Since its 2007 acquisition as a state park, the 1880s landmark outdoor attraction Chimney Rock Park ( http://bit.ly/N0Yw5U) has been undergoing repairs and changes. After suffering a washed out road, a trail bridge destroyed by a land slide – and an elevator that wouldn’t elevate – the big news for 2014 is everything has been fixed and fixed up. That includes trails where old boardwalks and steps are now updated walkways to awesome vistas.
Specialty hikes and walks ( http://bit.ly/1h6OwS5) scout out rare species, hike to the peak of the park and, in summertime, hike across the highest parts of the park.
With such great scenery, you don’t have to be hiker. Start at the Old Rock Cafe and Medina’s Bistro (both accessible to public parking) and stroll down the riverwalk, beside the Rocky Broad River, a nice natural walkway with a stone bridge, and access to shopping. Between Chimney Rock and Lake Lure, stroll The Flowering Bridge, a classic old highway bridge now devoted to pedestrians and flower gardens ( www.lakelurefloweringbridge.org).
You can’t visit Lake Lure and miss Chimney Rock Park, so why not eat at Old Rock Cafe ( http://bit.ly/1lOmlwS) at the park entrance overlooking the Rocky Broad River? The menu starts with burgers from local grass-fed beef and includes produce, local jams and more.
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When expensive isn’t the goal, but great food and a view are, La Strada at Lake Lure ( www.lastradaatlakelure.com) satisfies with tasty Italian fare and a lakeshore view and outdoor dining that revels in the area’s A-plus scenery. Point of View Restaurant ( www.thepointofview.com), a longtime Lake Lure eatery is in new hands but still the place for upscale, casual dinners with a view, seven nights week.
The landmark Esmeralda Inn ( www.theesmeralda.com) has burned down twice during its more than 120-year history as a stagecoach stop, post office, and hideout for silent film stars. The newest (1996) version retains the historic atmosphere of old and one of Chimney Rock’s best eateries, with three delicious meals a day and Sunday brunch (the restaurant is closed Wednesdays).
There’s no better way to appreciate the area around the lake than a ride with Lake Lure Tours ( www.lakelure.com/activities), a guided one-hour tour boat excursion with a dose of history and great views of film locations including the lakeshore scenes for “Dirty Dancing.” Randy Johnson