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A little North Carolina mountain town with an Old West vibe and population of just over 100 people, Chimney Rock Village perches by a rushing river in a scenic gorge with views of two towering mountains. Most of the architecture dates from the 1920s and ’30s, and many of the locally owned mom-and-pop businesses have operated here for just as many decades.
The village is surrounded by thousands of acres of verdant forestland, including namesake Chimney Rock State Park and its massive, scalable granite monolith. It’s also sandwiched between the popular and scenic Lake Lure and the Bat Cave, where there’s a giant but inaccessible cave full of bats. Outdoor adventurers often return to the village in the evening to saunter through town sipping craft beer or homemade soda pop, scouting out ice cream stands, and relaxing by the boulder-studded Broad River. For family fun, there’s also a mini-golf course, a small amusement park with carousel rides, and a gem mining operation.
The closest place to fly into is Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), about 25 miles west of Chimney Rock Village. Rideshares are available at the airport and in the greater Asheville area, but travelers who plan on seeing some of the region’s farther-flung attractions will likely want to bring their own wheels or rent a car. Several shuttle companies also operate in the region. Note that the town is tiny and can easily be navigated on foot.
On a plateau above Chimney Rock Village is an outdoor amphitheater called the Gathering Place, and during the spring, summer, and fall you can find people there appreciating live music and partaking of various festivals and events — mostly notably the Spring-Go Festival and an outdoor concert series put on by the Symphony of Rutherford County. It’s a treat to catch the flowers blooming in springtime, and in summer the temperatures rise along with the number of visitors. Early November is the most stunning time to behold in the region, as the dramatic color changes in the leaves render the view from atop Chimney Rock absolutely breathtaking. Although temperatures drop in fall and winter, holiday lights are festive in these parts, and fun events include a Tour de Pumpkin cycling event and a Polar Plunge into Lake Lure on New Year’s Day.
With two locations on the bank of the Broad River, this do-it-yourself mining experience allows visitors to try their hand at sifting out gold nuggets, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, alongside other naturally occurring gemstones. All equipment is provided, and every aspiring miner is guaranteed a find of some sort.
Meandering natural walkways give way to stone and wooden bridges by the scenic Broad River, with the footpath occasionally breaking off toward a brewpub, restaurant, or shop. Summertime swimming is common here, as are boulder scampering and picnic lunches.
The region’s iconic monolith can be reached with a challenging hike up 500 steps or a ride in a 26-story elevator. Either way, the granite slab’s top rewards visitors with majestic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and its forestland for some 75 miles in any direction. You can also hike to the base of the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls, which rewards with views of the falls, wildflowers, and a range of birds. Rumbling Bald Trail is another good hike within the state park, and it starts just two miles from the village.