When you visit Asheville, NC, and stay at the Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds, you’ll likely want to get the most out of your vacation. You can be forgiven for wanting to hang around your cabin, soaking in your hot tub or wandering our scenic grounds — which are beautiful in May, by the way. But there is so much to see and do around Asheville that you’ll kick yourself later if you missed a highlight.
Which brings us to Grandfather Mountain. It’s a nature reserve with several attractions. In fact, it’s been designated an International Biosphere Reserve due to its biological diversity. But you may want to visit because of its Mile High Swinging Bridge. So whether you enjoy being out in nature, hiking along established trails or viewing wildlife in its natural habitat, you’ll find it at Grandfather Mountain State Park.
The Fun Facts
While Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6684 feet, Grandfather Mountain rises to 5945 feet, more than a mile high! The view from the top makes the whole trip worthwhile. In the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the peak lets you see for miles and miles in all directions.
The park has a variety of mountain trails with beautiful scenic views, so you can hike regardless of your fitness level. There are more than 12 miles of trails on park property. You can pack a lunch for an unforgettable picnic at one of the more than 100 picnic tables throughout the park. You can find grills, too, if you prefer a hot meal. Alternatively, stop in at Mildred’s Grill, a family restaurant on the grounds.
In addition to the Mile High Swinging Bridge, which is accessible by elevator or stairs, the Nature Museum features exhibits on the natural history of the mountains and films that were made in the Park. Then swing by the wildlife habitats to see cougars, black bear, white-tailed deer, river otters and eagles. All the animals are in an enclosure that resembles their natural environment. For an extra fee ($25 per person), you can go on a behind-the-scenes tour.
Finally, the park hosts special activities, nature programs and educational opportunities. You can learn about and participate in birding, geology and endangered species. Kids and adults alike can learn something new.
Getting To Grandfather Mountain
Getting to the park can be half the fun. You can reach Grandfather Mountain by highway, via Interstate 40 east to US 221 north. Since the park is just 70 miles from Asheville, that’s a short 90-minute drive. A better option, though, involves taking the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just plan for an extra hour of travel time, more if you like to stop at the scenic vistas.
Grandfather Mountain is a perfect day trip from Asheville, fun for the whole family and a beautiful spot to spend the day. For more information, visit grandfather.com. You can buy tickets online and see what special events are happening. Get outside and enjoy the scenery, on the Blue Ridge Parkway and off. The mountains beckon!