Lake Lure: Exploring Nature

One of my favorite places to get outdoors and explore is Lake Lure, NC. If you missed my first blog post about Lake Lure, be sure to head over and check it out. I shared the history of the lake, what to do when you visit, and some historic places that date all the way back to 1927. Today I want to share with you some of my favorite places to explore if you love to get outdoors and explore. While many go on vacation with plans to do as little as possible, I am typically on the move for two reasons - my beloved dogs and the beauty of nature.


My dogs have always traveled with me when I have visited Lake Lure and without a yard to run around in, I have always had to work extra hard to make sure they get plenty of exercise, bathroom breaks, and have the chance to explore. Plus, I love the outdoors and the joy I get from admiring the beauty at Lake Lure goes unmatched. While Lucy is no longer with us, Sampson and I got more than our fair share of exercise during this last trip. Today I want to share with you some of the places we like visit when we're in town whether for the day, or longer.

 

Morse Park Gardens

This is the official name of the area but I typically call it the landing, although I'm not sure why. It's located just past the marina on the beach end of the lake and is both beautiful and pet-friendly. While they do ask that your dog remain on a leash, I typically let mine off so long as no other dogs are around which is usually the case because we go really early - as in sunrise early. The sunrise over the water and through the mountains is one of the most beautiful things you'll see and is totally worth getting up for at least one morning to see. We make it a daily occurrence.







And I've even talked some of the kids into joining us from time to time for our sunrise walks.


At this garden park there is a raised area hidden in the middle of the peninsula. It's kind of hard to find unless you're looking for it but you can access it through a set of stairs on the gazebo side or a gravel driveway on the river side. It also has spectacular views in the morning of the mountains and we've seen several deer here over the years which is always a treat.


Okay I'll stop with the sunrise Sampson pictures but certainly you can see why I take so many pictures. It's beautiful and a great way to start each day.

 

Dittmer-Watts Nature Trail Park

Located at the head of the lake just across the street from Ingle's, this is a great trail for any and everyone with varying levels of difficulty on the trails. We visit this for both short walks just to get in a potty break and stretch the legs, and the longer trails if I need to wear the dogs out.

The shorter trails are on the front half of the park and you can start just to the left of the sign shown above. Once you walk just a ways into the woods you have three choices - far left which has a bit of a steep hill and wraps around the edge of the trail, a middle trail that has a slight include, and the right trail that goes along a creek. All three feed into an open field in the middle of the park where you will find plenty of room for your dogs to run and covered picnic tables if you bring a little something to eat.


If you keep going past the open field and then head to the left, you'll run into the more difficult trails with a couple of steep inclines. The far left goes right past the golf course so you're likely to catch a few golfers playing during the day.

The majority of the trails are wooded so you're in the shade and can enjoy all the wonderful sounds of the forest. All in all we use this trail the most because it's close and offers the most versatility in terms of time and skill level.

 

Buffalo Creek Park

In full disclosure, I've only visited this trail once or twice simply because of it's location. It's on the far end of the lake near Rumbling Bald Resort and since that's a pretty good ways away from where I typically stay, I just haven't visited there as often. We did really enjoy the trail and I packed lunch to make a day of it since it's about a 3.5 mile walk.

 

Party Rock Trail

This trail is difficult so let me start with that. Honestly, I wasn't sure if Sampson and I would make it to the top this last time but I'm so glad we did because it's always worth it for the view at the top.


If you search for Party Rock it will show you a parking lot that honestly, you'll probably miss. I would have never known about this trail had my brother-in-law not mentioned it and most likely wouldn't have been able to find it had I not been following him.


Just past the Flowering Bridge you'll take a right onto Boys Camp Road and follow it until you see Carsons Way on the left. You'll drive down this road literally to the end where you'll see the entrance for a neighborhood on the right. Don't turn right but instead continue up the little dirt road and you'll find a few parking spots up on the hill on the right. There is very little parking and in years past we have had to park on the side of the road although I noticed this last time it was overgrown. Perhaps that's intentional. Park your car and walk down the dirt road about the length of a football field where you'll see a small sign that officially starts the trail. Don't miss the start or else you'll wander around for quite a while and lose momentum for the real trail.


I'd like to re-emphasize that this trail is rather difficult and I don't just say that as someone who is a bit out of shape. I hear that even from experienced hikers. It's very overgrown and in spots hard to follow the trail so be alert.

There are lots of rocks and valleys and you only go up, up, up the entire time for what seems like forever. When you do reach the top, you'll see a small marker where you'll turn left to head towards the open area, Party Rock.

And this my friends is what you endured the difficult trail for. Totally worth it.


Over the years, we've made it a family affair.




Two last pieces of advice.


First, come prepared. Bring water for you and your dogs, stop when needed so you don't overheat, and wear good shoes. As I mentioned before it's steep with lots of rocks so you'll want to make sure you don't twist an ankle.


And second, be safe. While I have hiked this trail alone, I now always text someone to let them know I'm heading up just in case. You could easily get hurt and stranded so just be smart. Oh, and a few years ago the dogs and I ran into a bear on the trail. I'm not kidding. You have never seen someone run down a hill so fast, so now I make a lot of noise as I hike up. I also would encourage you to make sure your dogs are on a leash once you reach Party Rock. While I leave them off leash on the trail itself, the edge of the rock is dangerous for both pets and people so I keep the dogs close, and small kids even closer.

 

Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Gorge Trail

I'm a little embarrassed to say that until this last trip, I have not been to Chimney Rock since I was young so that's been quite a while. I had in my head that there's no way I could take both dogs up there with me, which could be true, but after having just completed it, I think it's totally doable.


Right in the middle of the Chimney Rock Village you'll see the entrance to the park. You'll turn in, cross over the small bridge, and then drive up about a mile or so until you reach the entrance. I purchased my ticket online but I'm pretty sure you can pay at the entrance as you pass through in your car. You'll then drive a couple of more miles to the welcome center where you can park your car. If steep stairs are too difficult for you, there's an elevator inside that will take you up to the rock. However, if you have dogs you have to take the steps, all 499 of them. If you're in shape it's really no big deal. If you're not, take water and breaks. I just kept blaming all of my breaks on Sampson.

Once again, after reaching the top I think you'll agree that it was worth it.


After reaching the top, we and taking the mandatory pictures, we headed back down and stopped in a couple of the caves on the way down. If you have kids they'll think the caves are pretty cool.

When we reached the bottom of the 499 stairs, there was a platform with another set of stairs (174 if I counted correctly) that led to what looked like another trail. Curiosity got the best of me so we headed down and I realized there was a trail to the left so off we went regardless of this warning.

The trail is Hickory Nut Gorge and had I done any type of preparation I would have known about it. We walked down the trail just a little ways where I found the trail map and decided that maybe Sampson and I had had enough and would head back. That's when my pride kicked in. I ran into a nice couple who when I said we were heading back replied with 'when will you be back so why not finish the trail?'. So we finished the trail and I'm thankful for the encouragement. And I would say the waterfall was worth it.



A few other activities worth mentioning...

While that's a wrap on my recommendations for trails around Lake Lure, I would hate for you to miss out on a few other water activities while you're there.

  1. While at Chimney Rock Village, pull over and stop for a little while to climb around on the rocks in the river, even if the temperatures outside are chilly.

  2. If you have access to a canoe, explore the lake. For years my daddy and I have paddled up the river and along the shorelines watching nature at its best and just enjoying the lake.

  3. If you have a kayak or paddle board, bring them and get out on the lake. If you don't have one you can rent one. Believe it or not, I got Sampson in a kayak and we piddled around the lake for a couple of hours. No one was on the lake since it was late September and we went out in the early morning so it was serene.

  4. Right in the middle of the lake you'll find a small little area with a swing rope on the bank. If you're in the middle looking towards the Rumbling Bald Resort area, it's on the left. The kids will love swinging on the rope and landing in the water.

  5. If you have access to a boat, it's always fun to water ski and go tubing. This lake is where we all learned to water ski.




Hopefully I've conveyed to you that I love Lake Lure and think you should visit. And while you're there, be sure to get outside and explore. It's 100% worth it. Enjoy!