Guest blog by Ryan Lubbers. Photo Courtesy of Ryan Lubbers. 

Rutherford County and the surrounding lands are home to some of Western North Carolina’s most breathtaking and biologically diverse outdoor recreational areas. If you are a hiker, biker, dog walker, bird watcher, Sunday stroller or rock climber … this area has the perfect outdoor experience for you. With so many great options, I thought a short list of some favorites might be in order.

1. Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park
This place is world famous for a reason: It’s Awesome! With epic 75-mile views, massive old growth trees, spectacular waterfalls, well-defined trails and lots of helpful staff, this family-friendly and dog-friendly area of the Chimney Rock State Park is the perfect place to start exploring the area. It’s well worth the price of admission and is incredible all four seasons of the year.

2. Rumbling Bald at Chimney Rock State Park
This newly acquired parcel of the state park is quickly becoming a favorite locale for both rock climbers and adventurous hikers. The trails at Rumbling Bald weave between giant boulders in a beautiful mature forest at the base of an enormous granite wall. There is a well-established loop trail that takes an average hiker less then an hour to complete. The myriad of social trails that connect climbing areas could keep you busy for a lifetime. There is no charge for this area of the park, however the parking lot fills up quickly, especially on dry weekend days in winter when rock climbers descend on the area in droves.

3. Morse Park in Lake Lure
Although Morse Park has a great park setting with soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts and playground equipment, I find myself there most often to walk the flat trails along the shores of Lake Lure. This 23-acre park offers trails that are perfect for a casual walk. Bring your binoculars because birds and wildlife abound. The trail takes you through wooded wetlands, past ponds, and along the shores of the Rocky Broad River as it flows into Lake Lure. If you like to fish, this is some of the best public access for fishing from shore in the area. Bring friends, family and a picnic lunch and stay all day at this lakeside park with mountain views in all directions.

4. Donald Ross Nature Trail
Composed of 10 interweaving trails that cover a total of 3 miles on relatively flat terrain, the Donald Ross Nature Trails are excellent family and pet friendly paths suitable for all experience and fitness levels. These wide and well-signed trails meander through second growth forest opening up to the occasional meadow with long distance mountain views.

5. Buffalo Creek Park
Outdoor enthusiasts have clamored for years for a mountain biking park in the area. With over 7 miles of professionally built mountain biking and hiking trails, this 200-acre park is like nothing else in the area. Beautifully built bridges span bold whitewater streams in this rugged park. The best part … this is just phase one. According to the Town of Lake Lure Website:

Buffalo Creek Park “trail system will include the first leg of the Summits Trail, which will eventually circumnavigate the mountain peaks around Lake Lure and connect the area’s recreational lands. Town staff, along with the Lake Lure Parks & Recreation Board, are working with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) and the State Park to extend the second leg of the Summits Trail from Buffalo Creek Park to Eagle Rock. The second leg will include an additional five to six miles of trail across CMLC and State Park property.”

With so many great outdoor activities to do, the real challenge is deciding which ones to do first. Hopefully, this list helps you choose an outdoor adventure that is right for you and your family. Be safe out there and enjoy this very special place now and as it develops into an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.


Want more information about hiking the Hickory Nut Gorge? Purchase Ryan Lubbers, "A Hikers Guide to the Hickory Nut Gorge" on Amazon