Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock, North Carolina

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Going To Extremes

Building a public walkway across a sheer rock face to the summit of Chimney Rock is no small accomplishment!


As the decades-old staircases deteriorated, the NC Parks Department knew it would take innovative solutions and creative thinking to replace them. Based on their long history of successful projects together, NC Parks turned once again to GFBA for a solution. And as they have done on so many projects, GFBA’s surveyors, engineers, and landscape architects worked in close coordination to achieve a seemingly impossible goal.


GFBA’s survey team shot thousands of points to create the accurate survey required for the design. They squeezed through the narrow passages and perched atop high precipices to take their measurements. However, the complex topography in portions of the site made it impossible to complete the survey using standard methods. So, sophisticated laser scanning was used to map inaccessible areas. All of the data was then used to generate a detailed three-dimensional model of the site.


The design team recognized how important it was to preserve the natural character and beauty of this unique place 

GFBA’s design called for durable steel-framed staircases and landings to replace the dilapidated wood steps. Stone crib walls added in strategic locations made it possible to widen the trails. These improvements, along with additional guardrails made the walkway safer and brought it into compliance with current building codes. The design team recognized how important it was to preserve the natural character and beauty of this unique place, so they routed the new walkways around the existing trees and rock outcroppings.


Anchoring the new structures in place required more ingenuity. The locations for supports had to be carefully chosen using the 3D models created by the survey team. The project site is inaccessible by vehicles, so materials and assembled pieces were airlifted into place by helicopter.


The cooperative efforts of GFBA’s survey and design professionals have made a lasting improvement to Chimney Rock State Park’s facilities that people will be able to enjoy for many years to come.