. You take I-240 East to Exit 9 (toward Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 74A East), then stay on Highway 74A for 20 miles. At the base of the park sits Chimney Rock Village. The main street features restaurants and shops.

An apt slogan for the little village at the bottom of the gorge is “Deep Roots, Lofty History.” Although the town wasn’t settled until the early 1800s, this region was a thoroughfare for explorers, according to

“According to documents from the Madrid library, Hernando de Soto led his conquistadors through Hickory Nut Gorge on the way to the Mississippi River.”

Parker and I walked along the main street to look in store windows and say hello to other dogs. The village is a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner after your hike.

The Old Rock Cafe is rated the #1 restaurant by Trip Advisor readers. I was impressed that the cafe even serves dog biscuits.

You might also take a walk down the Rocky Broad Riverwalk, which runs parallel to Main Street in Chimney Rock Village. It’s a great place to walk your dog, because there are lots of boulders and rock outcroppings to sniff.

Aerial view of Chimney Rock Village

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  • Stephanie
    May 21, 2022 at 10:32 am

    WOW! What a fabulous hike with awesome views! I’m definitely going to have to remember this for when I visit. I also love the sign with all the mountain points, it makes the views that much more memorable!

    • Terri
      May 21, 2022 at 11:21 am

      I really felt like Parker and I were on the top of the world. It was fun to take photos of him at the different overlooks. And the names of the stops were so cool – like Exclamation Point.

  • Amy
    May 21, 2022 at 10:44 am

    What a extraordinary feat to install an elevator! I bet Parker would have enjoyed the ride.

    • Terri
      May 21, 2022 at 11:21 am

      I agree. I was amazed that they could tunnel out the mountain to create this OTIS elevator in the 1940s. What a feat! Parker was not allowed on the elevator. Only service pets can join their owner on the elevator so I didn’t get to experience it.

  • Sara Essop
    May 21, 2022 at 11:23 am

    What an unusual looking rock! I’d love to go to the top and explore the rest of the area too!

    • Terri
      May 21, 2022 at 4:32 pm

      I definitely will go back to climb Chimney Rock in the future and try some of the other trails. I hope you get to visit.

      • Tish
        May 22, 2022 at 7:42 am

        Chimney Rock looks amazing!
        I am fascinated by the elevator
        what an interesting and beautiful site to see
        Sometime will visit

        • Terri
          May 22, 2022 at 10:41 am

          You would love the views! The elevator is a great convenience for people who can’t climb the 500-step staircases up to Chimney Rock overlook.

  • simplyjolayne
    May 21, 2022 at 11:25 am

    I love the idea of an annual pass. It inspires you to get out and enjoy a beautiful place close to home. We always get a National Park pass and find ourselves in RMNP quite often all year long.

    • Terri
      May 21, 2022 at 4:31 pm

      I am a big fans of passes. I have the National Park Service annual pass. This saves me so much $ when I visit Great Falls National Park in Virginia.

      • Alanna
        May 21, 2022 at 9:19 pm

        What a beautiful hike! It’s been on my list for awhile actually so I appreciate the details and logistics!

        • Terri
          May 22, 2022 at 6:21 am

          I didn’t do this hike on my first visit to Asheville either. I am so glad that I visited in April.

  • Alma
    May 21, 2022 at 11:34 am

    Parker is gorgeous and I am sure he loves your adventures. Chimney rock is a fascinating shape and a great area to hike in.

    • Terri
      May 21, 2022 at 4:30 pm

      I was so glad that I drove up to a Chimney Rock Park. It is definitely worth the visit. Parker loved it.

  • Bejal
    May 21, 2022 at 11:39 am

    Ahh Parker is the cutest buddy and I really enjoyed reading about this hike. On my list for the future as always you’ve convinced me to visit!

    • Terri
      May 21, 2022 at 4:29 pm

      You need to visit Western North Carolina s as me discover all its little mountain towns! And you’ll meet lots of cute dogs.

  • Wendy
    May 21, 2022 at 12:53 pm

    The hike to Chimney Rock looks challenging, but I’m sure the views make it all worth while. Love the photos of your puppy along the way!

    • Terri
      May 21, 2022 at 4:28 pm

      Thank you! Parker definitely charmed everyone who met him on the trail. We hiked for several hours but it was definitely worth it.

  • Anita
    May 21, 2022 at 2:47 pm

    Chimney Rock Park looks like an awesome place to explore. I love to see sights from above! Thanks for the detailed information and nice pictures!

    • Terri
      May 21, 2022 at 4:27 pm

      If you can’t climb a skyscraper to see aerial views, then a mountain is a great option. I love the quilt of land, hills and water below.

  • Megan Hamilton
    May 21, 2022 at 5:16 pm

    What a beautiful hike! Thanks for showing me, I need to remember the beautiful places that aren’t so far from home. And I want to hug the puppy. 😀

    • Terri
      May 21, 2022 at 7:28 pm

      Well my puppy loves to hug people! I really hope you get to explore Chimney Rock. It is a great state park.

  • Hannah
    May 21, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    We have a Chimney Rock Trail in California too that overlooks the ocean but it’s definitely not as strenuous as this….Parker is so cute! How old is he?! I wish I could take my dogs out hiking but they are not good, lol!

    • Terri
      May 21, 2022 at 7:29 pm

      Parker just turned 1 year old on May 5. But I have been taking him on hikes in the Washington DC area since he was 3 months old. He is such a great walker.

  • Sharyn
    May 21, 2022 at 6:21 pm

    What a fabulous hike. I love that it has an elevator – it seems well hidden. And the view looks spectacular! Well worth the climb.

    • Terri
      May 21, 2022 at 7:30 pm

      I think it is so cool that the previous owners built this elevator in the 1940a so everybody can get to top to see the view!

  • Brittany
    May 21, 2022 at 8:33 pm

    Wow, Chimney Rock looks so beautiful! I love all the scenic viewpoints you can check out here. Parker looks like he had a great time! Tell him “woof” from Sedona 🙂

    • Terri
      May 22, 2022 at 6:22 am

      This is an amazing NC state park. Parker had a blast.

  • Jenn | By Land and Sea
    May 21, 2022 at 9:48 pm

    I was totally not expecting such a cool place! I would love to come out for some hiking sometime. And I love that it is so dog friendly! You have a beautiful pup!

    • Terri
      May 22, 2022 at 6:20 am

      Thank you Jen! Parker say “Woof Frend.” Western NC is an amazing place to hike.

  • Shannon
    May 21, 2022 at 10:30 pm

    This hike looks awesome! Chimney rock is on my list for next time I’m in the Asheville area.

    • Terri
      May 22, 2022 at 6:19 am

      I think you will really enjoy it. The views are incredible. And you will love Asheville.

  • Nikki
    May 22, 2022 at 12:02 am

    499 steps sounds intense! The views look like it’s worth it though! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Terri
      May 22, 2022 at 6:19 am

      It is definitely worth the long climb up multiple staircases!

  • Sinjana
    May 22, 2022 at 5:12 am

    What a fascinating geological Marvel!

    • Terri
      May 22, 2022 at 6:18 am

      I agree!

  • A Capone Connection
    May 22, 2022 at 1:38 pm

    I saw the first picture and thought… I HAVE to go there, where is this?! I recently moved to Georgia so traveling to the surrounding areas has been a priority for me. Ashville is on my list Thank you for sharing this. Hoping to get here this year!

    • Terri
      May 22, 2022 at 6:08 pm

      Asheville is a weekend getaway if you moved to Atlanta. You are lucky. It is an 8 hour drive for me from Washington DC. I hope you get to visit soon.

  • KarlaTypes
    May 22, 2022 at 4:17 pm

    Looks like an amazing hike! Love seeing the pup in the pictures!

    • Terri
      May 22, 2022 at 6:08 pm

      It was a delightful hike with Parker. Thanks for the compliment about my sweet pup. Woof!

  • Sarah
    May 22, 2022 at 6:52 pm

    This is so awesome Terri! Stunning photos and views – I had no idea something like this existed! I love that they have an elevator but I’m with you – the climb is so worth it! Parker looks like he enjoyed himself!

    • Terri
      May 23, 2022 at 6:14 am

      Thank you Sarah! This is such a fun place to explore. You can see for 75 miles at Exclamation Point. My photos don’t do justice to the vistas! Parker definitely enjoyed himself.

  • Chantelle
    May 22, 2022 at 8:56 pm

    What an awesome hike! Parker did so well going up all of those stairs! I hadn’t heard of Chimeny Rock before, so it was really fun to read about!

    • Terri
      May 23, 2022 at 6:12 am

      It was a blast! I just loved watching Parker “raise the flag” (his tail) as he led me up the long sets of staircases. Thanks for reading the post.

  • Pam
    May 23, 2022 at 9:55 am

    Chimney Rock looks awesome! I love that there are 8 hikes so you can visit a few times and have new experiences each time. The views are breathtaking.

    • Terri
      May 28, 2022 at 2:48 pm

      I agree. You could visit multiple times and do different hikes on each visit.