A Visit to Grandfather Mountain- Charlotte’s Backyard- A Great Weekend Getaway
Fall Family Fun on Grandfather Mountain- About 2 hours from Charlotte NC
Charlotte, NC One of my favorite things to do with my family each fall is drive west to the Blue Ridge Parkway and to Grandfather Mountain to see the endless mountains speckled with the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows of a North Carolina autumn.
Charlotte’s proximity to the mountains in west Carolina and some of the best beaches in the country in east Carolina is one of my favorite things about living here.
It’s less than an hour to some great hiking spots and about three hours to Myrtle Beach, S.C. When I lived in New York, Myrtle Beach was a once a year week-long vacation. Living in Charlotte, it’s a weekend trip and if you are really craving some ocean waves, even a day trip for some. And awesome mountain hiking trails are as close as 30 minutes from Charlotte.
But this time of year Grandfather Mountain and the quaint neighboring town of Blowing Rock is a time-honored tradition in my family. It’s only about a two-hour drive from Charlotte and well worth the trip.
Grandfather Mountain towers 5,946 feet above sea level in northwest North Carolina.
It is the only private park in the world designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve, according to the park’s Web site. It is well-known by North Carolinians for the Mile High Swinging Bridge, a walking bridge that stretches between peaks at the top of the mountain. The 228-foot suspension bridge overlooks the lake and valley shown above. It considered one of the highlights of a trip to Grandfather Mountain, according to the park’s visitor surveys.
We got a late start Saturday but were able to stop in Blowing Rock, which has small historic downtown filled with cute artsy and folksy shops. It’s a great place to Christmas shop for unique gifts. I would have liked window shopping, but my husband wanted to just hop out stretch our legs and keep going to Grandfather Mountain so the kids could enjoy nature. (I’ll return to Blowing Rock with some of my girlfriends soon enough.)
The drive to Grandfather Mountain takes motorists on some of the coolest sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There’s a bridge that winds around the edge of a mountain that the kids could see before we wound our way around to it. They were in awe of the views from there.
“It feels like we’re flying,” one of them said.
Along the Parkway, motorists stop at view points to take in the picturesque views. I’ve heard some say you can see the Charlotte skyscrapers from there on a clear day.
Once at Grandfather Mountain, we stopped first at the animal sanctuary where the kids enjoyed seeing a bald eagle, two black bears and one brown bear, deer and two cougars. Oh, yeah and two cute little otters that were cuddling together near a rock.
Then we drove up this winding road that seemed like it was reaching to heaven to get to the Mile High Swinging Bridge.
On the way down from the Mile High Swinging Bridge, you feel like you are on the edge of the world about to drive off.
My 7-year-old stepson Harrison (seated on the fence in the photo above) said, “This seems even more dangerous than a roller coaster!”
“It probably is,” my husband said.
On the way down, the kids also climbed a huge rock formation called Split Rock.
We didn’t do any hiking Saturday because we had our 7-month-old baby with us and it was a little chilly, but we plan to return in the summer to check out the trails.
To learn more about Grandfather Mountain, visit the Web site at www.grandfather.com.
Editors Note: It was just recently announced that Grandfather Mountain will b epurchased by the state of North Carolina to preserve its pristine nature.
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