One of my favorite places in the North Carolina mountains is Grandfather Mountain State Park:
There’s a great mix of rugged terrain and very accessible areas by car. You can drive to the top of the mountain (on the road where part of Forest Gump’s running scenes were filmed) to the iconic scenic bridge and there is now ADA access to the top as well!
The Swinging Bridge
The Swinging Bridge has been there since 1952 and is the highest suspension bridge in the U.S. I’m scared of heights and I don’t think it’s a scary bridge at all:
It’s exactly a mile high above sea level.
On the other side are more amazing views and opportunities for amazing photography:
Don’t worry, she wasn’t too close to the edge on this one:
What I love the most about Grandfather is the ecological diversity and the open views.
Just going up to the top will put you in a great mood:
The Profile Trail and Calloway Peak
Here’s the view of Grandfather Mountain from my mother’s house. Brett and I last hiked the Profile Trail in the fall:
Here’s a little map I made to show the portions of the trail we hiked. We started at the Profile Trailhead parking lot and hiked up to Calloway Peak. Then we hiked to Attic Window and then hiked back down. The total hike ended up being about 9.25 miles and 6 hours. If we had continued on to the Swinging Bridge we might not have made it back down by dark but you can see in the map where the trail continues on:
Here’s a profile view:
The Profile Trail started out at stream level and followed the water for about a mile before the real climb started:
The first long section is under dense tree canopy with rhod0dendrons lining the trail:
As the trail starts to climb it winds around into more hardwoods:
There is always something to see:
As you get nearer to the top you can see larger faces of rock:
There’s a large boulder field to climb for the last part of the trail. This is definitely a more strenuous part of the trail…it’s like navigating enormous steps:
As we were climbing we could tell there were lots of natural springs because of all the water seeping through moss and rocks. This spring is clearly labeled and has a pipe coming out of the rock for clean water:
We hiked up to Calloway Peak first. It’s the highest point in the Blue Ridge Mountains at 5,964 feet. The rocks start to immediately become exposed and the ground is dry and dusty.
There are ladders for climbing up to Calloway Peak:
Finally at the top of Calloway Peak, elevation 5,946 feet. You can see the Blue Ridge Parkway from the very top:
Climbing up a series of wooden ladders. They are tied tightly in place so it’s not as scary at it might seem.
Brett navigating the ladder back down.
Once we climbed Calloway Peak we headed back down to the Grandfather Trail. Calloway Peak is in the background of the photo. Grandfather Trail is incredible because it’s wide open in many places and you have to navigate some sheer rock faces. There was a woman behind us with an older dog who decided to turn back because her dog was able to navigate some of the large crevices safely.
We stopped to eat lunch on this ledge:
My super handsome hiking partner:
I love these Merrill Sugarbush Hiking Boots:
Grandfather Mountain is home to 73 rare/endangered species and is part of the United Nation’s international network of Biosphere Reserves. You feel that as you hike through it all. And you don’t have to do it in a day…there are several beautiful campsites located along the trails.
Just a few notes:
1. There’s a charge to get into the park by car but you can hike in for free like we did. There is a permit required for hiking though and it’s available at the trailhead.
2. Make sure to pack rain gear, food and water. You never know what can come up on the mountain!
3. There’s lots to do on the mountain beside hiking. Visit the website for more activities.
I have a page where I’ve started to index most of my favorite NC mountain hikes and day trips. You can find it here!