• Roger W. Downes

Hiking & Camping A Mile In The Sky; Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain has thrills waiting for all ages...

The morning mist slowly fades from the mountain tops as the dawn warms the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. You stand in awe as the warm yellows and golds of the sky contrast beautifully against the blue-gray hues of the mountains below for just a few precious moments. Then suddenly, the sun bursts above the horizon turning the sky to shades of light blue as a new day is born as it has done each day before throughout the millennia at Grandfather Mountain.

As the day breaks, the brave souls in your party will valiantly venture across the 228 foot Mile High Swinging Bridge that spans the 80 foot deep chasm to Linville Peak. Your party of adventures will then be greeted by giant jagged granite rock faces carved out of the mountain by millions of years of erosion. You can either traverse these timeless rock faces to find your perch a mile above sea level on the peak to enjoy panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or take a quick selfie to prove you battled and beat your fear of heights by crossing the bridge in the first place.

As the long shadows of the rock faces shorten and morning gives way to midday the young and old alike of your party will love their journey down the mountain to discover playful otters, watchful eagles, graceful elk, cunning cougars, and meandering black bears at the wildlife habitat. As you enter the sanctuary you’ll be greeted by warm friendly souls who openly share their knowledge of the animals and their environment with any inquisitive mind.

The sanctuary was first established when Hugh Morton, the originator of Grandfather Mountain, purchased two black bears to release back into the wild, only to have one frequently return, longing for the comforts of human aid. Morton’s heart broke for the bear who had lost its way in the natural world due to its years in captivity, so he built a sanctuary for the bear and the wildlife habitat was born. The animals who call the hideaway home have large swaths of room to wander and escape the eyes of visitors if they desire.

However, this is not where the story of this sanctuary ends as construction is underway for the new Wilson Center for Nature Discovery which will boast modern educational opportunities for those seeking to discover more about the rare and diverse ecosystem of the mountain, plus the fauna and flora species of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Center is scheduled to open in June of 2022 just in time for summer.

Speaking of the rare and diverse ecosystem, it was recently discovered by a park employee that Grandfather Mountain is host to synchronous fireflies. Think of the drone performance during the opening of the 2021 Olympics; these fireflies perform a similar natural synchronized light show which thousands of visitors would turn out to witness, as they do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, which currently operates the park, is conducting studies to determine if an audience to the light show will be detrimental to the fireflies before making them an attraction according to Director of Education and Natural Resources, John Caveny.

For those in your party who love a challenging outdoor experience, there are several trails on the Mountain which offer amazing vistas and views. One of the most challenging is the Grandfather Trail which is a 4.1 mile out and back trail that will test your frontier grit. Peppered with ladders and steep climbs, the trail is rated as difficult but the views from the vistas and peaks are well worth it.

Grandfather Mountain offers a variety of other attractions of God’s artistry which you can discover when you purchase your tickets at

Listen and learn more with Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation Director of Education & Natural Resources John Caveny with the Explore With RWD Podcast.


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Thank you for taking the time to read about the adventures I take, the people I meet and the places I see.  

Please get out into the natural world and enjoy all the beauty and spender that is God's artistry...

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