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Grandfather Mountain Blue Ridge Parkway Trip
June 28, 2007

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I first saw a brochure for this attraction when I visited the Asheville area in December, 2001. I really wanted to see that "mile-high swinging bridge," but at that time temps were in the 20's with 50 mph winds on the bridge, so common sense prevailed (and besides that it was closed). I always had it in the back of my mind to return when I could really explore here. It took 6 years, but my plan finally came together!
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Grandfather Mountain

2050 Blowing Rock Highway
Linville, NC 28646
(800) 468-7325 - Office
(828) 733-4337 - Gate

It should come as no surprise that the exaggeration about the bridge's spanned depth started with a politician. The governor who dedicated its opening in 1952 coined the phrase "Mile-High Swinging Bridge." Will you see straight down a mile when gazing giddily down from the center of the bridge? Nope - but the 80 feet down you do see is plenty daunting, anyway. And is the bridge actually a swinger? Not really anymore. Since the opening, they attached cables that tether the bridge to the ground below. The mile-high claim can be supported if measured from sea level, though, and even if not free-swinging, it still sways a bit which gives that twinge of fear as you wonder what would happen if it snapped just at the moment you were halfway over.

So it's still a thrill to walk across and millions have done so marveling at the experience and the views. And thousands have chickened out after walking up the 50 steps it takes to get to the foot of the bridge. They actually did a survey of 10,000 visitors and found that 30% of women and 12.7% of men reach this point and refuse to cross. I also got a kick out of hearing why the sign cautioning a load limit of 40 people was placed. It seems people would hold back at the start if one or two people were already on the bridge. Actually, the bridge could hold 500 people with no problem. But Mr. Morton (owner of the property) figured no more than 40 people would be on the bridge at any one time and if they would count and see they were safe, it would help the traffic across the bridge.
Here's what waits on the other side. If you trust your balance, you can walk out on the cliffs like these brave souls and witness these magnificent views. I guess I'm not as foolhardy as I used to be because I just went a little ways before I decided I was not as steady on my feet on the rocks as I should have been. I wished I had brought along my trusty walking stick, but I left it behind thinking I wouldn't need it just for the walk across the bridge.
Talk about hairpin S curves! This is why they don't allow anything longer than 28' up the summit road. So get settled in a campground and take your tow vehicle up to explore this beautiful NC High Country attraction.
While the bridge and the expansive views were the big attractions for me, the animal sanctuary was definitely an added bonus. I passed by this cougar's domain a couple of times before he graced us with his company. He was well worth the wait - what a powerful creature! You can also visit bald and golden eagles, playful otters and graceful deer on relatively easy paths located next to the museum. There's an 80-seat restaurant in the museum to rest and revive yourself here.
But the show stealer in the animal section is definitely Dakota da black bear. There were three others here sitting up at attention when people started tossing food that you can buy from a booth here. The helper said Dakota was notorious for hamming it up which made people throw more to her. She also was obnoxious about running off the other more fraidy cat bears. So as the helper was ignoring Dakota and trying to get food to the others, Dakota threw herself fully prone on the ground, stretched out both hands and feet as if determined to get something one way or another. It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen - and despite knowing I was being duped by a ham, I couldn't resist throwing her more food to reward such a show!

Entrance located on US 221, two miles north of Linville, NC, and one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 305. 19 miles from Boone; 70 miles from Asheville.

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