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If your family loves everything outdoors, you absolutely have to add Chimney Rock State Park to your destination list. Located right off Highway 74A in Western North Carolina, this 2,500 acre park is packed with adventures for the whole family to enjoy.
In addition to having some of the most kid friendly hikes in NC, there are multiple interactive learning activities, rock climbing, and much more nearby. Let’s dive right into all the juicy details about Chimney Rock State Park!
What To Pack And Wear
Chimney Rock State Park is open year round so what you wear is dependent on what time of year you are visiting. In the spring and summer months, wear light and loose clothes because you will definitely work up a sweat. In the fall and winter months, plan to have plenty of layers handy for the whole family.
Regardless of the time of year, make sure everyone in your party is wearing proper hiking shoes. I highly recommend KEEN’s Newport series for warmer months and the Targhee series for colder months. Also, be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen for everyone in your party because you will be in the sun fairly often.
If you have younger kids who can not walk, be sure to pack a baby carrier because the trails are not stroller friendly. In the event you don’t have a pack they are available for rent at Cliff Dwellers Gifts near the main parking lot.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, don’t forget to pack snacks. While the main trail is kid friendly because of the stairs, it is still pretty steep. A great way to encourage your younger hiker to keep pushing forward is to take frequent breaks with the added benefit of a snack. For other great tips on how to hike with kids, check out my 15 tips here.
The Main Attraction: Chimney Rock
One of the most iconic kid friendly hikes in NC is the ascent to Chimney Rock. There are two ways to get to the top of Chimney Rock: by elevator or by stairs.
It is crucial to know your child’s hiking threshold before deciding which route is best for your family. There are approximately 499 stairs to the top with a total gain of 315 feet. If that sounds like more than your child can handle, there is no shame in taking the elevator.
If you choose to take the stairs, the Outcroppings Trail head is easily accessible from the upper parking lot. Now I know 499 steps sounds really scary, but there are several landing spots to take breaks and a few side attractions along the way.
Before you even begin tackling the ascent, you’ll have the opportunity to take the kids into Gneiss Cave. Here they can get up close and personal with the granite that forms Chimney Rock. Another stop along the way is known as the Grotto. Here you will have the chance to stand in an almost cave like dwelling with beautiful views of the gorge.
Regardless of the method you choose to get to the top, be sure your camera is charged and ready to go. I could go on for days about how incredible the views are, but to be honest no amount of imagery can paint a picture as beautiful as the actual thing.
Additional Trails And Activities
If your legs (and kids) don’t hate you by the time you reach the peak of Chimney Rock, you can continue your ascent up to what is known as Exclamation Point. Along the way to that summit, you will catch stellar views of the Chimney Rock from the Opera Box . You’ll also encounter a beautiful natural rock formation known as Devil’s Head which quite literally looks like a devilish head.
Other great kid friendly hikes in NC’s Chimney Rock State Park include the 0.75 mile Hickory Nut Falls Trail and the 0.6 mile Great Woodland Adventure Trail. The Hickory Nut Falls trail is easily accessible from the Outcroppings Trail head and leads you straight to the base of of a massive 404 ft waterfall.
The Great Woodland Adventure is located closer to the main entrance of the park. Along this trail, you will find 12 discovery stations to keep your kids minds engaged. When you are done hiking this trail, stick around for the Animal Discovery Den. Here, both adults and kids can learn more about the wildlife found in Chimney Rock State Park.
If your legs STILL aren’t jello by this point, the whole family can try their hand at climbing on the Climbing Tower. For even more of an adventure, the whole family can go climbing on actual rock faces throughout the park. For more information on booking a rock climbing excursion, click here.
When you are done exploring Chimney Rock State Park, stick around the area for a bit and explore. The first thing our family did after hiking all day was grab a bite at Riverwatch Bar and Grill. There are tons of other kid friendly restaurants nearby if you aren’t happy with their menu selection.
Main Street is also home to a ton of cute little shops. Products range from handmade goods and clothes to souvenirs. Whether or not you are into crystals, I would highly recommend stopping in Chimney Rock Gemstone Mine. The kids will be entranced by the crystal specimens AAAND the whole family can mine for their own stones for just $30!
Another must see place in the area is Lake Lure. As pictured above, you’ll catch a full aerial view of this lake from the top of Chimney Rock, but it is much more beautiful in person. Splashing around in the lake and water park is an excellent way to cool off and relax after your hiking adventure. Don’t be afraid to tap into your inner Jennifer Grey and try to recreate the iconic Dirty Dancing scene filmed there.
[Side bar: I didn’t know the movie was filmed there until after we left. I will 110% be returning for the sole purpose of making my husband do this with me. Sorry, Patrick.]
Go Explore These Kid Friendly Hikes In NC!
I hope this post has you super jazzed and ready to visit Chimney Rock State Park. Not only are the trails here some of the most kid friendly hikes in NC, but the area is unbelievably beautiful. Nature lovers like myself will have a really hard time saying goodbye to Chimney Rock State Park. I would definitely recommend staying in hotel nearby and taking your time with the area.
If you have ever been to Chimney Rock State Park, I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below. Also, tell me about your experiences on Skyline Trail because I will be tackling that when we return…in addition to the Dirty Dancing thing. I’d also love to hear about your other favorite kid friendly hikes in NC!
As always, share this post if you love what you read or think it could help a friend. Sign up for my newsletter below to stay up to date on my latest posts. If you don’t already, follow me on social for some fun behind the scene stories and photos. Thank you so much for taking the time to read about our adventures out in Our Happy Place! 🙂