Visiting Grandfather Mountain State Park

A father and son taking in the view from Grandfather Mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Banner Elk, NC

Grandfather Mountain State Park is well known in North Carolina for its iconic landscape in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Known for its stunning scenery and 2500 acres of diverse terrain, Grandfather Mountain offers easy to strenuous hiking trails, a local wildlife zoo, and the famous Mile-high Swinging Bridge.

Where is Grandfather Mountain?

Grandfather Mountain State Park is located in scenic Banner Elk, North Carolina.

The park address is 2050 Blowing Rock Hwy Linville, NC 28646. The road is known as Grandfather Entrance Road in Linville and is off of mile marker 305 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The park is located about 70 miles from Asheville, 106 miles from Charlotte, 103 miles from Winston Salem, 50 miles from Johnson City, or 19 miles from Boone off of Hwy 105.

Printable maps and directions can be found on the Grandfather Moutain Website.

Things to Do on Grandfather Mountain

Banner Elk is a mountain destination town for winter sports enthusiasts like snow skiers, tubers, sledders, and ice skaters. Year-round hikers, mountain bikers, leaf peepers, and all-season mountain lovers venture to the town.

Visitors can find plenty of things to do on Grandfather Mountain all year long. There are many campgrounds in the area, as well as a slew of mountain-style vacation rentals.

Walk around nearby downtown Banner Elk and enjoy the many galleries, shops, and excellent restaurants in the area. You can use our Ultimate Guide to a Day in Banner Elk to plan your stay.

Here are 5 recommendations for other things to do when visiting Grandfather Mountain State Park.

#1: Mile-High Swinging Bridge

Drive 2 miles up a windy road to the top of the mountain where you can walk across the Mile-High Swinging Bridge. This is one of the park’s top attractions. The bridge is 228’ long and crosses an over 80’ gap in the mountain.

mile high marker at Grandfather Mountain State Park's Mile-High Swinging Bridge

Not for the faint of heart, there are 50 steps leading to the bridge or an elevator is available from the gift shop area. The shop offers snacks, restrooms, fun gifts, mementos, and maps of trails and the surrounding areas.

The bridge walk is included in your park admission.

#2: Hiking & Walking Trails

Also included in your park admission are miles of hiking trails. From easy nature walks to scaling rocks and climbing ladders on the more strenuous trails, the park offers trails for every fitness level.

You’ll find several easier, woodsy walking trails ranging from .4 m and up, to Grandfather Trail, a 2.4-mile rugged trail that crosses the peaks of Grandfather Mountain.

Grandfather Trail is a challenging climb meant for experienced hikers. You will utilize cables and ladders and cross Callaway Peak, the highest peak at Grandfather Mountain at 5946’ elevation.

#3: Wildlife Habitats

Visit an enclave of local species in Grandfather Mountain’s Wildlife Habitat. You’ll see black bears, cougars, river otters, bald eagles, and the newest addition to the habitat – a family of elk!

The wildlife habitats are a great place for the family to view the animals in their natural habitats and spend some time learning about them in the adjacent Nature Museum.

Currently undergoing a massive expansion, the museum offers interactive exhibits on local ecological systems, an amphitheater, pavilion, and local gardens, as well as the best selection of Grandfather Mountains t-shirts and gifts.

#4: Attend a Special Event

Check out the many special events held at Grandfather Mountain throughout the year. From May 28 to June 4th, you can participate in guided walks through the beautiful blooming rhododendrons during The Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble. The park is a great place to see native North Carolina landscaping.

Attend one of the many animal celebration events throughout the month of June or plan a big-time at the highly acclaimed Grandfather Mountain Highland Games held July 7-10 in 2022.

Enjoy Grandfather by Night on the many select days throughout the summer or take photography or other class from one of the Grandfather Mountain rangers.

There are many things to see and do. You can check the park’s special event calendar here.

#5: Try Park Food or Have a Picnic

The wildlife habitat area is a great area to buy grab-n-go snacks and have a picnic! Grandfather Mountain has over 100 picnic sites with gorgeous views and scenic settings throughout the park.

Once the park’s renovation is complete, Mildred’s Grill will open next door to the Nature Museum. The restaurant will offer boxed lunches to take on your picnic, as well as indoor seating for those inclement weather days.

Planning Your Visit – Know Before You Go

Planning your visit to Grandfather Mountain is a smart idea, so here are some things you should know before you go.

Road up to Grandfather Mountain State Park where there are many hiking trails

Temperature & Weather

Speaking of weather, Grandfather Mountain is known for its extreme and quickly changing weather. Temperatures can be 10-15 degrees colder at the top and you need to prepare to dress for it, even on an otherwise warm summer day.

Grandfather records snowfall 9 months out of the year and has recorded winds as high as 100 miles per hour.

Check the forecast here before you go.

Reservations & Hours

Guests are now required to make reservations online prior to visiting the park. Admission tickets include the Swinging Bridge, Nature Museum, hiking trails, wildlife habitats, daily programs, and more. (The Nature Museum is currently closed until April 2022)

You can stay all day but reserve your entry time here.

Grandfather Mountain State Park is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and may close on inclement weather days.

2022 HOURS

  • WINTER Oct. 26-March 31: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Ticket sales end at 3:30 p.m.)
  • SPRING April 1-May 13: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Ticket sales end at 4:30 p.m.)
  • SUMMER May 14-: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Tickets sales end at 5:30 p.m.)

It’s a good idea to call ahead before making the trip: (828) 733-4337

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