Marla Steinfeld, from Joplin, Missouri, knew she wanted to visit Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park as soon as she saw a photo of the Park’s 404-foot waterfal - Hickory Nut Falls - on Pinterest.
During her recent visit to the park, Steinfeld was overjoyed to learn that the park’s new Skyline Trail would take her to the top of the waterfall.
“I was so glad to hear about the new trail to the top,” she said. “The hike out here was beautiful. I loved crossing over the creek and seeing the cascades roll over the rocks at the top of the waterfall. I’ll never forget it.”
The new trail, officially opened Sept. 22, can be accessed only by climbing more than 800 steps to the Skyline trailhead, located at Exclamation Point.
The trail is named after the park’s old Skyline Trail which led guests across the upper cliff face to the top of the Park’s waterfall. Concern about upgrading and maintaining the many walkways, railings and bridges along the former trail led to its closure in 2008.
N.C. State Parks, Chimney Rock Management, LLC, and the Friends of Chimney Rock State Park have worked together to bring back the upper trail in a more sustainable way.
“In 2015, it was determined that a new 1.1-mile trail would be built that would not require any structures or boardwalks,” said Chimney Rock State Park superintendent James Ledgerwood. “The new Skyline Trail travels along a higher route on the mountain, which provides for sustainable natural resource protection and excellent views of Hickory Nut Gorge.”
Burke County hikers Jill and Thomas Avery recently enjoyed the new trail, which cuts through rich forest.
“It’s like hiking inside of a fairy tale,” Jill said. “The whole trail is lined with these amazing trees, and there’s areas that just take your breath away.”
At Peregrine’s Point, an overlook halfway along the trail, hikers can enjoy a picnic and the amazing views of Exclamation Point and Lake Lure.
From there, park visitors can journey to the end of the trail where cascades tumble over the mountainside to form 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls. Stunning views of the cascades and Hickory Nut Gorge make this the perfect finish for the trail.
Where visitors can go for more hiking is "one of the most frequently asked questions we get from our guests,” said Mary Jaeger-Gale, the general manager of the Chimney Rock section of the park. “In addition to the Rumbling Bald access area, the new Skyline Trail gives avid hikers another reason to come and spend more time in the gorge. Many of our guests remember the old trails and have been waiting for them to reopen.”
Hikers interested in exploring the new 2.2-mile-roundtrip Skyline Trail should wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water and snacks.
Since this is an extended hike, all hikers must start from the Skyline trailhead by 5 p.m. or by 4 p.m. during Daylight Savings Time. The deadlines will allow hikers ample time to explore and make it back to their cars before the park closes.