Grandfather Mountain State Park

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2050 Blowing Rock Highway (U.S. 221), Linville, NC, USA - (828) 963-9522

Grandfather Mountain State Park Linville Reviews

vances vances
582 reviews
A grand old time May 21, 2016
Variable weather hampered my hiking plans, but exploring Grandfather Mountain proved a wonderful experience. I can heartily recommend this state park for a daytrip, particularly if you are seeking a family outing. There is plenty to see and do, all supported by first rate facilities.

This is not an unconditional seal of approval, however. As far as state park’s go, Grandfather leans towards the pricey end of the spectrum. I was charged $20 (well, $18 with AAA discount) for a single adult admission. That was probably the highest entrance fee I’ve ever endured to enter a state park and I was surprised they had no “carload” option to extend affordability for families. I suppose the height of the mountain justifies charging such ‘steep’ prices?

Sticker shock was quickly soothed, however, as they presented me with a CD to play while driving to the top. The disc was not too cheesy (honest!) and I found it an informative companion. It is about a two mile drive to the peak and the CD is staged to discuss points as you wheel by them. Once reaching the top I almost felt like a park expert.

Actually I did not drive straight to the top, thanks to the CD. On the way up it referenced the Black Rock Lot, a large parking area just beneath the apex where many trails begin, including the Bridge Trail. This path ascends 0.4 miles and affords bottoms up views of the Mile High Swinging Bridge. I should also footnote being in possession of a quality trail map, obtained from a ranger at the front gate, but only because I asked for one.

I had been enjoying the drive and CD in sparkling sunlight, but clouds rolled in when I parked and swapped my sneakers for hiking boots. The greeting at the trail-head would be splattering rain and bone chilling wind gusts. The Bridge Trail is rocky and steep enough to qualify as moderate difficulty, more so when wet, and I would be faced with steady rainfall for the climb. Regardless, I enjoyed views of the Swinging Bridge’s underbelly on the short scramble upstairs.

It was still windy but the rain was pretty much done by the time I arrived topside and made a beeline for the Mile High Swinging Bridge. There are two misconceptions regarding this landmark. Yes, its elevation is mile over sea level, but only eighty feet above the ravine it stretches across. Second, the original, wooden, span was replaced in 1999 and the 100% steel structure you cross today does not swing (I walked across in a stiff breeze and it did not budge). Stripping away deceptive tags would render a more appropriate name of “Bridge,” but I guess that might dampen the volume of tourists.

My mischievous griping aside, broad views are offered from the bridge and it is a worthwhile crossing. Patience may be required to enjoy the scenery, as I waited about ten minutes for a heavy cloud cover to dissipate before the skies opened up. Soon there seemed to be barely a cloud around, but in another ten minutes it started raining again and I retreated down a stairway from the bridge to hole up in the gift shop at the peak, the aptly named “Top Shop”.

It was with disdain I discovered this refuge to be stuffed full of tourist trinkets & trash. Rain or no, I returned to the great outdoors and retreated back down the Bridge Trail. I should note there are no shoulders along the road and foot traffic is forbidden. Naturally, the moment I regained my vehicle the rain stopped and the sun peeped out. This energized me to continue exploring, and because I had already been upstairs I steered back down.

First stop was “Forest Gump Curve.” They filmed some of the running scenes in the movie here and I kid you not, the instant I stepped out of my car to capture the curve with my camera the heavens unleashed again!

To gain shelter I backtracked to the park’s museum and animal habitat. The museum is a toss-off, small and only mildly engaging. The sole gem if offered was a comprehensive and well-presented inventory of minerals one might encounter in the park. I was surprised to enjoy the animal habitat. Normally I am disturbed by these enclosures, but all of the residents (bears, eagles, cougars, otters and deer) had been rescued locally and not expected to survive if released back to the wild.

Sunshine persisted and encouraged me to roll the dice. I returned uphill to the Black Rock Lot and, surprise, surprise...embarked on the Black Rock Trail. One mile out and one back, the path was fairly muddy and rocky, also earning a medium difficulty. Deceived my luck was turning, I had neared the end and precisely when I glimpsed the sign announcing “View Loop” the heavens dumped on me again. I donned rain gear and pressed on, but conditions rapidly deteriorated to an honest deluge and I conceded. Enjoying none of the splendid vistas promised, I holed up beneath an escarpment for fifteen minutes before concluding the downpour wasn’t ending anytime soon and headed back. Of course you already know that by the time I regained my car it was brilliantly clear and I was sweating bullets!

Despite quibbles with weather, my investigation of Grandfather Mountain State Park was a positive experience, if only because it stressed the grandeur of Mother Nature.
Grandfather Mountain reaches to th…
Going up...
Bridge Trail at Grandfather Mounta…
One of the reasons why Mile High B…
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photo by: vances