Grandfather Mountain

Did you know that Grandfather Mountain was once in Mitchell County? Now Grandfather Mountain lies just over the line in Avery County and about 40 minutes from here in the center of the Three Peaks area.

One of the peaks that make up our Three Peaks, Grandfather Mountain is world renown and has not only a rich history but also a fascinating present, with a list of fun adventures for the outdoor enthusiast.

Daniel Boone was one of the early hunter-explorers to climb the Grandfather Mountain in the 1760s, and Andre Michaux, a French scientist, ascended the peak in 1794. Upon reaching the top of Grandfather Mountain, Michaux wrote in his journal: “Reached the summit of the highest mountain in all of North America, and with my companion and guide, sang the Marseillaise and shouted ‘Long live America and the Republic of France, long live liberty!’” (History of the Mountain). However, Michaux was wrong because Mt. Mitchell rises nearly a hundred feet taller than Grandfather at 6,684 feet. Mt. Mitchell is another of our three peaks mountains and a must for your Three Peaks bucket list!

While Grandfather Mountain is not as tall as Mt. Mitchell, it offers more rugged terrain and incredible views. It is known throughout the word as a nature preserve and home to the mile high swinging bridge.

For those seeking to add Grandfather Mountain hikes to your list during your Three Peaks adventure, be sure to explore these Grandfather Mountain trails.

Download Grandfather Mountain Trail Map (pdf)

Grandfather Mountain State Park offers more than 12 miles of trails lacing 2,456 acres along the mountain’s ridgeline and its highest point at Calloway Peak. The trails offer magnificent scenery from rock outcrops and quiet forested coves near the mountain’s crest. Permits are required.

Most of these trails are challenging; steep, rocky terrain can make progress slow at times. Hikers must use the trails’ ladders and cables in some of the steeper sections. Be aware that hiking to the ridge area and back from the low-elevation trailheads may take a full day. Plan for enough time to get back to your vehicle before dark. And, wear proper clothing and carry adequate equipment.

Grandfather Mountain attraction employees and state park rangers patrol trails on a routine basis to offer help and directions, check for permits and monitor use of the backcountry.


Black Rock Trail

Location: (GPS: 36.095595, -81.828517) Hikers can access the Black Rock Trail from the Black Rock Parking Lot inside the private Grandfather Mountain attraction.

From the attraction’s Black Rock parking lot, the Black Rock Trail slopes out gradually to a wide-angle view of the swinging bridge, MacRae and Attic Window peaks as well as Beacon Heights and Grandmother Mountain to the southwest. To reach these view points at the end of the trail, hikers must climb a ladder and cable up the rock. This trail rambles through northern hardwood and spruce forests. Hikers return to the parking lot via the same trail.

Surface: natural surface, ladders

Length: 1.00 miles one way
Difficulty: moderate hike
Blaze: Gold Circle

Cragway Trail

Location: (GPS: 36.118197, -81.790846 at Nuwati Trail) (GPS: 36.111684, -81.794004 at DBS Trail) The Cragway Trail is a connector trail between the Nuwati and Daniel Boone Scout Trails.

A steep, strenuous hike with grand vistas. Boulders and crags offer elevated views of the Boone Fork area and Calloway Peak. This trail links Nuwati and Daniel Boone Scout trails, making a nice loop hike passing through rhododendron and blueberry thickets. Due to the narrow, steep terrain, this trail is not recommended for dogs.

Surface: natural surface

Length:1.00 miles one way
Difficulty: strenuous hike
Blaze: Orange Circle

Daniel Boone Scout Trail

Location: (GPS: 36.113793,-81.780963) Hikers can access the Daniel Boone Scout Trail from the Boone Fork Parking Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milemarker 299.9). From the parking lot, follow the Tanawha Trail for 0.6 miles to the Daniel Boone Scout Trailhead.

Ascending about 2,000 feet over three miles, this hike begins at the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Tanawha Trail and climbs to Calloway Peak, at 5,946 feet, the highest point in the Blue Ridge Range. About halfway up, at Flat Rock View, hikers reach the junction of Cragway Trail. The upper half of the Daniel Boone Scout Trail is rough going but spiced with exquisite views, including one of Price Park and one of the Linn Cove Viaduct. Near Calloway Peak, in-place ladders and cables help hikers through steep sections. The upper portion of this trail is not recommended for pets.

Surface: natural surface, ladders

Length: 3.00 miles one way
Difficulty: strenuous hike
Blaze: White Diamond

Grandfather Trail

Location: Ridgeline – running between Calloway Peak and the private Grandfather Mountain Swinging Bridge parking lot.

(Elevation gain and loss over 2.4 miles is roughly 1,872 feet.) The Grandfather Trail runs the length of the summit ridge from the Grandfather Mountain attraction to Calloway Peak. It offers astonishing variety, running in and out of wind-dwarfed spruce and fir, across or around rock walls and pinnacles and into open spaces with mountain views in every direction. It was along this trail two centuries ago that explorer/botanist Andre Michaux broke into song thinking he had arrived at the high point of North America. The pace is often slow. There are chutes where progress is hand-over-hand and extra steep sections where hikers use in-place cables and ladders. An alternative to taking the ladders up MacRae Peak is to opt for the more sheltered Underwood Trail. Not recommended for children, inexperienced hikers, or pets.

Surface: natural surface, ladders

Length 2.40 miles one way
Difficulty: advanced hike
Blaze: Blue Diamond

Nuwati Trail

Location: Off Blue Ridge Parkway – Boone Fork Parking Area (GPS: 36.120076,-81.781358)

This trail follows the track of an old logging road. It’s an easy but rocky hike, including a spectacular view of the Boone Bowl and Calloway Peak from Storyteller’s Rock. There are stream crossings, a solitary stand of big-tooth aspens and reminders of logging days gone by. Use extreme caution on stream crossings – do not attempt crossing streams in high water.

Note: From the Blue Ridge Parkway area, there are two points of access. Visitors may park at the Boone Fork parking area at mile 299.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Parkway’s Asutsi Trail, which begins on US 221 (the only winter access when the Parkway is closed)(Asutsi Trail Parking GPS: 36.116354, -81.777297). Hikers can follow the Parkway’s Tanawha Trail to reach the Nuwati trailhead.

Surface: natural surface

Length: 1.20 miles one way
Difficulty: easy hike
Blaze: Blue Circle

Profile Trail

Location: 4198 NC Highway 105 N, Banner Elk (GPS: 36.119767, -81.835001)

Ascending about 1,775 feet over 3.6 miles, this trail begins at the Profile Trail parking area at 4198 NC Hwy 105 N and ends at the Grandfather Trail at Calloway Gap. Beginning as a scenic, rolling pathway through seasonal wildflowers, this trail crosses the Watauga River and travels under a hardwood canopy for much of its length. Upper sections, beginning around Foscoe View, get steeper. Shanty Spring, at 3.2 miles, marks a transition into a strenuous pathway of tumble-down rock that joins the Grandfather Trail after a climb of 0.4 mile. It makes the transition out of the hardwoods and into the Canadian fir zone of the crest area. The upper section is steep and rocky and calls for careful footwork; this section is not recommended for pets. Use extreme caution on stream crossings — do not attempt in high water.

Surface: natural surface

Length: 3.60 miles one way
Difficulty: strenuous hike
Blaze: Orange Diamond

Fore more information visit NC State Parks, and Grandfather Mountain