Educators looking for a place to make their students say “wow” will find that Chimney Rock is the place to be. With a nearly 1,000-acre classroom of outdoor fun, Chimney Rock has lots to keep kids amazed.
Start by venturing into the tunnel leading to the Park’s 26-story elevator. Both the tunnel and elevator shaft were blasted into the mountain using eight tons of dynamite back in 1948 and 1949. Quite the engineering feat in its time, students can learn about the construction project through signage and pictures.
After stepping out of the elevator, visitors make their way out to the Chimney, 315ft above the parking area and more than 1,000ft above the valley floor, and take in the 75-mile views of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge. Head up the Skyline Trail to Exclamation Point passing fascinating geologic formations The Opera Box and Devil’s Head along the way. As students walk down the Outcroppings Trail, they’ll find many more unique geologic formations.
Next, hike the moderate Hickory Nut Falls Trail out to the Park’s 404ft waterfall, one of the tallest in the East. The reward is the cool mist as the water tumbles down the rock face. The trail winds through the Park’s deciduous forest and the ecosystem at the base of the waterfall is home to rare plant species such as Deerhair bulrush.
Don’t miss the Great Woodland Adventure Trail, designed with kids in mind. The Park’s woodland critters take the spotlight along the winding trail. Journal entries and challenges created by Grady the Groundhog, the Park’s mascot, illustrate how his forest friends live. Through 13 discovery stations, kids will learn about chipmunks, frogs, owls, snapping turtles and butterflies, to name just a few.
Right next to the trailhead for The Great Woodland Adventure is Grady’s Discovery Den featuring “real live” animals native to the area. Kids can check out snakes including a Southern hognose and corn snakes, and learn more about animals and turtle that call the Park home by investigating their furs, shells and bones. Meet the Park’s newest edition, an opossum, who lives behind Grady’s. The Park’s education specialists can provide guided hikes or educational programs for student groups.
Recently, Chimney Rock was selected as a site for TRACK Trail programming. TRACK Trails are a program of Kids in Parks, an initiative to increase the physical activity of children and their families, improve nutritional choices and connect kids to the Blue Ridge Parkway and beyond.
TRACK (trails, ridges and active caring kids) Trail adventures are designed to help kids explore nature through the use of self-guided brochures. Chimney Rock features four TRACK adventures including Nature’s Hide and Seek, The Need for Trees, Bug Off and Tracks and Traces. The programming will allow children to delve into the Park’s unique flora and fauna.
Chimney Rock is located in North Carolina 25 miles southeast of Asheville in Hickory Nut Gorge on Highway 64/74-A. The Park is the focal point of the developing Chimney Rock State Park. Admission for 2010 is $14 for adults and $6 for youth ages six through 15. Children under six are admitted free.
Arkansas State University
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