Bucket List: 6 Must-Dos to Cross off Your List at Grandfather Mountain

You can travel all around the world seeking once-in-a-lifetime moments, but some of the best ones are only a few hours away from home.

Do you dare to cross the Mile High Swinging Bridge?

Bucket lists can differ according to the person you ask. What’s on your must-do list might not be what’s on your neighbor’s, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be some overlap. A lot of people, for example, would probably like to see the Great Wall of China or every single one of the Seven Wonders. Others might consider backstage passes to a Bon Jovi show a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

For all kinds of adventure and thrill seekers, Grandfather Mountain is a great place to complete some feats. Make more of your days and do something many people can’t say they’ve done—you’ll have conversation-starters for life and you’ll feel fulfilled when the time does come to kick the bucket.

Bring a group of friends or the whole family to Grandfather Mountain, only two hours away from Charlotte. You can make a weekend out of it or just a day trip—its proximity to Charlotte makes it extremely accessible for those wanting to escape into nature for a spell. Just remember to arrive with personal bucket lists in-hand, because you’ve got a lot to accomplish while you’re at Grandfather Mountain!

1. Cross the Mile High Swinging Bridge

Maybe you’ve got a slight fear of heights or you love the thrill of high elevations—either way, you’ll feel the adrenaline rising as you step foot after foot on the Mile High Swinging Bridge. This suspension bridge is—you guessed it—an entire mile above sea level, and it’s not anchored by any pillars, meaning you can feel every breeze that passes through the valley. The perks of swallowing your fear? On the bridge, you’re awarded breathtaking panoramic views of the vast natural landscape beyond Grandfather Mountain. Now that’s an unforgettable moment.

2. Meet exotic animals up-close and personal

Care to meet a cougar in its natural habitat? No need to be frightened, though—these big cats no longer live in the wild on Grandfather Mountain. Instead, they’re living in large enclosures, GM’s environmental habitats. Along with cougars, you can come face-to-face with other marvel-worthy wildlife: black bears, bald eagles, river otters, and elk all await in the five animal habitats. To take the relationship to the next level for a truly unique experience, schedule a behind-the-scenes habitats tour. You can get a personal meet-and-greet with some of the region’s most famous fauna, and see how they live when they’re not on display. If you fall in love with one of them, you can show your support by adopting an animal, too.

3. See many endangered species

Heller’s Blazing Star is one of the rarer endangered species seeking solace on Grandfather Mountain—the plant ranks as “G2,” which means it is impaired globally because of rarity, with only six to 20 occurrences worldwide.

Talk about a huge must-do! Imagine telling your friends about that time you saw one of the last specimens of a certain species on the entire planet. They’d be pretty impressed, right? You can easily cross this item off your bucket list because GM is home to almost 80 endangered species. Some of these are extremely rare globally (a few only noting about five occurrences in the entire world), and others have varying levels of rarity in North Carolina and the world as well. The species range from flowers to birds to insects. All you need to do to scope out some of these precious plants and animals is go for a hike on Grandfather Mountain and keep your eyes peeled—you never know which ones you’ll happen upon.

4. Be a keeper for a day

Remember those majestic exotic animals you can meet behind-the-scenes? Well, on Tuesdays, you can take the relationship even further if you’re an animal lover—participate in the Keeper for a Day program! Totally unique and exhilarating, this program allows you to literally work alongside and shadow the Animal Habitat keepers. You’ll get to learn everything from how to interact with the animals, feed them, clean up, and more. You will truly be an animal keeper for a day—certainly not your average workday.

5. Traverse the ladders up MacRae Peak

The thrill doesn’t end at Grandfather Mountain. For a feat similar to the Mile High Swinging Bridge, test your hiking chops with a climb up the ladders to reach MacRae Peak. This rugged trail features a series of cables and ladders for you to ascend the mountain in an unbelievable climb. The cherry on top, of course, is the incredible view once you reach the peak.

6. Wave to Charlotte from a mountaintop

You can (almost) see your house from here! What Charlottean doesn’t love getting a good glimpse of the city skyline? It’s like peering proudly at the child you raised. Admire the Queen City’s skyline from afar as you revel in your accomplishment of reaching the top of Grandfather Mountain. It’s visible on clear days, usually in the afternoon, and, sometimes, the sun can even be seen reflecting off of the skyscrapers. Imagine this backdrop for your next Instagram post—talk about the ultimate shot!


There are a lot of ways to enrich your life at Grandfather Mountain. Make the quick trip from Charlotte and test your fears, willpower, and curiosity in this gem of a locale—could Carolina (or Charlotte) look more beautiful than it does from the top of a mountain peak? Learn more about the things you can accomplish at this breathtaking destination by visiting Grandfather Mountain’s website.

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