Our first stop for the day was supposed to be Linville Falls, but rain and lots of fog deterred our hike. We will have to save that one for another day. We continued on our journey to Grandfather Mountain. We had made these plans ahead around work schedules, so we had to do what we could. It was quite foggy at Grandfather, but at least it wasn’t crowded.
Grandfather Mountain is the highest peak in the Blue Ridge mountains at 5945 ft. It was too foggy to take most of the hikes, but they are listed a strenuous, so I’m not sure how many of them we would have done anyway. There is one inside the park called the Woods Walk that is listed as easy, but we didn’t take it because it was so foggy.
On the way in, they give you a CD to listen to, sort of like a guided tour, but we don’t have a CD player in our truck. Our first stop was a place called the Split Rock. It’s close to their fudge shop (which we didn’t go into). There is a parking area there for you to walk the Woods Walk and check out the Split Rock. The fog didn’t prohibit us from driving to the summit, and along the way, we saw the famous “Forest Gump” curve, where Tom Hanks ran in the movie for a whole 30 second clip.
The next stop before the top is the Wildlife Encounter Area. You will see signs here with times for the next encounters, but they only happen on weekends. During the week, you just spot the animals on your own. Here, I would like to point out that there are signs clearly posted that the Eagles are very timid around people and to please keep quiet. In other words, please tell your children not be loud and scare the animals so others can enjoy the park. It’s understandable if they are excited, but sometimes you have to account for all the others around you who would like to enjoy seeing the animals without them hiding from the sudden noise. Thank you for being courteous to the people around you.
We saw the Elk through the fog and the bears. The otters were not out and about, and the cougars may have been hiding. We did see very informative signs about all of the animals. The bears are special to the park, since they’ve had them since the park opened. The wildlife part is named after the first one, and you can see her name everywhere, “Mildred”. Please be sure to click on the pictures individually so you can read the signs and see everything informative and the animals closer.
Next to the animal habitat is a museum and snack shop. There are a lot of displays about local area birds and crystals that are mined. The timeline on the tree truck was quite interesting. Don’t forget to click on the pictures to see them better so you can experience them with us.
At the Summit (driving to it), there is a shop and the famous Mile High Bridge. You can walk out to the bridge from stairs or take an elevator out to it. We chose to take the elevator. It was still foggy, but we were able to take a couple of photos from the “top of the world”.
We hopped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway but not too far, only 11 miles away, to Julian Price National Park. There was a slight chance it might rain, so we put the tent up instead of hammocks. We got a great spot by the lake, but the fog was very thick. This was a wonderful place to camp, but it’s not one of the parks that gives you anything off for having the America the Beautiful Pass. It also says online that it’s a Good Sam park, but it’s not. But for $20 for the night, it’s still not a bad deal. They have “real” restrooms, but no showers. They have handicap spots with raised fire pits and raised grills. We saw some travel trailers there, but there’s no electricity, so it’s boondocking at its finest. They do have generator hours posted. We got lucky to not have any rain that night, and when we got up the next morning, the fog had lifted and we got to see Lake Price in all it’s beauty.
Thank goodness the fog lifted. Day 2, “Peak” 2, we went the The Blowing Rock. It is only 8 miles away from the campground. The little town of Blowing Rock is quite nice. It’s very historic and full of little shops showcasing this little town. The Blowing Rock has a legend that says a Chickasaw maiden and a Cherokee brave fell in love. He learned of his people being in distress and wanted to return to be with them. The maiden didn’t want him to go. He was so upset at not knowing what to do, he jumped off the cliff. The wind was so strong it blew him back up into her arms. This story is more than like European. They tended to make up stories to romanticize the Indians. The Indians had stories to explain things that happened in nature; things they had no “normal” explanations for. The real “story” of the Blowing Rock is its shape. It juts out with an angle causing the wind to sort of “whirl” underneath it, blowing things “up” like snowflakes, etc.
When you see the brochures or look it up on the internet, you’re expecting this large towering mountain. It’s not that far to climb it from the “back” side. If you were to fall off the cliff side, it would probably break some bones, and depending on the way you land, maybe worse. The point being, don’t be afraid to climb it. Just don’t get too close to the edge if the wind is blowing badly. There’s a nice overlook tower past the little snack shack/shop. There’s a small nature trail here and a little museum and a small turtle pond. The entire experience takes about 35 minutes or so, but it’s a great little stop.
Our next adventure is a couple of hours away. We had planned on checking out the Tweetsie Railroad, next to Blowing Rock, but they had changed their hours back to weekends only, we assumed since school was back in session. But, since we were out and about already and the elevator was working again, we chose to go on ahead to Chimney Rock,
If you’ve got some time and you’re a brave soul, you can take the Outcroppings trail all the way to the top, climbing 500 steps. Or, if you don’t have a lot of time, take the elevator. It’s a 198 ft tunnel into the rock with only 40+ steps to the top of the Rock. At the top of the elevator, there is a nice little snack bar and “trinket” shop. If you want to go to the top of the waterfall from here, it’s about an hour walk. We opted to go to the bottom of the falls via the Hickory Nut Falls trail. There used to be a trail around the Chimney Rock that was the one in the movie from The Last of the Mohicans. Due to an accident (someone being irresponsible), they had to close the original trail and put up different rails. They are working on a new trail to go all the way around, but it may take a couple of years to finish.
The Hickory Nut Falls trail is a moderate trail (steep in some areas, not so bad in others). It takes about an hour for most people to go up and come back down, but for those of us who take our time to enjoy the scenery and took about an hour and 15 minutes. We got out 4 minutes before the park closed. At the top of the trail, there are a few stairs to the bottom of the falls, but not that many. There’s a nice picnic area there too. There’s another picnic area on the trail not far from the start. If it’s a hot day, you might want to be sure to take your time here and have plenty of water. It was in the 70s the day we went, so it wasn’t a bad walk. There’s a small cave they call the Genesis Cave. It was formed by rocks cracking and falling. It’s a rather neat little area.
If you’re a Penny Passport collector or just “smash” pennies every so often, there are machines for these collectible pennies at all 3 of these locations that we went to. We will certainly return when we have more time. We hope you enjoy our blog and our pictures. Feel free to comment and like. Thank you all for your support.
Bonus photos: Even the restrooms here are interesting, sporting murals inside and out.
The wildlife here is also wonderful. I was sang to by this great cardinal. He got really close to me too.
We certainly recommend it here. Just be sure you have an entire day to enjoy it all. We recommend all three of these “peaks” and the Julian Price campground. We hope you will enjoy your trip to these landmarks of WNC.