The original Cherokee name for the mountain was “Tanawha,” meaning “a fabulous hawk or eagle.” It was named “Grandfather” by pioneers who recognized the face of an old man in one of the cliffs.
Grandfather Mountain, near Linville, North Carolina, is famous for its “Mile High Swinging Bridge,” panoramic vistas, wildlife, and superb alpine hiking. The wild, undeveloped parts of the Mountain are state-owned and operated as Grandfather Mountain State Park. Caring for the other one-third of the mountain is the mission of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. A two-mile paved toll road provides easy access to Grandfather’s lofty heights, and all proceeds from admission fees go back into preserving Grandfather Mountain and developing informative nature programs for it’s guests.
An Ancient Mountain in the North Carolina Blue Ridge
While geologists believe that Grandfather Mountain was formed about 300 million years ago, some of the rock formations on Grandfather Mountain are even older than the mountain itself, dating back 1.1 billion years. The original Cherokee name for the mountain was “Tanawha,” meaning “a fabulous hawk or eagle.” It was named “Grandfather” by pioneers who recognized the face of an old man in one of the cliffs.
An Environmental Habitat in the North Carolina Mountains
Visitors to the are drawn to Grandfather Mountain’s seven “environmental habitats,” large enclosed areas in which animals live in their natural surroundings, yet are more visible than in the wild. These habitats are home for black bears, river otters, cougars, a golden eagle, and white-tailed deer. The Nature Museum houses exhibits about the natural history of the region, a theater shows nature movies made on the Mountain, and a team of naturalists offer regular programs that get guests closer to the wonders of nature at Grandfather Mountain.
Grand Views and Adventure Trails
A highlight of a visit to Grandfather Mountain is crossing the “Mile High Swinging Bridge,” a 228-foot suspension bridge that spans an 80-foot chasm at more than one mile in elevation. This is a favorite photo opportunity for visitors, as is the breathtaking panoramic view it affords.
Grandfather Mountain has several trails varying in difficulty from a gentle walk in the woods to a rigorous trek across rugged peaks into Grandfather Mountain State Park. There is no charge to access the Grandfather Mountain State Park trails from NC 105 or the Blue Ridge Parkway, but to access the trails from the Mile High Swinging Bridge guests must pay the admission fee and drive to the trailhead.
Special events are scheduled throughout the spring and summer months. Pets on a leash are welcome.
The Blue Ridge Heritage Trail is a program of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership.