Chimney Rock State Park offers stunning beauty, impressive vistas

Press Staff Writer

        It’s amazing sometimes how something can be so beautiful that it overwhelms and overshadows something just beyond that’s just as beautiful.
        There’s such a place in the shadow on Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From the first time I watched the movie, “Last of the Mohicans,” I was taken by the beauty of the settings chosen for filming. Deep forests, beautiful streams and waterfalls, abundant wildlife, and impressive vistas from high ridges were an intrinsic part of the movie’s appeal.
        Later, while working on a project with someone who had been on the camera crew for that movie, I heard stores of just how challenging the filming was. Many of the key scenes were done high on a cliff creating the need for some amazing adaptations to dangle camera crews off cliffs and around waterfalls.
        I had to see the location for myself. And so can you.
        That focal point of the movie’s beauty was Chimney Rock State Park, located about 25 miles southeast of Asheville, North Carolina. Its parking area is just four miles from the town of Lake Lure, part-way up the wall of Hickory Nut Gorge. Lake Lure itself is rooted forever in the annals of movie history. The famous scenes from “Dirty Dancing” with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey were filmed there.
        That four-mile drive is just the first step to reach the top of Hickory Nut Gorge. It’s still a steep hike or an elevator ride to get to the top – the equivalent of 26 stories to the Sky Lounge. That’s all wheelchair accessible, but the final series of steps to the top of Chimney Rock are not. Still the beauty from the top is astounding, even more fulfilling if you walk any one of a variety of trails.
        If you’ve seen “Last of the Mohicans,” it will all look hauntingly familiar. Lake Lure glimmers in the distance. The ridge that supports Chimney Rock is paralleled in the distance by another ridge of equal height and beauty. Each rises out of dense hardwood forests. Nestled between them at the narrow base of each ridge is the town of Chimney Rock and the Rocky Broad River. At the top of each ridge is a mix of forest and open rock face that adds to the wonderfully beautiful mountain setting.
        “Mohicans” fight scene finale was at the top of 440-foot Hickory Falls. Magua and Uncas fought at Nature’s Showerbath; Hawkeye and Cora shared a romantic moment at Inspiration Point. Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas ran up the steep slope at Groundhog Slide in pursuit of Magua. The Huron Village was shot on the opposite ridge with Hickory Nut Falls in the background. It was a film rich in both substance and imagery.
        The view from the top can be as much as 75 miles. It’s spectacular, as is Hickory Falls, which is best viewed at its base.
        The journey is about nine hours by car to Chimney Rock, most of it on I-75S. There are many great sights to enjoy in the vicinity, including a large number of waterfalls, scenic drives and walking trails, wonderful accommodations and dining. It’s a great birding area as well, with viewing of the fall hawk migration a particularly popular time.
        For more information, visit


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