Take a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway or US Hwy 221 north of Linville Falls, and you can’t miss the imposing grandeur of Grandfather Mountain. This 300 million-year-old mountain rises high above the surrounding landscape, making for great photo ops from below and breathtaking vistas from the summit.
Grandfather Mountain — part natural history attraction and part N.C. state park — protects one of the most biodiverse areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And it’s home to the Mile High Swinging Bridge, a favorite family attraction that’s celebrating its 70th birthday in 2022.
What to see and do at Grandfather Mountain
Grandfather’s best-known attraction is the Mile High Swinging Bridge — a 228-foot suspension bridge that spans an 80-foot chasm between two peaks. A walk across the bridge offers unmatched panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, and it’s spectacular in all seasons. It’s America’s highest suspension bridge at an elevation of 5,305 ft. above sea level — hence the “mile high” moniker!
In addition to the bridge, be sure to check out these top things to do at Grandfather Mountain:
- Top Shop: Near the bridge, the Top Shop features a gift shop and a photo exhibit telling the story of Grandfather’s history, plus an elevator that provides handicap-accessible access to the bridge.
- Wildlife Habitats & (coming soon!) Wilson Center for Nature Discovery: A short drive from the summit, you can see cougars, black bears, balk eagles, river otters and elk and learn about their role in Blue Ridge ecosystems. The brand new Wilson Center will open in June 2022 and will feature interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages to learn more about the geography, ecology and history of this beautiful place. (Note: The Nature Museum will reopen May 13.)
- Hiking & Walking Trails: Hit the trail at Grandfather mountain to discover great views and area wildlife. A few easy trails accessed from the main road are perfect for families, while the highly technical Grandfather Trail offers a challenge for experienced hikers. Grandfather State Park has 11 backcountry trails that can be accessed on foot from outside the park.
- Grab a bite to eat: Order a Mile High Burger and a slice of pie at Mildred’s Grill (reopening May 13) or stop by the Fudge Shop for a sweet treat. Pack a picnic to enjoy a meal al fresco at one of 100+ picnic tables situated in scenic locations throughout the park.
- Birding: Grandfather Mountain is home to as many as 200 bird species! Watch the feeders outside the Nature Museum or keep your eyes open as you hike along the trails. Download a bird list to guide your bird-watching.
Look out for other special events in 2022, including “Grandfather Glows” evenings for viewing fireflies and glowworms in June and July, new “Random Acts of Science” programs for families, and a unique opportunity to take home art painted by a bear!
Plan your visit to Grandfather Mountain
Grandfather Mountain is open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Summer hours for 2022 are 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. with the last entry at 5:30 p.m.
Tickets must be purchased online here. Adult tickets are $24 per person with discounts for seniors and AAA members; admission for children ages 4-12 is $10 per person, and children 3 and younger are admitted free.
Grandfather Mountain is about a one-hour drive from downtown Marion. Follow US Hwy 221 north for about 30 miles to the entrance.
Access the backcountry of Grandfather Mountain State Park from the Profile Trailhead on NC 105 or trailheads along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Images taken by Todd Bush and provided courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.