You drive about a mile and a half up a very narrow, winding road, which seems barely wide enough for two cars but somehow it works out. Then you purchase your ticket. Your $14 ticket! Hello. You continue about another mile up the same windy road to get to the parking.
There is an elevator to take you to the top. You can also hike it in about 20 minutes, but it was hot and steamy outside. I figured the least my $14 entitled me to was a lift to the top. And besides, there was no line. To get to the elevator, you have to walk through a short tunnel that was blasted out of the mountain. It totally reminded me of the tunnels you line up in while waiting for some rides at Disneyland. Only difference is, this one is real! It was ridiculously cool in there--thanks to Mother Nature, not A/C. (Note to self: Move to cave next summer.) The ride up is 30 seconds, and at the top you are let off into a gift shop where they sell every tchotchke imaginable with the words "Chimney Rock" printed on it, for three times what you'd normally pay for a souvenir.
When I stepped outside, I was struck by how windy it was up there, and how cool the breeze was. The sky had darkened considerably and there was thunder in the distance.
You do have to climb a couple flights of stairs to get to the main lookout point, but it's not bad. The view was pretty, but very hazy.
I wouldn't say it left me breathless, as their motto says. Perhaps in the Fall it is breathtaking.
I opted not to hike any of the trails due to the heat, although I suppose if I had I would have gotten more out of my admission fee.
Once I got back down to the bottom (of both the rock and then the mountain) I explored the little shops along the main street. Mostly more souvenir junk, but of course I managed to find a few things to buy. I walked along the river for a while and while navigating a rocky area one of my bags opened and some of the stuff I'd bought fell out. I found two of the things, but the third, a piece of pink quartz shaped like a heart, was missing. I searched but came up emptyhanded. I figured that it must have fallen out earlier (it was in a flat brown bag with postcards so could easily slip out if I held the bag at an angle). I retraced my steps for the past few stores, with no luck. So I just bought another one. But something told me to go back to the river and look again, so I did. Lo and behold, with a little more picking around in the plants, I found it! Big-time grin moment!
I decided to cool off a little by sticking my feet in the water, and was SO tempted to just jump in the river with all my clothes on. I was soaking wet with sweat anyway, and the water looked sooooo appealing!
But the practical side of me knew that the ride back home would be an uncomfortable one, not to mention the fact that my car seat would get soaked. So I just bought a bottle of water and hydrated.
Here are a few pix I took down by the river. A sweaty me, a pretty butterfly that fluttered around me for about 5 minutes, and some black-eyed susans.