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Independence Day at Hickory Nut Gorge

posted Jul 8, 2017, 5:35 PM by Justin P   [ updated Aug 16, 2017, 4:18 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 at 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 and the gorge.

Then I headed over to the grotto.

Next, I went through the Subway.  It was very low clearance and I had to duck to get through.

My next stop was Pulpit Rock, another nice overlook below Chimney Rock.

There were real nice views of Hickory Nut Gorge with the morning clouds still lingering.

From here, I had the bulk of the stairs to climb to get up to Chimney Rock.  The elevator has been out for a while, but I would have hiked anyway.  It was hot and humid and so all the stairs were really strenuous.  Finally, I made it up to Chimney Rock, the park's namesake with great views of Lake Lure.

Just across, I could see the Opera Box inside the cliff face.

And with the US flag flying high, it was a great scene on the 4th of July.  After some pictures, I headed up to the Opera Box, that had a very low ceiling.

But it was really pleasant in here as it seemed much cooler.  It also provided really great views of Chimney Rock.

Next I headed up for a view of the Devil's Head, and balanced rock that really resembles a face from the viewpoint.

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.

Later this year, I think they're going to open Skyline Trail, which continues to the top of Hickory Nut Falls, but it wasn't open yet.  So I started heading back, stopping by Vista Rock for a nice view of Lake Lure.

By the time I got down to the parking area, 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.

The park claims the waterfall is over 400 feet, but from the viewing deck to the top is around 250 feet.  But it's a big waterfall no matter the height.

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 hostas were blooming.

There were also more rosebay rhododendron along Hickory Creek here.

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.