In 2005, the N.C. General Assembly authorized a new state park in the scenic Hickory Nut Gorge area of western Rutherford and the surrounding counties of Polk, Henderson and Buncombe. Later that year, the first tract of land to form the state park was purchased. Since then many more acres have been added. The most notable was the 2007 transfer of Chimney Rock Park, a private nature park surrounding the striking 315-foot spire on the gorge's southern side, into the expanding park.
The daily services offered to visitors of the Chimney Rock Access of the state park are provided by a private contract managed by the Division of Parks and Recreation. This section is open year round with the exception of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Entry fees offset the cost of operating this popular tourist destination.
Currently, Chimney Rock and the Rumbling Bald Climbing Access are the only public accesses within Chimney Rock State Park. However, the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation will eventually develop other areas of the state park with facilities and recreation traditionally enjoyed in our Western North Carolina state parks.
The greater Chimney Rock State Park currently encompasses roughly 5,700 acres on both the north and south sides of the gorge and expansion efforts continue to bring more of the gorge's rich natural resources into conservation.
Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park has been a tourist destination in western North Carolina since a simple stairway was built to the rock's summit in 1885. In 1902, Lucius B. Morse of Missouri bought the site. The Morse family developed park facilities including a tunnel and elevator to the rock summit, nature center and a network of hiking trails to geologic points of interest including the 404-foot-tall Hickory Nut Falls.
Please click here to link to the site of Chimney Rock (www.chimneyrockpark.com) to plan your exploration of one of North Carolina's most unusual natural wonders.
The park's master plan was recently completed. Please click the link on the left to view the master plan.