This summer my husband and I finally did one of those things we’ve been saying for years that we were going to do. We rented an RV from Cruise America and road tripped to beautiful western North Carolina. The trip would take us about 12 hours with rest stops along the way, but it is a beautifully scenic trip and a lot of beauty around to revel in while taking the long drive from Bucks County Pennsylvania.
We started out our trip in a quaint little town called Hot Springs NC, known for its natural mineral springs. We stayed at the Hot Springs Resort and Spa at the campground area, and had a great spot by the River. A short walk to town for great food, cute shops , a little country store for essentials, and The Appalachian Trial. We decided to visit the welcome center and found 2 great hikes to do while we were there. Lovers Leap, and The River Walk. Lovers Leap was the best for the views at the top, and the River Walk was an easy trail along the River with several spots with small beaches and swimming holes.
After all that hiking we went to the Spa for a one hour Mineral bath along the river and let me tell you… it works. My hip and knee had been bothering me and soon after they were no longer hurting. I love being healed naturally by nature.
After 3 days and 2 nights, it was time for our next destination about an hour north to Asheville NC and a 2 night stay at Lake Powhatan. The campground was clean, and well maintained. My husband enjoyed fishing off the fishing peer at the lake and they also offered a nice beach for swimming and fun for families.
We didn’t spend much time at the campsite because we wanted to take in all that Asheville is known for, Its waterfalls, hikes and sliding rocks. We headed into the Pisgah Forest on US 276 and visited Looking Glass Falls, which is absolutely beautiful and right along the side of the road. From there , just a little ways up the road was the Moore Cove Falls .. a moderate 1.5 mile hike to the falls thru hills, forest and natural steps . Once you get to the falls you can walk around very carefully under the falls and get cooled off.
Then another few miles up the same road we reached Sliding Rock, where for the small cost of $3 you can slide all day long down those rocks. I was one and done. I wore jean shorts as I was told this will prevent scrapes, but it did slow me down a bit… I guess it’s all in what you prefer, speed into the water and have a few scrapes and cuts on your legs as a battle scar or go a little slower with jean shorts and have none. The little kids were flying down the rocks in their bathing suits and it didn’t seem to bother them at all. It was a lot of fun, but just a warning.. that water is cold when you hit the bottom.
Sliding Rock is kid friendly with life jackets available for rent, or bring your own, and is also monitored by life guards at the bottom. What a fun-filled day we had, then back to the camper to change and head into the town of Brevard for food and some great shopping . It started to rain on our way back to the campsite, so we watched a movie from our laptop inside the camper, with popcorn of course … and it was fun to do things the old-fashioned way since there is no wifi in the forest!
The next morning, I was so excited for our next adventure, This destination was the whole reason for our trip. The hour drive to Chimney Rock NC. We stayed at Hickory Nut Falls Campground, and had a beautiful spot right on the River. Our site #84 was for motorhomes only, and had a covered porch , porch swing, a screened in porch with table, not to mention the wonderful sound of the River that put us to sleep every night. I enjoyed my coffee with the butterfly’s that were all over the place and went out on the rocks to play!
They had many tent and other RV Sites along the river , a playground for the kids, and a bath house to accommodate. The campground is family owned, with a small store at checkout for necessities , wood, water etc and great wi-fi.
The small town of Chimney Rock village is within walking distance of the campsite, and has the cutest stores, rock mines, restaurants and a river walk behind the village. We enjoyed shopping, some root beer, and a great lunch at Old Rock Cafe.
We then took a boat tour on Lake Lure, with Lake Lure Adventures. Our host explained where parts of the movie Dirty Dancing were filmed and gave us the history of the town, and some of the homes on the Lake.
It was gorgeous. The welcome center has some great photo ops and information as well and is located right next to the Lake Lure Adventures. Afterwards we took a walk along The Flowering Bridge that was built in 1925 and closed to traffic in 2011 to become a flower garden. The bridge is covered in art, flowers, fairy gardens, chairs made from sticks, birdhouses, butterfly’s and just a magical walk across a beautiful bridge.
From there we enjoyed some yummy ice cream at Scoop Lake Lure that had a cute deck overlooking the beach area with awesome views.
With so many great things to do in Lake Lure and Chimney Rock, we were so happy to have found some of the best places to see and visit. We were excited to have dinner later that evening a beautiful Inn we had passed on our way in to Lake Lure.
We pulled up to Esmeralda Inn & Restaurant and you knew it was going to be beautiful inside. Originally built in 1891 and beautifully rebuilt in 1997. The Esmeralda has become a favorite spot among film makers and movie stars . The staircase made from branches was exquisite, and the hardwood lobby floor of the Inn was donated to the owners and came from the gymnasium of the Dirty Dancing set where Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey danced. The food was delicious and I was very happy that it also offered vegetarian options. It was a great meal, dessert and wonderful conversation about the Inn and area with our waitress and the owners as we left.
We had an early morning breakfast the next day at the campsite and drove into town to the entrance of Chimney Rock State Park. Tickets can be purchased upon entry into the park, and once through the gate you drive about a mile into the park to another section in which on this day because of past rain storms, we were put on a bus up to the Chimney Rock Entrance. The total is about 3 miles until you reach the trails or elevator for Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Falls. You can either take an elevator ride up to the top, or you can walk up the 499 steps along the side of the e mountain.. whatever you choose, you will not be disappointed once you reach the top. It is breathtaking, and I have to say worth the ride. It was more than I anticipated. I’m a nature junkie, so for me it was a huge highlight. You look down over this rock that is fenced in, and you can see the town, Lake Lure and miles and miles of green, rocks, hillsides and natures beauty. You can then walk up more steps to the Opera View or even higher if you choose.
After that, I wanted to take another trail that led to Hickory Nut Falls, that not only can you see from the town in the parking lot, but you can hike to it from the park. It was about 174 steps down to the trail and 2.2 miles round trip to the falls that were not only beautiful, but you can get misted when you get there, and look up to gorgeous views of the falls. The falls were featured in the movie ‘The Last of the Mohicans. There is also many other trails in the park, an animal discovery den and a small rock climbing wall for the kids. On my way back from the falls, I had such a moment of gratitude for the trip, my health and the opportunity to visit such a beautiful place and be able to experience it the way I did. I poured myself into nature so to speak and came out a whole new person. You can bathe in natures mineral hot springs, slide down its rocks, dip your feet in the river, hike its many mountains, gaze at its wondrous waterfalls, and fall asleep to its many sounds of rivers, creeks, and wildlife. This is a top rated family vacation and highly recommended by Mama!
I would like to thank Amy from the Tourism Authority for all her help and accommodations of beautiful Rutherford county.