South of Table Rock Mountain, The Chimneys area along the east side of Linville Gorge provides easy top rope climbing routes (5.6-5.9) and rappels with outstanding views of the lower gorge. The Chimneys are seen as rock spires along the Mountains To Sea Trail but the several top rope climbing areas consist of west facing cliffs, many with bolted anchors.
Nearby Devils Cellar, on the north slope of Table Rock Mountain, also provides excellent top rope climbing opportunities (see separate report). A day of climbing at The Chimneys can be combined with a day of climbing at Devils Cellar for a great weekend of climbing adventure.
This site is popular with outdoor recreation clubs and can get crowded. In Spring and Fall, plan to camp at the primitive sites near the picnic area and be the first climbers on site.
Activities and Anchors
The two main climbing sites are along the Mountains To Sea trail, about ½ mile south of the Table Rock Picnic Area. The two sites are only 20 yards apart and the sites will be seen on the left from the trail. Some routes have heavy steel bolts thought to be placed in the early years of the Outward Bound school. Short access trails to the cliff top areas reveal excellent natural anchors such as pine trees and rock slabs. For some routes, these anchors are 30-40’ from the cliff edge so very long webbing loops and static ropes must be used to set top rope anchors. At other routes, bolt anchors can be combined with natural anchors.
The most popular climbing routes will be obvious but Instructors should study the cliff top areas for less obvious routes, some of which are bolted with modern climbing anchors. These anchors can be combined with readily available natural anchors.
The Forest Service maintains a picnic area with pit toilets at the southern base of Table Rock. There is no water provided in this area. The Mountains to Sea (MTS) trail (white blaze) runs North-South through the picnic area and parking lot. Take this trail south from the parking lot, through the picnic area, and along a rocky ridge for about ½ mile. The Chimneys can be seen as rock spires along the ridge. The trail will descend off the ridge and you will see the climbing sites on the left.
The Table Rock Picnic Area is located on the east rim of Linville Gorge and can be accessed by taking I-40 to the Morganton exit, or by taking US-421 to the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside of Boone. From both approaches, you will use NC-181 to access the gorge. NC-181 runs north-south along the east rim.
Coming up from Morganton on NC-181, you will see the Forest Service sign for the Table Rock Picnic Area and take a left on to Simpson Creek Road. Take a right on to Table Rock Road and follow the signs to the Picnic Area parking lot. A last FS Picnic Area sign will be at the left turn on to FS 210B which will pass the Outward Bound School on the way to Table Rock.
Coming from Boone on the Blue Ridge Parkway, look for the NC-181 Morganton exit near Linville Falls. On NC-181 look for the FS Table Rock sign and take a right turn on to Ginger Cake Road. Ginger Cake Road is a loop and you will be turning on the bottom of the loop. Table Rock Road will veer off to the left. This is a gravel road with many switch backs. Look for the last FS Picnic Area sign for the right turn on to FS 210B which will pass the Outward Bound School on the way to Table Rock.
Reference Google Maps, Satellite view, Keywords: ‘ginger cake road and table rock road, jonas ridge, nc’ for a good map view of the NC-181 area.
The Mountains To Sea trail leads south through the picnic area, and just beyond the picnic area are several open areas suitable for primitive group camping. Seasonal permits are required and can be obtained from the Pisgah National Forest, Grandfather Ranger District (828-652-2144).
A variety of National Forest and Blue Ridge Parkway sites are located nearby with several private RV style campgrounds located along NC-181.
Phone service can be limited in this area but will be best along NC-181. Be prepared for an emergency evacuation to NC-181 for EMS 911 support.
This area is frequented by violent thunderstorms in the Summer. Plan accordingly to complete climbing activities by mid-afternoon and continuously monitor weather conditions.
FRS radios, with weather frequencies, are highly recommended for coordinating unit activities.
Pisgah National Forest, Grandfather Ranger District (828-652-2144).
Grace Hospital, 2201 South Sterling Street, Morganton: 828-580-5000. Take Table Rock Road right from the Picnic Area. Then turn right on to NC-181 heading to Morganton and follow the blue hospital signs.