Grandfather Mountain State ParkThings To Do In The Smoky Mountains
Photo credit 828Vibes
228-foot-long Mile High Swinging Bridge Across an 80-foot Chasm
Grandfather Mountain and its surrounding state park in North Carolina blend breathtaking natural beauty, challenging adventures, and significant conservation efforts. Located near Blowing Rock and Boone, this area is a testament to the diverse Appalachian landscape.
Grandfather Mountain State Park, situated in Avery, Caldwell, and Watauga counties, is a rugged and wild terrain about 13 miles southwest of Boone. Known for its severe weather and challenging trails, it offers hikers an adventurous experience. The park’s diverse terrain is recognized globally, being part of the United Nations International Biosphere Reserve. This status highlights its ecological diversity, home to over 70 species of rare, threatened, and endangered plants and animals. The state park provides free access to its trails and facilities, though hikers must obtain permits at trailheads. Among the notable trails are the Profile Trail and connections to the Asutsi and Tanawha Trails, which are managed by the National Park Service as part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For those seeking a wilderness experience, backcountry tent sites are available, accessible only by backpacking.
Adjacent to this state park is the privately owned Grandfather Mountain attraction. This area includes the famous Mile-High Swinging Bridge, a major draw for visitors. Opened in 1952 and rebuilt in 1999, this 228-foot suspension bridge spans an 80-foot chasm and offers stunning 360-degree views from Linville Peak. The bridge’s name, coined by Charles J. Parker, North Carolina’s Tourism Director, at its dedication, reflects its position over one mile above sea level. Access to the bridge and the attraction comes with an entrance fee.
The mountain itself stands tall at 5,946 feet at its highest point, Calloway Peak. It is renowned for its 16 distinct natural ecosystems and houses 73 rare or endangered species, including 32 that are globally imperiled. Grandfather Mountain offers a variety of hiking trails suitable for different skill levels, from gentle nature walks to the more challenging Grandfather Trail. This 2.4-mile trail is a test for experienced hikers, featuring rocky cliffs and requiring hand-over-hand progress with cables and ladders, culminating in the breathtaking views from Calloway Peak.
Together, Grandfather Mountain State Park and the Grandfather Mountain attraction offer a comprehensive experience of the Appalachian landscape’s majesty. They serve as a haven for nature lovers, hikers, and conservationists, highlighting the unique ecology, wildlife habitats, and cultural significance of this remarkable region.