November 14, 2020

Winter Wonderland


We are so lucky to have four true seasons here in the western North Carolina mountains. Each season has its unique intrinsic beauty offering adventurers plenty to do and see in every season. Our “off-season” is generally considered to be January-March, but that certainly doesn’t mean everything just shuts down. Our walkable small mountain towns are vibrant in any season and the winter months are no exception. Winters actually offer spectacular long-range views that are perfect for hikes, scenic drives, and other outdoor adventures.

Few things sound more appealing in the winter than cozying up to a nice fire in the cabin with a hot cup of coffee or tea, but when you’re ready to head out and explore, you’ve come to the right place. Temperatures are often mild with average highs in the 40's and 50's; however extreme cold and snow is not at all uncommon, but it’s also not uncommon to experience days that are sunny and 60 degrees. Our snow generally melts quickly in the lower elevations, but it may stay around for several weeks at higher elevations.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet weekend in the cabin or looking to take in as much of the local natural resources and culture as possible, there is no doubt your trip to Chimney Rock Village and Lake Lure will be a memorable experience. If you decide to get out and explore the area, here are some suggestions to help make your visit as enjoyable as possible.

Our charming mountain towns are like taking a step back in time. They are full of history and have a vibrant and picturesque vibe, perfect for a leisurely stroll any time of year. Stop in and visit with friendly shop owners who are typically locals and offer a unique shopping experience. Main streets are dotted with restaurants (local, fresh, farm-to table) art galleries, outfitters, coffee shops and roasters, breweries, and other locally owned small businesses. Favorite must see towns nearby Chimney Rock Village and Lake Lure: Hendersonville, Black Mountain, Brevard, Forest City.

Winter is a wonderful time to hike our trails. The long-range views offer hikers and mountain bikers unspoiled and unobstructed views. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails for all levels in western North Carolina, but here are a few that are local to Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. Dogs are allowed on most trails but must be kept on leash. Our favorite mobile app is AllTrails which can be viewed on your desktop or downloaded via the mobile app.

Hickory Nut Falls - Trailhead Parking: 1321-1323 Chimney Rock Park Rd, Lake Lure, NC 28746
Hickory Nut Falls Trail is a 1.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail that features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking and running and is accessible year-round.

Rumbling Bald Loop Trail - Rumbling Bald Access: Lake Lure, NC 28746
Rumbling Bald Loop Trail is a 1.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

Party Rock - Party Rock Parking: Lake Lure, NC 28746
Party Rock Trail is a 2.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and bird watching and is accessible year-round.

Bearwallow Mountain Trail – Trailhead Parking 4854 Co Rd 1594, Hendersonville, NC 28792
Bearwallow Mountain Trail is a 2.1 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Gerton, North Carolina and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

There’s nothing better than a scenic drive through the North Carolina mountains with winter’s long-range views. GPS is not always available and accurate in parts of our mountains so I always recommend a few things to give you peace of mind on your scenic drive: 1) Always have at least a ½ tank of gas, 2) Bring snacks, water, jackets and blankets, 3) Have a hard copy of a map, printed directions, or a downloadable map/directions in case you don’t have GPS, 4) Enjoy the scenery and be ok with getting “intentionally lost.” Those are some of my favorite off-map memories. Here are a few of our favorite scenic drives near Chimney Rock Village and Lake Lure:

NC- 9 to Black Mountain (20mi)
From downtown Chimney Rock, Follow US-64 W/US-74 ALT W
Turn right onto NC-9 N
NC-9 will pass under I-40 and drop you right into downtown Black Mountain. You can spend an entire day strolling, eating, and shopping in downtown Black Mountain.

Dupont State Forest Waterfalls (31.4mi)
From downtown Chimney Rock, Follow US-64 W/US-74 ALT W
Left on US-64/Chimney Rock Road towards Hendersonville 14.7mi
Turn left onto N Church St 0.1mi
Continue straight to stay on N Church St 0.4 mi
Turn right onto Kanuga Rd 3.9 mi
Continue onto Crab Creek Rd 7.1 mi
Turn left onto Dupont Rd 1.2 mi
Continue onto Staton Rd 1.2 mi

Winter Blue Ridge Parkway & Waterfall Tour (98mi round trip / Full Day)
From downtown Chimney Rock, Follow US-64 W/US-74 ALT W (Check Gas – Fill up before you get on the BRP)
Turn right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance
Turn right at the stop sign onto the Blue Ridge Parkway
After Mile Marker #411, take EXIT for U.S. Hwy 276S & Stay STRAIGHT at the first stop light outside of Pisgah National Forest to get onto U.S. Hwy 64E
Turn RIGHT onto Memorial Highway (U.S. Hwys 9/64/74A) to complete the loop back to Chimney Rock
NOTE: This drive is FULL of scenic mountain overlooks, roadside waterfalls, and you will pass the Pisgah Inn on the BRP. This is an EXCEPTIONAL drive but allow for a full day. Sections of the BRP also close in the winter due to inclement weather. Check before you go.

Lakeview Driving Tour
From the Lake Lure Welcome Center 2932 Memorial Highway, Lake Lure, NC
Turn LEFT onto Memorial Highway (U.S.Hwys 64/74A/9) > Go 4.8 miles
Turn LEFT onto Buffalo Shoals Road > Go 4.5 miles POINTS OF INTEREST: Lake Lure Dam
Turn LEFT onto Buffalo Creek Road
Take an immediate LEFT into Rumbling Bald Resort (pit stop) and ask the guard at the gate for directions to Lakeview Restaurant, Legends Bar & Grill or the Ice Cream Cabana.
Turn LEFT out of Rumbling Bald Resort onto Buffalo Creek Road > Go 4 miles
Turn RIGHT on Cedar Creek Road > Go 4 miles POINTS OF INTEREST: The pond at Cedar Creek Stables and Vandele Farms
Turn LEFT into Cedar Creek Stables (pit stop) Mill Spring
Turn LEFT onto Cedar Creek Road leaving the stables > Go 1.7 miles
Turn RIGHT at the stop sign onto Bills Creek Road
Turn RIGHT onto U.S. 64/74A/Memorial Highway to complete the loop back to the Welcome Center
Credit: Lake Lure, Chimney Rock and The Blue Ridge Foothills

The High Country of North Carolina - Boone & Banner Elk – offers some very unexpected conditions and experience for skiers and snowboarders. Located in the rugged and northwest corner of North Carolina, Sugar Mountain, Ski Beech, and Appalachian, and Hawks Nest are typically cold enough for snow making to compliment the natural snow the High Country receives each year. Compared to northern states, lift ticket prices are an extremely good value, and families in particular will find these resorts have everything they're looking for in terms of ice skating, tubing, and other amenities.

If the conditions are just right on your visit you may also be able to enjoy some of these other closer skiing and tubing facilities as well.
Moonshine Mountain Snow Tubing Park 5865 Willow Rd, Hendersonville, NC 28739
Cataloochee Ski Area, 1080 Ski Lodge Rd, Maggie Valley, NC 28751
Wolf Ridge 3461 Puncheon Fork Rd, Mars Hill, NC 28754

Whether you choose to hike, take a scenic drive, mountain bike, take a longer day trip to the High Country to snow ski or tube, or just cozy up to the fire with a movie, good book and a cup of coffee, there is no shortage of fun and things to do on your visit to Chimney Rock Village and Lake Lure. Your stay is guaranteed to be a memory maker and one that keeps you longing for a return trip.

Article written by expert explorer and WNC native Mike Andress of Exploration Local podcast and blog.