Grandfather Mountain, a Globally Recognized Nature Preserve

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Most visitors to the mountains probably recognize Grandfather Mountain’s famous swinging bridge, and more than likely enjoy visiting its restaurant and souvenir shop.

Many thousands of travelers stop by Grandfather Mountain during the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, one of the largest gatherings of Scottish clans anywhere in the country. What some visitors might not know, however, is that Grandfather Mountain has been a globally recognized nature preserve and wildlife sanctuary for over 100 years.

At an elevation of 5,964 feet, Grandfather Mountain is a rarity in the southern Appalachians, and is home to many plants and animals that are usually found in regions much further north – some are found nowhere further south than Canada before reaching Grandfather. The mountain is also home to 16 distinct natural ecosystems, as well as 66 rare or endangered species, including 11 that are globally imperiled.

Grandfather Mountain’s management successfully walks the thin line between maintaining stewardship of the property in a way that protects the natural wonder of the geographic landmark as well as offering the general public access to its remarkable scenery and wild lands.

Grandfather Mountain is privately owned (by acclaimed nature photographer and author Hugh Morton) and receives no government assistance for the care of its resources. In order to accomplish all that it does, the mountain fosters partnerships with other successful land managers that help facilitate the sharing of knowledge and inspiration. Grandfather Mountain’s stewardship partners include The Nature Conservancy, United Nations Man & Biosphere Program, NC Natural Heritage Program, National Park Service, US Forest Service, NC Wildlife Commission, and US Fish & Wildlife Service.

A visit to Grandfather Mountain can be as easy as a gentle walk in the woods to as challenging as a rigorous trek across rugged peaks. The backcountry trails are where the most challenging trails are located. Many of the backcountry trails are so strenuous that they make use of ladders and cables to climb the sheer cliff faces.

The mountain also includes 7 environmental habitats, natural homes to black bears, bear cubs, river otters, cougars, bald eagles, golden eagles, and white-tailed deer. Visitors are separated from the wildlife by moats, and easily view the animals from up above on walkways that are built on high walls. The animals remain undisturbed, and visitors remain at a safe distance.

Grandfather Mountain is open year-round, and is an exhilarating experience any time of year. The entrance to Grandfather Mountain is located on US 221, two miles north of Linville, North Carolina, and one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 305. The weather is “predictably unpredictable,” and is likely to be cooler and windier than the surrounding area. Fall hours are 8AM-6PM daily; winter hours are 8AM-5PM daily. Grandfather Mountain is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Tickets are $12 adults, $11 seniors, and $6 children; children under 4 are free.

For more information, please call 828-733-4337 or 800-468-7325, or visit their web site, www.grandfather.com.

(Photos provided by Grandfather Mountain, Hugh Morton)