Back in October, I wrote about the scenic Lake Lure area of North Carolina as a great spot for leaf peeping. Well, I had a chance to visit this idyllic region over the Thanksgiving holidays, and I can attest that it’s a great destination no matter the season.
Located in Rutherford County in the southwestern corner of the state, about 25 miles east of Asheville, it consists of the “small-town friendly” cities of Chimney Rock, Lake Lure, Forest City, Rutherfordton, Spindale, Union Mills, Bostic, and Ellenboro. Nestled between the Blue Ridge and South Mountains, its location lends itself to windy country roads that are perfect for a leisurely weekend drive. The pretty foothills, in addition of Lake Lure itself and the Rocky Broad River that flows through them, make the region a haven for outdoor lovers, who flock here for everything from kayaking and fishing to biking and bouldering.
An area must is a visit to Chimney Rock State Park, where, in addition to exploring numerous hiking trails and climbing areas, you can make your way (via elevator or stairs) 1,100 feet up to the top of Chimney Rock, an iconic stone formation offering views of up to 75 miles in almost every direction. Be sure to visit Chimney Rock Village at the base of the park and stroll the aisles of Bubba O’Leary’s General Store and other shops; let the kids mine for quartz, obsidian, and other stones at the Chimney Rock Gem Mine; or dine alfresco along the river. Other top area excursions include lunching at the old-fashioned soda fountain inside Smith’s Drugs, checking out the selection of cool cars at the Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum, taking a pontoon boat tour of the lake with Lake Lure Tours, and ziplining through the treetops at Canopy Ridge Farm.
There are plenty of lodging options in the area as well. One popular choice is the 1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa, a historic antiques-filled property whose guest register includes names like Franklin Roosevelt, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey (the latter of whom stayed there when Dirty Dancing was being filmed in the area). As its name implies, the hotel sits directly across from the lake and offers easy access to a sandy beach and children’s water park. Though we didn’t stay there, we had Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel, at the lovely Veranda restaurant, and I can tell you we put quite a dent in the buffet.
Equally charming is the Esmeralda Inn, an intimate 14-room retreat established back in 1841 that has been wonderfully refurbished and boasts luxury touches like Bose electronics, Anichini linens, and free high-speed Wi-Fi. There are plentiful vacation rentals and camping facilities in the vicinity, too, including the Apple Valley Farm Motorcoach Resort, one of the most upscale RV resorts on the East Coast.
Our choice of accommodations was the sprawling Rumbling Bald Resort, a picturesque 2,900-acre property on the shores of Lake Lure. Given the size and makeup of our group, which included an elderly parent, a dog, and two active boys ages 7 and 10, we opted to stay in the one of their condos instead of the main part of the resort. It was a godsend to have all that extra room, plus the other bonus features like the separate bedrooms with doors, a full-size kitchen, washing machine and dryer, fireplace, and more. The unit had a nice-size patio and overlooked one of the resort’s two 18-hole golf courses. Best of all, it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to all of Rumbling Bald’s amenities, including the indoor pool, spa, fitness area, and restaurants. We did explore one of the hiking trails on the property one day, but if we had been there when it was warmer, we most assuredly would have taken advantage of the resort’s lakefront beach, children’s water park, tennis courts, mini golf, boat rentals, and plentiful other facilities.
Beautiful, fun-filled Lake Lure is just a few hours drive from major cities like Atlanta, Nashville, and Charlotte and would make an ideal addition to your 2015 travel calendar.
For more information on Lake Lure and Rutherford County, North Carolina, visit www.rutherfordtourism.com.