CHIMNEY ROCK, N.C. (WSPA) – The small town of Chimney Rock, North Carolina has a lot to offer family and friends trips no mater the weather, rain or shine.
For instance, the noteworthy views of Chimney Rock State Park are different in foggy rainy weather. But, they are still very much worth seeing, because Chimney Rock can look mysterious. Not to mention the large waterfall, with foggy additives, will give off an eerie but cool vibe.
Honestly, on any day the state park looks picturesque, so it’s really all in how you look at its beauty.
Some natural beauty that is actually up for grabs, not too far from the state park’s entrance, is at Chimney Rock Gemstone Mine. From fossils to semi precious and rare gems, are all at the mine.
Frances Brown has worked at Chimney Rock Gemstone, a family owned business, for more than 11 years. She said she loves how they combine fun with education.
“It’s not just about, ‘Oh here’s a pretty rock.’ We want to help you kind of understand where this rock came from. where it was formed. how these fossils are formed,” Brown said. “This is just a great learning experience for everyone.”
Brown explained that gem mining isn’t just for school field trips or little kid birthday parties, it’s for everyone. There’s a retired Geologist that works at the mine to help visitors learn about their new treasures.
Additionally, since the gem mine is covered, visitors can mine in extremely hot or rainy conditions.
“When it’s raining like this, this is a great things for like families to do,” Brown said. “You can’t be afraid to get dirty. We have a large variety of buckets. And you just take your shovel, and you shovel your dirt in. You sift in on our flumes here and you get to keep whatever you find.”
But if mining isn’t on your agenda, there are other ways to get gems. There is a jewelry and gem shop above the mine. Brown said the business actually has the largest collection of sterling silver in western North Carolina, allowing for a pleasant shopping experience.
“The kids are down here mining and mom’s upstairs finding a little something for her,” Brown said. “We just have that perfect little mix of escapism and helping people just kind of, you know, get back to normal sort of.”
But, if throwing caution to the wind sounds more appealing than mining for precious gems, zip line or UTV tours at Canopy Ridge could be a better idea. Rain or shine, within reason of course, you can take a tour, just outside of Chimney Rock at Lake Lure.
The Dearing family, from Jacksonville, Florida, have traveled through Chimney Rock for years. Their children, Emily and Julian, have enjoyed mining for gems as well as other activities in Chimney Rock.
Father Jason Dearing said this year they decided to stop by Canopy Ridge to zip line for mother Melissa’s birthday.
“We drive past this place every time we go to the cabin or back. We’ve never tried it before. It’s been here for years and decided this was the year we were gonna do it,” Jason Dearing said.
“I just want to have a family experience. I want a memory that we can keep forever,” Melisa Dearing added.
“We have a ton of people that come in with a fear of heights. Not really quite sure if they want to do it. But usually if they do that first line. We get to watch them enjoy the entire experience and have them be so pumped when they come back,” Crystal Mize said.
Mize said the current health safety rules are actually easy to enforce with all tours being outside and visitors zip line, not from tree to a tree, but from tree to a ground landing. Each ground landing has ample space for groups to spread out.
She added that zip line groups are as large as 12 people, with two zip line tour guides. But if family units are larger, Mize explained that it’s best to call ahead and discuss what can be done.
Before hitting the lines visitors can fill out paperwork in the Canopy Ridge office, with a mask on, or in the comfort of their own vehicles.
Zip line tour guides wear masks while interacting with guests, helping each person suit up in their harness and helmet, as well as, giving directions about the tour.
Additionally, tour guides are mindful of the equipment between each use.
“So the equipment gets rotated out and you don’t have to touch it. Our number one priority is to keep you safe in the actual adventure. So, we don’t want to compromise safety on the harness for sure. So, harnesses they don’t get sprayed between use,” Mize said.
“Helmets however, they are sanitized in between each use. So we always make sure they get rotated around as well. We always want to encourage people to wash their hands. We have hand sanitizers throughout the park on a couple of spots so we help in that area,” Mize added.
She said very young children, as long as they meet the weight requirements and fit the harness, can fly tandem with an adult on the zip line tour. Additionally, families can bring children as young as four years old on the UTV tours.
“Just come and make memories. This is something fun and especially if it’s out of your comfort zone. You can kind of think of it like a team building experience. You’re going through that with the people that are closest to you. Your friends and your family and it’s just a way to connect,” Mize said.
Before heading on their zip line tour, Jason and Melissa Dearing explained that they continue to vacation safely during the pandemic for their mental health.
“The world hasn’t ended and these kids lives haven’t ended. Their child hood hasn’t ended. And it’s important to stay as normal as we can be,” Jason Dearing said.