April 12, 2012 UPDATE
the Outcroppings Trail on Saturday, April 14, 2012. The rebuilt trail offers new stunning views of the Park, increased capacity and improved comfort with more places to rest. The reopening of the Outcroppings trail, which leads from the upper parking lot to the Chimney stairs, permanently restores hiking access to the Chimney, the Opera Box, Devil’s Head and Skyline trail to Exclamation Point, the highest point in the Park. The modernized elevator and Sky Lounge Gift Shop & Deli are expected to reopen sometime later this spring. Discounted admission rates as of April 14 will be $12/adult, $5/youth (ages 6-15) and free for kids under 6.
Upgrading the Outcroppings trail preserves access to the Park’s iconic centerpiece for generations while improving the guest experience. Landings are placed every 12 vertical feet of climb to facilitate rest stops, and the new six-foot-wide stairways, which increase capacity, have a gentler incline to make it physically easier for guests to hike to the Chimney.
A Construction Marvel
Four helicopter airlift missions were conducted to transport tens of thousands of pounds of steel, wood, construction materials and equipment to the trail construction site. The airlifts saved an estimated 6-8 weeks of construction time on the project, which began in December 2011. Dangling from a 250-foot rope attached to the helicopter, large steel columns were carefully threaded between large trees and lowered into new concrete footings with a precision down to inches. The ex-military pilot of Pirate Airlift from Atlanta stated this project was the “most challenging job in 21 years of business.”
Renovation of the Park restrooms make them wheelchair accessible. New sustainable fixtures include waterless urinals, low-flow toilets, low-flow faucets with automatic shutoff and automated hand dryers. New sinks and partitions also have been installed. The elaborate interior paintings by Park muralist Clive Haynes will be preserved.
Chimney Rock Final Master Plan Q&A
1. When will the Master Plan and its proposed changes be implemented?
The Master Plan is presented as a 100-year vision, 25-year master plan and 5-year action plan. There is no clearly established timeline for the proposed changes and new facilities and trails in the Master Plan. The plan is fluid, organic and subject to budgets, funding and many other factors.
2. Will the Skyline trail from Exclamation Point to the top of Hickory Nut Falls be reopened?
Yes, we are thrilled that our guests will again be able to see out to the top of the Falls! But it will differ from the original trail, which is not sustainable. A new alignment for the Skyline trail will be established from Exclamation Point along the top of Chimney Rock Mountain. The proposed trail will be constructed inside the existing tree line and not on the cliff faces. However, observation platforms will be constructed to provide views of the top of Hickory Nut Falls, Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure.
3. Will the Cliff trail, as originally constructed, be reopened?
No, but the Cliff trail could be opened in the future in cooperation with a contractor who guides adventure tours, such as a via ferrata.
4. Will other features around the Chimney, including Pulpit Rock, the Subway, the Grotto and Needles Eye, be reopened?
Pulpit Rock, the Subway, and the Grotto will be reopened as trail destinations after structural improvements are made to the boardwalk and trails. The Needles Eye does not fit state requirements and has been assessed as unsustainable, so it will remain closed.
5. Will there be new hiking trails added to Chimney Rock State Park?
In addition to restoring access to the trails and features that you know as Chimney Rock, a 15-mile, multi-day trail will be constructed along the perimeter of Chimney Rock Mountain, connecting Hickory Nut Falls, the Orchards, the ridges of Sugarloaf Mountain, World’s Edge, and Cane Creek Mountain, the Bottomless Pools and the Meadows.
For more about the Park, see our Chimney Rock Park Guide.