Located beside Sugar Mountain (elevation 5,300 feet) is the famous Grandfather Mountain (elevation 5,946 feet) with the popular Mile High Swinging Bridge. In addition to being one of the top scenic attractions in North Carolina, Grandfather Mountain is recognized by the United Nations as a nature Biosphere Reserve of global importance. Rock formations on Grandfather Mountain date back 1.2 billion years.
There are two areas to enjoy this amazing mountain. Most visitors head around the mountain from Sugar to drive to the top (make online reservations in advance!). If you want to hike the Profile Trail, see info below.
To enjoy the attraction with bridge and wildlife habitats (operated by a non-profit Foundation), drive around the mountain – about 7.5 miles. We recommend buying tickets and booking your time reservation in advance – see below for details. Drive to the top via the winding road and feel the temperatures drop. Take a jacket, even for summer days. It’s open year-round. The summit is often in the clouds, and you can see the profile view from many Sugar Mountain vacation rentals.
Mile-High Swinging Bridge
At the top of the mountain, find a gift shop, snacks and the foot suspension mile-high bridge with 360-degree views. Walk along the rocky ridges beyond the bridge (be careful!) for even more dramatic views. The famous Swinging Bridge is even wheelchair accessible via an elevation in the Top Shop. At the top, you can hike several trails – get hiking details below.
Nature Conservancy considers Grandfather Mountain an ecological site of global significance, as it provides habitat for more globally rare species than any mountain east of the Rockies. Grandfather Mountain supports 16 distinct ecological communities due to its abrupt rise above the valley floor.
Animals & Nature Discovery
About halfway up the mountain, stop to see the wildlife habitats and the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery. Get up close to black bears, river otters, cougars, bald eagles and elk. Staff naturalists offer an array of programs included in the cost of admission in April through October – plus behind-the-scenes tour for an additional fee. There are more than 100 picnic tables spread across the mountain, open all year.
The Wilson Center for Nature Discovery includes top-notch exhibits that explain the wonders of the mountain and its many climate zones. Learn about animals, plants, extreme weather and more. Watch a 30-minute documentary, have lunch at Mildred’s Grill, buy souvenirs and attend ranger talks in the outdoor amphitheater.
Grandfather Mountain Hiking Trails
Find a variety of trails for all fitness levels and ages. The most iconic and challenging is the Grandfather Trail, an upper ridge trail with an astonishing variety with aromatic spruce trees, towering rock pinnacles and panoramic views from several peaks. The trail follows the crest of Grandfather Mountain from the Swinging Bridge Parking out 2.4 miles to Calloway Peak. It’s very strenuous with narrow chutes and extra steep sections with cables and ladders.
For an easier option perfect for all ages, the beautiful one-mile Black Rock Trail begins at the Black Rock Parking Area and slopes out gradually to a wide angle view of the surrounding mountains from outcropping. Also, the shorter Bridge Trail begins at same parking area and switchbacks up the mountain by massive rock outcroppings, traveling under the Swinging Bridge before ending at the Top Shop. See hiking guides on the Grandfather website.
Just two miles from the main entrance to Sugar Mountain is the Profile Trail trailhead, part of the NC State Park section of Grandfather. This popular hike climbs the “backside” of the mountain – not part of the paid attraction area that includes the Swinging Bridge. See our Profile Trail Guide.
Hours & Tickets
Grandfather Mountain is open all year, weather permitting, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. It occasionally closes in the winter due to snow or high winds. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. spring and fall, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. summer, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in winter.
Make online reservations in advance for timed entry. Tickets are $15-$28 adults (depending on the time of year), $10 children (4 to 12), free for children under 4. To purchase tickets, make reservations and get the latest info, go to the Grandfather Mountain website.
Grandfather Mountain is located on U.S. Highway 221, two miles north of Linville, and one south of the Blue Ridge Parkway. GPS Address: 2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville, NC.
From the main entrance of Sugar Mountain, it’s an easy 7.5 miles drive to the entrance gate. From the mountain, turn right onto NC 184. At the stoplight, turn right on NC 105. At the intersection with US 221, head north.
Scottish Games: Held each July in meadow below the mountain. See our Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Guide.