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Written by chadk78 on 27 Jun, 2005
At 5,694 feet above sea level, Grandfather Mountain is the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Cherokees knew it as "Tanawha", or "Great Hawk". When European settlers arrived, they thought it resembled a bearded elderly man facing skyward. Thus the…Read More
At 5,694 feet above sea level, Grandfather Mountain is the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Cherokees knew it as "Tanawha", or "Great Hawk". When European settlers arrived, they thought it resembled a bearded elderly man facing skyward. Thus the name Grandfather. Others have concluded that this name fits because the mountain is over 1 billion years old.
French botanist Andre Michaux climbed it in 1794. He was so stirred by the view from the top that he exclaimed, "Long live America and the French Republic! Long live liberty!". Michaux discovered several rare plant species on the mountain that are found no other place on Earth. In fact, there are 42 endangered plant and animal species living on the mountain.
For many years now, this mountain has been a popular nature park and the "can't-miss" tourist attraction in this area. It is the only privately-owned park to be designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve.
The main attractions on the mountain are the Half-Moon Overlook, Split and Sphinx Rocks, the Animal Habitats, the Nature Museum, and the Mile-High Swinging Bridge.
The Half-Moon Overlook gives a great view of the Grandfather itself. It also provides nice scenery of the rhododendrons and flame azaleas, which were in full bloom in mid-June.
The Split Rock was formed as a result of being located directly over a fault line. A narrow crevice through its middle can be traversed by a thin person(this excluded me). The Sphinx Rock, as a result of erosion, resembles the Great Egyptian Sphinx. The rock, however, is older than its namesake.
The animal habitat area is home to seven species native to Grandfather Mountain: black bears, panthers (aka cougars), white-tailed deer, otters, and bald and golden eagles.
The Nature Museum has some very nice exhibits about various natural aspects of the mountain. A weather station on top of this building is used by the National Weather Service. A small restaurant and gift shop also operate here. Just inside the front entrance are statues of Mildred the Bear and her cubs. For 34 years, Mildred was the mascot of Grandfather Mountain and one of its main attractions. She is thought to have lived longer than any other bear in captivity.
Unfortunately, due to extremely high winds, the road to the top of the mountain and the Mile High Swinging Bridge was closed that day. The bridge, constructed in 1952, is the highest suspension bridge in America. At one mile above sea level and 80 feet above the gorge below, it provides an unparalleled view(probably similar to what Michaux saw). Since we were unable to ascend to the top, we settled for a picnic in a nice wooded area (where our lunch would be less likely to blow away).
I highly recommend Grandfather Mountain to young and old alike. There is something here for everyone - even those afraid of heights will enjoy the animal habitats and the nature museum. Allow yourself at least 3 hours to visit this park. Admission is $12/person (they do give AAA discounts). It is $6 for children ages 4-12. The second weekend of July is the annual Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans. This is held in MacRae Meadows at the foot of the mountain. For more information, please visit www.grandfather.com.