Saturday, April 11, 2009
Grandfather Mountain, Linville
Situated at 5946 feet above sea level Grandfather Mountain is an imposing element in the High Country. But the best part is that you can visit this natural attraction, all year round and enjoy hiking, picnicking, the Natural History Museum, the Mile High Swinging Bridge, and the Wildlife Habitats.
Grandfather Mountain was privately owned until recently when the state of North Carolina purchased it to preserve it for generations to come. It encompasses 16 distinct natural communities and 70 rare and endangered species.
(photo courtesy of Grandfather.com)
The Mile High Swinging Bridge was built in 1952 to give visitors easy access to Linville Peak and the astounding views. It is a 228-foot suspension bridge that spans an 80-foot chasm at more than one mile in elevation. You do have to climb 50 stairs to get to the entrance to the bridge. The bridge was rebuilt in 1999 of galvanized steel and will not need to be painted like the old one did. The new one unfortunately does not "swing" as much as the old one. (I was one of many that groaned in disappointment). A new indoor elevator is being built to allow more people access to the bridge.
The Wildlife Habitat includes black bears, river otters, cougars, bald eagles, golden eagles and white tailed deer. Unlike in cities where they have to build natural looking environments, these enclosures were built around the animals' natural settings. You stand only a few feet from the animals, separated by moats or elevated on retaining walls. The otters can be viewed from below the aquarium through the glass. Children love their underwater antics.
The Natural History Museum features geological exhibits of the evolution of the mountains and the wildlife inhabiting them. There is a snack shop inside the museum and places to sit.
Eleven hiking trails are available ranging from a gentle walk to a rigorous trek. Many trails use ladders and cables attached to sheer rock walls. Some trails are not for the faint of heart but once you reach the top, you will forget all the worry on the way up. The views are 360 degrees of blue misted mountains.
One fairly easy trail is the Black Rock Nature Trail that begins in the parking area and runs out one mile and back through northern hardwood and spruce forest. This trail is marked with interpretive signs to give newcomers a better grasp of the natural environment surrounding them.
April signals Dollar Days at Grandfather Mountain. All residents of six High Country Counties can be admitted for $1. While under construction some hiking trails are off limits so call ahead to find out what is available.
Grandfather Mountain is open from 8am until closing. Admission is $15 for adults, $12for seniors, $7 for children age 4-12 and under 4 free. For more information call 828.733.4337 or visit www.grandfather.com.