By Olivia Slagle
It’s no secret that summer and fall are the most popular times of year to visit Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park. Every year we host thousands of visitors from around the world who come to our corner of North Carolina to witness the incredible beauty of Hickory Nut Gorge. But when summer and fall are over, there is a peacefulness that remains in the region throughout the winter months. Of course, we look forward to spring when the bustle will begin again, but there are many ways for locals to enjoy this quiet season on the mountain.
The Park is open seven days a week year-round. Our Ticket Plaza hours this time of year are 8:30am to 4:30pm, and guests can hike until 6pm. From January 3rd until daylight savings time, Park entrance rates are at their lowest for the year – $10 for adults and $5 for youth. It’s a great time to visit and bring the whole family for much less than you would pay in the summer months. Or, pick up an annual pass while prices are down and enjoy unlimited Park visits for a year. We love seeing locals enjoying the Park the way we do. NC State Parks are your public lands!
2023 is NC State Parks’ Year of the Trail, and winter is the perfect time to explore the trails of Chimney Rock. Bare trees offer long range views that are typically entirely shaded by forest. Look out across the Gorge on the Skyline Trail and Hickory Nut Falls Trail, or spot unique views of winding staircases and rock formations on the Outcroppings Trail. Trails are quieter this time of year, too, and fewer guests mean more reflective and solitary hikes. It’s a great time to spot wildlife since many critters prefer the quiet of the season. Bird species that overwinter in the Park are easily spotted against bare branches and cloudy skies.
The New Year brings new events, and the winter months are no exception. Namaste in Nature returns to lead our second year of Mindfulness Hikes, with the first coming up on January 21st. Our 2023 Naturalist Niche series begins this month with a guided Birding Hike on January 28th and a Winter Tree Identification workshop on February 25th. Pumpkin the Groundhog will once again make his seasonal prediction at our 18th Annual Groundhog Day Celebration on February 2nd. And a brand new passholder-exclusive series of guided hikes begins in February with an Old Growth Forest Expedition on the 9th.
With the holidays behind us and a new year on the horizon, there’s no better time to kickstart a resolution or revisit an old hobby by getting outside and exploring our mountains.