Chimney Rock announces 2018 Naturalist Niche Series

From Staff Reports
Black Mountain News USA TODAY NETWORK
The Spring Wildflowers walk is a great way to explore some of Chimney Rock State Park's more moderate hiking options while learning about its colorful spring flowers.

Spectacular views, amazing trails and sightings of unique flora and fauna are part of Chimney Rock State Park’s upcoming Naturalist Niche hikes.

Registered participants can explore the park’s plants, wildlife, birds, geology and other natural wonders as part of the once-monthly, guided hike series that runs through December. To register for an upcoming hike, visit

This year’s series features several hiker favorites like the Ridge Hike, which takes participants off-the-beaten-path to parts of the Park seldom explored. Another returning hike, The Old Growth Forest Frolic, allows hikers to explore a part of the Park that features native plants and trees more than 200 years old. Both of these hikes have been set in different seasons this year, so that former participants will have a new experience. Two new hikes have been added to the 2018 series.

The Ecology of Chimney Rock hike explores the flora and fauna that make Chimney Rock and the Hickory Nut Gorge so unique

 “The Ecology of Chimney Rock and Fall Creek Exploration are both new to the series,” said groups and education manager Emily Walker. “These two topics were suggested by the naturalist that is leading these hikes, Clint Calhoun, as subjects of interest he recalls from years when he worked in the park full-time.”

Fifteen spots are available for each Naturalist Niche Hike. Cost for each hike includes admission and is $23 per adult, $8 per Annual Passholder, $13 per youth (ages 5-15) and $6 per Rockin’ Discovery Passholder. Advance registration is required.

Other Chimney Rock Naturalist Niche hikes include:

Ridge Hike (moderately-strenuous): Saturday, March 24; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. A guided hike off-the-beaten-path can lead you to places you never knew existed. Join the park for this early spring venture on one of its most popular excursions. 

Spring Wildflowers (moderate): Saturday, April 14; 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. This walk is a great way to explore some of the park's more moderate hiking options while learning about its colorful spring flowers.  Along the way, hikers will also touch on other local flora and fauna. They will descend the Four Seasons Trail from the top lot, but they won’t have to hike back up - transportation will be provided.

Spring Migration Bird Walk (easy to moderate): Saturday, May 5; 9 a.m.-noon. Dozens of species migrate through the area every spring as they head north. Join the park to see and hear many different species. Don’t forget your binoculars.

Fall Creek Exploration (strenuous): Saturday, June 2; 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Hickory Nut Falls is one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. A common question the park gets is, “where does the water come from?” This hike offers the rare opportunity to explore the origination of the feeder creek, Fall Creek, and follow it as it leads to the upper cascades of this beautiful waterfall.

Old Growth Forest Frolic (moderate): Saturday, July 14; 9 a.m.-noon. Old-growth stands can be found in rare pockets throughout the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, including Chimney Rock State Park. This moderate hike rambles through an area typically not open to the public in order to introduce participants to characteristics of old growth forests and native trees.

Top of the Mountain Trek (moderate to strenuous): Saturday, Aug. 11; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. This naturalist-led hike explores the top of Chimney Rock Mountain, a much different world than in the main portion of the park. Learn about the fascinating history of this area and more about the wildlife that can be found utilizing this unique habitat.

Fall Migration Bird Walk (moderate): Saturday, Sept. 15; 7:30-10 a.m. This special bird walk was designed to start before the park opens to ensure participants get the best chance to encounter a variety of birds. Its happening during fall migration also enhances the number of species expected to be in the area. The hike is the prelude to the park's 10th Annual Flock to the Rock event, which starts at 11 a.m.

Nature at Night (easy to moderate): Saturday, Oct. 20; 7:30-9:30 p.m. After the sun goes down, the fun begins! From hoots to howls, you never know what you’ll hear or see during one of the park's nighttime naturalist programs. The guided night hike and owl prowl will keep the entire family intrigued during this non-scary fall adventure. Fun activities for the entire family.

Ecology of Chimney Rock (moderate): Saturday, Nov. 24; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The park is known for its amazing views, but some of its most incredible aspects are often overlooked. Local naturalist Clint Calhoun has spent decades researching and studying what makes the ecology of Chimney Rock State Park and Hickory Nut Gorge unique. Join him to learn so much more about what makes the area so special.

Winter Tree ID (moderate): Saturday, Dec. 29; 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. It’s no surprise that recognizing trees without their leaves can be tricky. Bark, twigs and buds are your best tools. Join naturalist and author Ron Lance to demystify the art of knowing trees, no matter the season.