I don’t think words can get across just how much of an experience visiting Grandfather Mountain is! When we decided to go, I assumed we’d just be driving up to the top of the mountain, walking across the swinging bridge, maybe hiking a trail, and calling it a day.
We pulled in to the base of the mountain and drove through a bit of a nature preserve, eventually coming to the line of cars getting their tickets to go up the mountain. After paying for our tickets, they passed back through the window a receipt, a brochure, and a CD. “A CD?” I thought, kind of cheesy. But, we rolled down the windows, put in the CD, and on comes the bluegrass music! [Note, I love bluegrass music]. So, we were off to a great start.
The map they handed us showed ~15 different stops on the way up the mountain, and each track of the CD perfectly narrated along as you drove up, with the music in the background. It was the quintessential, perfect southern tour guide complete with your own little band in the car.
Each stop was an exciting experience from the overlooks, to the fascinating historical and geological sites, the beautiful museum, and the zoo and conservation area.
We spent a few hours making our way up the mountain at each of the stops, taking in the scenery, visiting the animals, grabbing a meal at the cafe and ogling over the views.
When we made it to the top we had the choice of either driving straight up to the bridge, or taking a half mile hike up to the peak. We of course chose the more adventurous option, and made a few new friends along the way!
The Swinging Bridge at the top was my very favorite part. It stands one mile above sea level (though the ground below you is only a few hundred feet). So, you aren’t standing with one mile of air below you to the ground, which was a huge relief to me!!! I wasn’t sure I could do it, but Nick encouraged me and it ended up being so, so much fun. My fear of bridges didn’t ruin my adventure, and for that I’m thankful.
We walked across the bridge to the other peak and talked with one of the park rangers, while taking in the gorgeous view. We of course had to ask if anyone had fallen from where we were (given that there were sharp cliffs all around, and duh we’re just naturally morbidly curious). Interestingly enough, only one person had ever fallen and it was something like 30 years ago. With all the visitors that come and go, they’ve had a great success rate in keeping the park very, very safe.
She pointed out a trail that was just a few miles, with an option to hike back to our car in the parking lot below, so we figured we’d give it a shot. How hard could it be, right?
That sign is such an understatement! I want to go back with a Sharpie and write “Turn around. Or you’ll have a heart attack on these trails.”
No but really, the burger we had for lunch had worn off and my blood sugar had gotten low. Not to mention I didn’t have any snacks with me [I always have snacks. My propensity for becoming “hangry” is a real issue.]
Anyway, we made it about halfway to the other peak before I had to call it quits. There were ladders, ropes to climb, vertical cliff faces to scale. All too much after 4 miles, for a lady with low blood sugar. We did promise though to come back in the fall, fully stocked with snacks, and give it another try. The views were the prettiest I’ve seen from any NC mountain (and I’ve been on alot). I’d definitely recommend a visit to Grandfather Mountain! It’s an experience you wont forget!