Grandfather Mountain Offers Safe Summer Fun

Just two hours from Charlotte, it's the ideal outdoor destination for natural social distancing.
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Grandfather Mountain features access to more than 12 miles of pristine hiking trails, from easy strolls to rigorous alpine treks. Photo courtesy of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Only a two-hour drive from Charlotte, Grandfather Mountain offers visitors the chance to get close to nature—and away from everything else.

Towering 5,946 feet above sea level—over a mile high, the nonprofit nature park (not to be confused with the neighboring Grandfather Mountain State Park) strives to inspire conservation of the natural world through a variety of outdoor activities that are safe and fun for the whole family, even during COVID-19.

This includes the park’s most popular attraction: the world-famous Mile High Swinging Bridge.

Measuring at a mile in elevation and suspended over an 80-foot chasm, the bridge provides 360-degree views, cool temperatures—sometimes 20 degrees cooler than surrounding areas—high winds, and one-of-a-kind adventure in the clouds.

On a clear day, guests can even see the Charlotte skyline some 80 miles away, as the crow flies.

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Grandfather Mountain’s most popular attraction is the Mile High Swinging Bridge, offering panoramic views of the entire Western North Carolina High Country—and, on a clear day, the Charlotte skyline, some 80 miles away. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Grandfather Mountain, owned and operated by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, has been recognized by the United Nations as a nature preserve of global importance.

With 16 distinct ecological communities spread out over varied elevations, the mountain is home to more than 72 rare or endangered species.

It’s also home to environmental wildlife habitats, where visitors can see the park’s resident black bears, cougars, river otters, bald eagles, and elk, all of whom were either rescued or orphaned in the wild or born into captivity before arriving at Grandfather, therefore unfit to be released back into the wild.

These habitats are specifically tailored to each of the animals featured on the mountain and reflect their native homes in the wild. This allows guests to safely observe the furry and feathered residents in their natural environment, while also giving the animals ample room to wander as they please—even if it means being out of sight for some privacy.

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Grandfather Mountain is home to environmental wildlife habitats, featuring black bears, cougars, bald eagles, river otters and elk, all of whom were either orphaned or injured in the wild or born into captivity before arriving at Grandfather, therefore unable to be released back into the wild. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

However, there’s more to the mountain than meets the eye.

The park also provides access to over 12 miles of pristine hiking trails varying in difficulty from a leisurely walk to a rigorous trek across rugged peaks, making it an ideal outdoor destination for natural social distancing.

If you’re looking for a bite during or after a fun-filled day, Mildred’s Grill is a family restaurant located in the park’s nature museum that serves soups, salads, sandwiches, and more. Guests can have their orders packed to-go and are welcome to dine at one of more than 100 picnic tables located at overlooks and other scenic areas throughout the park.

Plus, Grandfather Mountain features daily nature programs, led by an expert team of naturalists, zoo educators, and rangers, as well as a Junior Ranger program for the kids.

With safety in mind, Grandfather Mountain has enacted numerous procedures to help prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • Online admission only to limit the number of guests in the park at one time
  • One-way pedestrian traffic in popular areas, such as the Mile High Swinging Bridge and animal habitats
  • Social-distancing markers
  • Protective barriers at the entrance gate, gift shops and restaurant
  • Restaurant tables spaced at least six feet apart
  • Increased sanitization stations throughout the park
  • Required face coverings indoors and outdoors when safe social distancing cannot be maintained

The park has also introduced the “Grandfather Two-Step” as a memorable means to keep two steps of separation (e.g., six feet) between guests and others.

To learn more about Grandfather Mountain’s COVID-19 operating procedures, visit grandfather.com/covid-19-update.

Grandfather Mountain is now operating under its extended summer hours from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (with ticket sales ending online at 5:30 p.m.). Portions of the park may close for inclement weather. As such, guests are encouraged to call 828-733-4337 to check on the day’s conditions before visiting. Click here to book your visit online.

The nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand, and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325, or visit www.grandfather.com to book your visit.

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