Grandfather Mountain Awakens In Early Spring
Grandfather Mountain, one of the best known landmarks of the Blue Ridge, comes alive early in the spring as the furry and feathered inhabitants of the park's natural habitats awaken from winter. More than just a mountain, Grandfather combines sweeping 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks and the distant southern Piedmont with the attractions of a mile-high nature preserve. After purchasing tickets at the entrance off US 221 near Linville, NC, visitors make the winding drive up the steep flank of the mountain. Soon after entering the preserve, MacRae Meadow, home of the Highland Games which draw thousands of visitors in mid-July, opens on the left.
About halfway up the road to the summit, the environmental habitats give visitors the chance to view the native fauna in spacious surroundings which replicate their natural domain. Black bears, otters, deer, eagles and panthers, all of which are native to the southern mountains, elicit squeals of delight from children.
Though the weather can be blustery in early spring, making the drive up the steep switchbacks to the weather station at the summit provides visitors with an unforgettable mountain experience. Often, wraiths of mist chase each other off the summit as the remains of the winter's snow lie nearby. In addition, the weather station is also home to Grandfather's most famous attraction, the Mile-High Swinging Bridge.
Luckily, both the Nature Museum near the environmental habitats and the shop at the weather station at the summit offer hot chocolate and sustenance to the intrepid traveler.
Those who want to venture further afield from their cars can take advantage of a variety of hiking trails which range from an easy jaunt to longer trails which challenge even the veteran footslogger.
For example, the Woods Walk, a quarter-mile meandering loop on the mountain's lower slopes, allows visitors of all ages to experience a mature southern Appalachian forest. Wildflowers are common in this area as Spring progresses. Further up, the Black Rock Trail and Bridge Trail offer more challenging terrain requiring some agility and endurance. From the summit, some of the more difficult trails in the East lead steeply up to MacRae's Peak, Attic Window and across the rough and often vertical ridge to distant Calloway Peak.
All activities are included in the price of admission to the park and it's best to plan to spend most of the day, even in early Spring. Visitors who are interested in hiking only may purchase a hiking permit and gain access to the mountain from several backcountry trailheads off the Blue Ridge Parkway and the valley below.
Come get a jump on the season and wake up from winter with a visit to the Grandfather.
added: December 29, 2008
updated: August 27, 2010