Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain

Cougars & Otters & Bears...OH MY


Take a relaxing stroll through the woods or hike a rugged trail. Take a peek at a cougar in its natural habitat or get up close and personal with an owl. Take a guided nature walk or sit in on a nature program. Enjoy sprawling mountain views from a rocky perch or cross the mile-high swinging bridge. Grandfather Mountain offers its visitors all this and more with its friendly staff and chances to be enveloped by nature.

The privately owned mountain is the highest peak in the Blue Ridge mountain range and is a nationally recognized nature preserve. The attraction features the mile-high swinging bridge, the famed suspension bridge spanning an 80-foot chasm a mile above sea level, and more than 12 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy nature walks to strenuous backcountry hikes.

Also in the park are the animal habitats, which house black bears and cubs, river otters, cougars, bald and golden eagles, and white-tailed deer. A new addition this year is two new educational animals adopted as part of the naturalist program. In February, the mountain acquired a barred owl and a screech owl, both of which will be on public display during the week.

A shift in summer events this year is the Naturalist Weekend. Formerly called Spring on the Mountain and spread over three weekends, the event was conveniently condensed into two days, and crammed full of guided hikes, nature walks, workshops, and expert speakers ranging from a geologist to a National Weather Service climatologist to an Audubon Society biologist. The events are included in the general admission price.

A fairly new development on the mountain is the naturalist department. Starting June 1, naturalist programs will be held every afternoon, usually between 1 and 2 p.m. The programs are free with park admission. For details on the daily programs, look for signs in the nature museum and visitor’s center by the swinging bridge.

Summer-long activities include nature walks, guided hikes, specialized programs on birds, butterflies, salamanders and other animals, as well as Powerpoint presentations on the animals in the mountain’s habitats and children programs.

The naturalist program allows Grandfather Mountain to cater to the needs of visitors. To schedule a guided hike or any program for any size group, contact the naturalist’s office at 828-733-4326.

A yearly favorite on Grandfather is the nature photography weekend, slated for June 2-4 this year. The three-day event offers photographers presentations and chances to capture spring beauty on the mountain, culminating with a photo contest on the last day. Due to its popularity, tickets typically sell out a year in advance, so this year’s event is booked. To be placed on the waiting list or register for an upcoming year, contact Catherine Morton at 828-733-2013.

On the calendar for June 25 is the annual Singing on the Mountain, a free all-day gospel singing and dinner held in MacRae Meadows. The music will begin at 8:30 a.m. and continue throughout the day.

For this year’s 82nd annual singing, gospel performer Michael Combs will bring the message and performers will include host group The Greenes of Boone, Gospel Enforcers, the Crist Family, The Primitive, Amantha Mill, The Allens, Tina Sanchez, Calvary’s Voice, and Michael Huffman. A dozen top gospel groups are expected to perform.

Admission to Singing on the Mountain is free, and camping is available on a first-come basis.

A highly anticipated event held on Grandfather Mountain every year since 1956 is the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Slated for July 6-9, more than 100 Scottish clans and societies sponsor the four-day celebration of Scottish dance, music and athletics. Although the Grandfather games is not the largest gathering in terms of attendance, more Scottish family surnames are represented at Grandfather than any other Scottish gathering in the world. Admission will be charged.

Two marathons will be held on the mountain as part of the Highland Games. The Bear: Assault on Grandfather is a five-mile road race that climbs 1,568 feet in elevation. It’s scheduled for July 6. The Grandfather Mountain Marathon has been called America’s toughest. It begins in Boone and runners arrive at the games about 9:30 a.m. July 8.

In August, top photography professionals will gather to share information and guidance about photojournalism during the amateur and professional camera clinic held on the mountain. The clinic will be held Aug. 19-20 and is free of charge, but pre-registration is required, beginning in early June.

On Aug. 26, more than 45 classes of antique cars, trucks, vintage bikes, and road trctors ranging from before the 1930s to 1989 will converge on MacRae Meadows for the Rods in the Park show. Separate admission is charged. In case of rain, the show will be held Sept. 2.

Kidfest, a day designed to get children excited about nature, will be celebrated Sept. 10. The day-long event will feature a guided hike, animal enrichment activities, face painting, educational games, and a storyteller. Kidfest activities are free after the general park admission.

Another day that caters to the young and young at heart is the annual American Girl Scout Day. On Sept. 16, all Girl Scouts and troop leaders are admitted free with proof of membership, with discounted admission for other family members. Free nature programs will be offered throughout the day.

Bringing a close to the fun-filled summer on Grandfather is the Bridge-to-Bridge Incredible Challenge bicycle race. The 102-mile bike ridge starts at the Lenoir Mall and winds its way up to the Mile-High Swinging Bridge. Riders must pay a registration fee to participate.

Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information about Grandfather Mountain, visit or call the office at 828-733-2013.

Grandfather Mountain - Autumn

No trip to the High Country would be complete without a visit to Grandfather Mountain. Whether you want to tackle a challenging hiking trail or spend a leisurely day enjoying the views, Grandfather Mountain will satisfy everyone in the family.

Climbing up Grandfather Mountain is like entering another world climate-wise. At 5,938 feet, the mountain is one of the higher peaks in the Blue Ridge. No matter how hot the weather is at the foot of the mountain, you can bet it will be cooler and windier at the top. Sub-freezing temperatures have been recorded as late as June, so be sure to bring an extra warm layer of clothing along with your camera and picnic lunch. Hold on to your hat too-windspeeds atop the mountain have been known to reach 200 miles per hour. But don't let all this scare you-the summit of Grandfather Mountain also sees beautiful clear days perfect for hiking and basking in the sun.

Speaking of hiking, Grandfather Mountain boasts some of the more difficult trails in the area, although the novice hiker can also enjoy many of them. You can begin at the foot of the mountain and climb to the peak and down the other side via the rigorous Profile Trail or drive to the top and hike along the ridgeline. Required permits may be purchased at various locations or at the gate. If you plan to be out on the trails, keep in mind that the high elevation lends itself to unpredictable weather. Carry rain gear, snacks, and WATER with you, especially on longer hikes, and make sure to wear sturdy shoes. Pay attention to each trail's level of difficulty as well: some are very steep and even have ladders for climbing rock faces.


If hiking isn't included in your definition of vacation, Grandfather Mountain has other delights to offer. The Mile-High Swinging Bridge is now safer than ever and affords a remarkable view. If you don't like heights, check out the flora and fauna instead. The micro-climate on Grandfather Mountain is home to diverse plant species, thirty of which are rare or endangered. There are 16 distinct habitats in the 5,000-acre preserve, each host to a unique set of plants and animals. The area is so unique, in fact, that UNESCO designated the park an International Biosphere Reserve, a designation reserved for environmentally significant areas. Although it isn't endangered, the Red Catawba Rhododendron is worth seeing when it blooms in late May through late June. For more color, check out the fall foliage in October.

Bears and more in the Animal Habitat Plants are not the only endangered species featured here. The Park's Environmental Habitat provides an up-close look at many of the region's endangered species in enclosures that resemble their natural habitats. In this area of the park, you will see black bears, eagles, panthers, deer, and river otters. The unique river otter habitat lets you observe the otters above and below water. The Habitat is one place where it's okay to feed the bears - the peanuts visitors can feed the bears are part of the diet designed for them by Habitat staff. It's a great photo opportunity!

Next to the Habitat is the Nature Museum, which contains exhibits of the region's minerals and gems, songbirds, and wildflowers. Another display provides information about weather on the mountain, and nature films are shown in the 165-seat theater. One of the latest museum acquisitions is a 165-pound amethyst cluster, the largest in North America. It is now on display in a special case designed to show off the cluster's beautiful deep purple color.

How to Contact:

Office Hours Phone number
Business Office weekdays, 9-5 800-468-7325, 828-733-2013, 828-733-2608 (FAX)
Entrance daily, 8 a.m.- closing 828-733-4337
Nature Museum daily, 8 a.m.- one hour before closing 828-733-1059
Top Shop
(Gift Shop)
daily, 8 a.m.- one hour before closing 828-733-2800

General E-mail:
Hiking E-mail:
Animal Habitats E-mail:
Naturalist E-mail:
Advertising Department E-mail:

Mailing Address:
Grandfather Mountain
P. O. Box 129
2050 Blowing Rock Highway
Linville, NC 28646

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