Anyone who visits Grandfather Mountain discovers a place that inspires awe through natural wonders.
You’ll never experience the same mountain twice: today you might come face-to-face with an owl, another day you may see rare wildflowers in bloom. Just talk to one of our naturalists to understand more about these living treasures and learn where to find them. There’s nowhere else on Earth that you can enjoy such a variety of mountain life in one amazing place.
Situated 15 miles south of Boone and towering nearly 6,000 feet above sea level, Grandfather Mountain is a wonder of natural beauty, diverse wildlife and unbeatable views. The mountain is most well-known for the Mile High Swinging Bridge: a 228-foot suspension footbridge crossing a chasm 80 feet off the ground. Visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the High Country—all the way to Charlotte on a clear day. Grandfather Mountain is home to an amazing variety of wildlife, including those featured in its wildlife habitats, such as black bears, eagles, elk and river otters. These animals, all of which were either injured, orphaned in the wild or born into captivity, are almost all native species to Grandfather Mountain. They are housed in habitats built around their true native environments. “Visiting and learning about these animals in their native environment is a really wonderful and unique opportunity,” says Frank Ruggiero, director of marketing and communications for Grandfather Mountain. Each day, visitors to the mountain can join the naturalists and habitat keepers for interactive programs with the animals. These include a short presentation about the animal, some Q&A and an enrichment—an activity done with the animal to stimulate them, such as offering them a favorite treat or a unique scent. “During an enrichment, you might see the river otters chasing fish around their pond, the bears frolicing with a perfume-scented box, or the cougars playing with rolls of toilet paper like giant housecats,” Ruggiero says. For visitors looking to get some exercise, Grandfather Mountain has access to more than 12 miles of hiking trails to suit a wide range of hikers—from those looking to take a leisurely stroll through the woods, to those seeking a more rigorous hike up the mountain featuring cables and ladders. Families seeking kid-friendly adventure can pick up a Junior Ranger guidebook at the nature museum, then embark on an educational journey to earn their Junior Ranger badge. Visitors to Grandfather Mountain can bring their own lunch to enjoy at one of the 100 picnic sites located at scenic spots around the park, or they can stop in for a hearty lunch at Mildred’s Grill, located in the nature museum. The mountain also offers a variety of special activities throughout the year. From May 29-June 6, visitors can marvel at the Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble, which includes guided walks highlighting the mountain’s incredible showing of rhododendrons. All throughout September, guests can join the mountain’s naturalists for HawkWatch: the annual spectacle of the fall raptor migration. “We see thousands of different birds of prey during their migration. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting in September,” Ruggiero says. Grandfather Mountain is owned and operated by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring conservation of the natural world. Admission and other purchases made in the park all go toward preserving the mountain for future generations and supporting the foundation’s mission.