Climbers and hikers are combining forces at Chimney Rock State Park to tackle improvements that will benefit both user groups.
The target area is the Rumbling Bald Climbing Access where nearly two dozen volunteers appeared with tools in hand last weekend. Park Superintendent James Ledgerwood said the area – across Hickory Nut Gorge from the popular Chimney Rock access – offered a confusing spider web of old bushwhacked trails and logging roads used by climbers to reach park climbing routes as well as property owned by the Carolina Climbing Coalition. The Carolina Mountain Club, a hiking group eager for new trails in the new park, saw an opportunity and offered to help.
Ledgerwood said the two groups obviously have some overlapping membership and interests along with those of the Friends of Chimney Rock State Park. “I kind of consider our climbing routes as just vertical trails, “ he said. “Historically, there just haven’t been good horizontal routes to get to those.” A proper loop trail leading to the cliff faces climbers love – and that will steer people away from sensitive natural areas –can be a starting point for a bigger trail system coveted by hikers, he said.
The park’s master plan includes an ambitious 50-mile trail network, anchored by a perimeter trail with primitive campsites likely to become a backpacker’s dream. To create it all would require some key land acquisitions. But just as important are the partnerships with key user groups and the enthusiasm of volunteers.