Hickory Nut Falls was our waterfalling excuse to visit Chimney Rock, which was a 315ft granite rock that offered us gorgeous sweeping views of Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge.
The rather light-flowing and feathery falls is said to be over 400ft and its position high atop the Hickory Nut Gorge made this waterfall visible from the west end of the town of Chimney Rock along Hwy 64. From this free vantage point, you'll definitely need a telephoto lens given that it's a distant view from town. Getting closer for a more satisfying experience with the falls required having to pay to get into the Chimney Rock Park.
Given that the falls did seem to have fairly light flow, it's hard to say whether this is a seasonal waterfall or just a light-flowing one that happens to be year-round.
We paid about $15 per adult ($30 total) to get into Chimney Rock, but if your sole purpose for visiting this place was the waterfall, then I'd argue that the admission price would be a rip off. Fortunately, there was more to see and do here, and given the stairs that were built to make access to both the rock and the falls much easier and manageable within a half-day, we felt the price was fair.
The Hickory Nut Falls Trail was 3/4-mile each way (1.5 miles round trip). With the exception of stairs that connected the main Chimney Rock complex with the trail (also accessible from the second-to-last switchback before the car park), the trail meandered gradually uphill for the entire stretch. One section was on a boardwalk that doubled as a bridge because of a hurricane-induced landslide that wiped out the old trail.
Near the terminus of the trail, there was a picnic table with a nice view of the falls between Fall colored foliage (like at the top of this page). Continuing on up the stairs, the trail ended on a platform that was quite crowded during our visit. There was even a trail that deviated from the boardwalk allowing visitors to walk right to the base of the falls and touch the water (being careful not to slip and fall).
The falls was against the sun in the afternoon, but we came late enough in the afternoon for most of the falls to be in shadow. However, it was totally against the sun when we saw it from town (so no photos from down there, especially considering the amount of traffic down there).
The hike to the falls and back from the main Chimney Rock complex took us about 45 minutes. Considering that this waterfall is not the main attraction (though it was one of the reasons why we came here), you mind as well either wait in line to go up the elevator or go up the many steps to check out Chimney Rock itself, the panoramic overlooks, and some of the eccentric rock formations and alcoves in the area.
There was also a cave here, but it was closed during our visit. We also weren't into the other paid excursions like rappeling off one of the rock faces or climbing up a different rock wall though I could totally see how families or the more adventurous types could easily spend more time here doing these things as well.
Opening and closing hours as well as the cost varies. So we'll punt you to their website for the latest info here.
From Asheville, exit the I-40 at the Alt-74 Hwy and take that Hwy directly towards the Hwy 64 for 23 miles to the Chimney Rock Park entrance (in the town of Chimney Rock) on the right.
We took a different approach to get to Chimney Rock because we drove from Pearson's Falls. So once we got onto the I-26 near Saluda, we then went north for about 10 miles and took the ramp to get onto Hwy 64 near Hendersonville (about 20 miles south of West Asheville). We then drove about 13.3 miles on the Chimney Rock Rd (Hwy 64) towards a three-way intersection across a bridge at a junction with Hwy 74. Turning right at the junction, we then drove 2.4 miles east on Hwy 64 into the town of Chimney Rock, where the entrance to Chimney Rock Park was on the right.
Once we turned onto the Chimney Rock Park drive, we followed a long caravan of cars (all of them were visiting the Chimney Rock like us) up a narrow road for about 1.4 miles to a large grassy area about half-way up the overall ascent. They made us park here because the limited parking space at the top was full. So we had to catch one of the shuttles (more like school buses) that frequently went back and forth from here to the main area.
Had we showed up much earlier (or much later in the day) when there wouldn't be so many visitors, we could've continued up the narrow switchbacks to the car park at the top.
Finally, for some geographical context, Asheville was 35 miles (under an hour drive) north of Brevard, 63 miles (about 90 minutes drive) north of Greenville, South Carolina, and 130 miles (over 2 hours drive) west of Charlotte, and 247 miles (4 hours drive) west of Raleigh.
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