The Chimneys are a particularly rugged pair of summits along the east rim of the Linville Gorge. They're located about a mile south of Tablerock Mountain, and are the most prominent peak between Tablerock Mountain and Shortoff Mountain. The views from The Chimneys are especially impressive, offering a vantage point of most of the major peaks and formations within and around Linville Gorge. On a clear day, a hiker can see the Black Mountains looming to the west, and the balds of Roan Mountain far to the north.
I can't think of a better spot to examine the complex geology of
Linville Gorge than The Chimneys. From this spot one can plainly see the forces that have worked in concert to create this vast and impressive chasm. A great deal of the length of the Linville River's course through the canyon is plain to see, evidence of the ancient Linville Fault system that the river follows.
The Chimneys are a very popular climbing and bouldering destination. Access is relatively easy due to the paved road and parking area along the ridgeline just north at the Tabelrock picnic area. In addition, the Outward Bound School is located along the flanks of Tablerock Mountain nearby. Because of this easy access, activity on and around The Chimneys can be crowded on days with good weather. If you wish solitude, avoid this part of the gorge during the weekends and on holidays. Despite the fact that the peak is within the Linville Gorge Wilderness, the place is often crowded.
From Marion, take U.S. 221 north to the Intersection of N.C. 183 at Linville Falls. Turn right on 183 and continue to N.C. 181. Turn right (south) on N.C. 181 and go 3 miles to F.S. Road 210 (Gingercake Road). rurn right onto F.S. Road 210. At the first fork, turn left and continue through the Gingercake Acres housing development.
The first parking area is for the Devils Hole Trail - approximately 2 miles from Gingercake Acres.
The second parking area is for Hawksbill (parking area on left and trail on right) - 1 mile from Devils Hole.
The third parking area is for Spence Ridge Trail and North Table Rock Trail - 1 mile from Hawksbill.
Continue 1 mile to the first intersection and turn right (you will pass the Outward Bound School sign). Stay on this road, bearing to the right, through several switchbacks and you will arrive at Table Rock Picnic Area.
The Chimneys and the West Rim (Black Mountains in distance.)
In warmer months, permits are required for back country camping. During other times, use is pretty much unlimited.
Parts of the climbing areas are sometimes closed due to the nesting of falcons and to protect rare plants and animals. Obey all closure signs. When in doubt, call the local Forest Service.
Permits are required for camping only on weekends and holidays during the period May 1 through October 31. Permits will not be required during the period November 1 through April 30. Permits will not be required for visitors who do not stay overnight. Free permits may be obtained at the District Ranger's Office in Marion, North Carolina, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Walk-in permits, for the current week only, are available at the Linville Gorge Information Cabin, located on Kistler Memorial Highway. The cabin is open April-October, seven days a week, 9:00 a.m. through 5:00 pm. Reservations are taken on a first come, first serve basis, beginning the first working day of each previous month. For example, reservations for wilderness camping permits for the month of July will be accepted beginning the first working day of June, etc.
For permits contact:
District Ranger-U.S. Forest Service
Route 1, Box 110-A
Nebo, NC 28761
Hundreds of back country campsites in the wilderness. There are developed campgrounds nearby at the Linville Gorge section of the Blue Ridge Parkway (administered by the National Park Service). The National Forest campsite called Mortimer is also relatively near.