view of lake lure - A panoramic view from a high vantage point captures the serene beauty of a winding river meandering through a lush landscape of rolling hills and dense forests. The clear sky, adorned with a smattering of clouds, arches over the expansive horizon, while a stately coniferous tree on the right gracefully frames the tranquil scene.
Lake Lure as seen from the Exclamation Point Trail at Chimney Rock State Park.

Lake Lure Field Report

Today’s expedition was to Lake Lure in Rutherford County, North Carolina. I’m working on a list of free things to do in Western North Carolina and wanted to explore the possibilities here. I know the words “Free” and “Lake Lure” may not sound like they go together, but I wanted to see how many things I could do without spending any money.

sandy beach on lake with mountains in background some boats in a marina to the left and lifeguard stand on beach
Lake Lure Beach and Water Park is a popular area attraction.

The day started out overcast as I drove into town and parked near the entrance to Lake Lure Beach. The beach wasn’t open yet, but even with the day being overcast, several cars were already pulling up nearby. Admission to the beach and water park is $10, but today’s goal was to not spend any money and I didn’t need to go in as I could snap a few pictures and check out the facilities from outside. The sandy beach stretches along the shore from the main entrance building to a small water park with a water slide and water games on the other end. Picnic tables are located behind the main entrance and lifeguards are on duty.

hotel with Lake Lure Inn and Spa 1927 written on face and a large boulder in a grassy area infront
The Lake Lure Inn and Spa is the original inn built by the Morse family in hopes of creating a world class mountain resort.

Across the road from the beach is the original Inn from 1927 that was built in conjunction with the lake. This main part of town has lots of restaurants with additional parking near the Inn. There are still more restaurants and some shops right up the street at Chimney Rock Village.

For my next stop, I drove less than a mile and parked between the marina and the welcome center. The marina offers boat tours and rentals if you want to spend a day out on the lake, but today I had other plans. Walking to the left past the marina, I hit the walking trail at Morse Park.

Morse Park

paved walking path with water on the right side hills in the distance and red plants grass and trees along path
The walking trail through Morse Park offers great views of the lake and is very well maintained.

The trail starts off paved and is about a mile long running next along the shore and is a mix of shade and sun. There’s one overlook near the start where you can get a great view of the boats in the harbor. It then leads on to a Gazebo with wooden promenade right beside the water across from the beach. From here you can get a great view of nearby Chimney Rock towering above the lake.

view of gazebo pillar and part of roof along with paved walkway flanked by river rocks then a wooden walkway beside lake - orange flowers in lower left corner
Gazebo and Promenade along the Morse Park Trail

Following the trail around, it leads to a point where you can look out over the main body of the lake. This part of the park is shaded with a couple picnic tables. From here it loops back down along the Broad River that feeds Lake Lure to end behind the welcome center. The path changes from paved to gravel, but offers some of the best views of the surrounding mountains. Lots of people were fishing from the shore on the back half of the trail.

large stone monolith known as chimney rock with US Flag on top as seen from the valley below.
Morse Park Trail offers some of the best views of Chimney Rock.

Behind the Welcome Center, there’s a playground and more picnic tables. Inside has local tourist information and a history room with lots of background on not only the Lake Lure area but other spots around Rutherford County.

river with mountains in the background
The back half of the Morse Park Trail has great views of mountains over the Rocky Broad River.

After returning to my starting point at the marina, I followed a sign for the Boardwalk. It’s just a floating walkway connecting the slips in the marina and it comes out near the water park and beach. Nothing much to see other than pontoon boats in their slips, but it’s a safe way to walk from the beach to the marina area without walking down the road.

Rumbling Bald Access

green mountains with blue sky and clouds
Some of the best views of the surrounding mountains in Hickory Nut Gorge are found in this parking lot.

After returning to my car, it was time to set off to one of the free areas of Chimney Rock State Park. Although the main tourist attraction of Chimney Rock has an admission fee, Rumbling Bald Access is free. I followed my GPS, turning right just past the flowering bridge and following the winding road.

Pulling into the parking lot, I was greeted with the best view of the day. The lot was almost empty and surrounded by the mountains towering above. Even if you don’t take in the trail, the view alone is worth the 15 minute drive.

boulders in woods with lots of vegetation
During the colder months, the boulders are clearly visible and climbable

There’s only one trail here, a single picnic table, and a bathroom. The trail is listed as moderate, but depending on which direction you take at the loop, I would rate it as strenuous. It starts off as gravel but transitions to compacted dirt shortly after the start of the loop. The path is mostly easy to walk without many rocks or roots ion the trail.

Upon reaching the loop, I took the path to the East as that would have me coming down hill on the way back. Turns out either direction will have you traveling downhill on the return as I started climbing just past the turning point. After crossing a small stream by hopping over some rocks, the path began a climb and continued until it leveled off at the spur trail to the first bolder field.

East Boulders

The path down to the East boulders was muddy and narrow. As I approached it split off, but the right hand path proved to be impassable, so I returned and got as close as I dared on the other direction. A few trees were down, so I decided to return to the main trail.

Cereal Buttress

large boulders with a small passage to the base of a larger and taller boulder
Breakfast Area just before the Cereal Buttress

At about the half way point on the trail I hit the Breakfast Area bolder field just before the Cereal Buttress. This is where the trail got rough. It leads up a narrow rocky path where you have to hold on to trees or large boulders at times. Looking at it, I thought I might need to put my camera up for the climb. But at the top there’s a nice flat boulder where you can catch your breath, and it’s all down hill from there.

trail leading up an embankment with stones placed for steps
The trail becomes steep near Cereal Buttress as you climb to the highest point along the trail.

Looping around back to the start, I passed a spur trail to the West Boulder fields, but it was overgrown and I didn’t follow. Later I found another trail pointing to the West fields and followed it for a short distance until it too became overgrown. The main trail is a little more primitive in this section, but still not bad.

Just before returning to the start of the loop, I saw a bench. It was the only bench I saw on the trail and it looked really out of place. But it did have a nice view over the trees to Lake Lure in the distance.

Final Thoughts on Rumbling Bald Access

Thanks to the number of boulder fields, Rumbling Bald Access is the main rock climbing area in Chimney Rock. But most of that takes place in the cooler months. And to be fair, the trial would probably be much easier when it’s cooler. The only really hard part is the climb near the Cereal Buttress. The trails to the fields wouldn’t be overgrown and without leaves on the trees, the views of the cliff face would be spectacular.

After leaving, I traveled half an hour to Eagle Rock Access, but didn’t have a parking reservation. The access point is surrounded by private property and I didn’t follow the drive all the way to the end. But the drive took me through Chimney Rock village and into Henderson and then Buncombe Counties.

Flowering Bridge

sign over stone path reading Lake Lure Flowering Bridge flowers and shrubs on each side
The Flowering Bridge is one of Lake Lure’s featured attractions.

Driving back down Highway 9 towards Chimney Rock, there were lots of little pull offs where you could park and make your way down to the Broad River. Folks were fishing, picnicking, or just relaxing beside the river or on rocks in the river.

I made a stop at Chimney Rock Riverside Park, between the village and the flowering bridge, only to find it a really small park with just a couple of picnic tables and a bench. No real access to the river, but it is still a place to have a picnic.

bridge over a river with lots of plats and flowers on it
Lake Lure Flowering Bridge over the Broad River

Back on the road, I drove past the first parking lot for the Flowering Bridge and the second one too. Both were a little crowded with cars competing for limited parking spaces. Instead I drove farther down to the Welcome Center and marina. Parking in almost the same spot I had earlier in the day, I walked down the bricked walkway to the bridge.

lion's head fountain flanked by red flowers and greenery
The Lake Lure Flowering Bridge includes both banks of the river and is made up of lots of different garden displays and areas.

The flower garden starts on the banks of the Rocky Broad River crosses the bridge originally built in 1925 and continues on the other side of the river. Lots of garden displays are set up and you’ll find benches and even some secluded spots along the shore. The plants and flowers are labeled, so if you see something you like, you can take a photo of the label to your local garden center.

After wandering around the bridge for a wile, I made may way back to the car and drove to the last stop of the day. Just across the bridge from the beach is a picnic area. Mostly just an open field with some tables and grills, it’s still a nice free place to have a picnic. And since grilling isn’t allowed on the beach, it’s about the only spot around where if you want to cook burgers or brats.

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