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Independence Day at Hickory Nut Gorge

posted Jul 8, 2017, 5:35 PM by Justin P   [ updated Jul 8, 2017, 5:35 PM ]

For Independence Day, I headed to the Hickory Nut Gorge area for a few more waterfalls before heading home.  After checking out, I took I-40 east to Asheville and then took US-74 Alt towards Lake Lure.  My first stop was Chimney Rock State Park.  Being a holiday, I knew the park would be crowded, so I got there shortly after opening.  When I arrived, the Hickory Nut Falls Trail was closed due to a downed tree on the trail.  Fortunately, park staff were working to clear it, so I headed up towards Chimney Rock first.  I first took the Outcroppings Trail up to Vista Point with nice views of Lake Lure.  Then I hiked through the Subway.  I had to duck to get through.  Next I headed up to Pulpit Rock.  It was hot and humid and all the stairs were really strenuous.  After many stairs, I made it up to Chimney Rock.  With the US flag flying high, it was a great scene on the 4th of July.  There were also great views of Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge.  After some pictures, I headed up to the Opera Box, again with a very low ceiling.  But it was really pleasant in here as it seemed much cooler.  Next I headed up for a view of the Devil's Head.  Then it was just one more spot up to go.  I followed Exclamation Point Trail to its namesake overlook.  This spot has the best views looking west into the Hickory Nut Gorge.  By the time I got back down, Hickory Nut Falls Trail was re-opened, so I hiked to the spectacular waterfall.  The water level was up and this was a really nice waterfall.  After some pictures, I started heading back.  I figured I'd go ahead and hike the rest of the park trails, so I turned on Four Seasons Trail and hiked down to the lower parking area.  There were some big rocks along the trail.  At the lower area, I hiked the interpretive Great Woodlands Adventure Trail and then back up.  It was quite steep and strenuous hiking back up.  Since I had hit all the park's trails, I departed and headed back into Hickory Nut Gorge to Florence Nature Preserve.  There's a nice parking area on US-74 Alt near Genton.  I crossed the street and got on Little Bearwallow Trail.  The trail headed down to the creek where some beautiful wildflowers were blooming.  Across the creek, the trail started to head up the mountain.  In three-quarters of a mile, it started to get real steep.  In a bit, I got to Little Bearwallow Falls.  Even in a weekend of high water, this was pretty much a wet rock.  I got a picture or two and continued up the trail.  In another half-mile or so, there was a spur trail up to Wildcat Rock.  I climbed up here and relaxed for a bit enjoying the great view of the gorge.  But it was a long drive home, so soon I started heading back down the mountain.  Fortunately, the traffic was really light coming home; surprising for a holiday weekend.