Grandfather Mountain is 1 mi. s. of jct. US 221 and Blue Ridge Pkwy. Milepost 305. The rugged 5,946-foot peak was named by early pioneers for its profile: When viewed from the north, it resembles a bearded grandfather looking toward the sky.
At the entrance gate you'll receive an audio tour CD narrating the winding 2-mile drive to the summit. The road ends at the Top Shop visitor center, where you'll find several trailheads, including those for strenuous hikes along the ridge into adjacent Grandfather Mountain State Park.
The highlight of a visit to Grandfather Mountain is the Mile High Swinging Bridge, a steel suspension footbridge completed in 1999 that despite the name swings very little, especially compared to its wooden predecessor. Although it stands a mile above sea level, the bridge—accessible by way of stairs behind the Top Shop or an elevator inside the shop—is only 80 feet above the ravine it spans. The views from the bridge as well as the rock outcroppings at either end are spectacular.
Halfway up the mountain is a nature museum, which has several indoor displays and a theater showing nature movies filmed on location. Outside you'll see five native wildlife habitats that are home to black bears, cougars, white-tailed deer, river otters and two bald eagles.
Picnicking is permitted. Food is available. Time: Allow 1 hour, 30 minutes minimum.