No discussion of our area would
be complete without major deference to the granddaddy of them all, Grandfather
Mountain NC. Privately owned since 1885 by the MacRae family, (a name
we see often up here), at 5,964 feet, Calloway Peak is the highest point in
the Blue Ridge mountains. (not to be confused with Mt. Mitchell, which is in
the Black Mountains, an off shoot of the Blue Ridge.
Located on US 221 one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway, no trip would be complete without experiencing the wildlife, vegetation, and breathtaking views of Grandfather Mountain.
Mile High Swinging Bridge
Originally built in 1952, the 228 foot suspension bridge connects two peaks over an 80 foot drop. The spectacular views and the tendency for the bridge to sway, make this a favorite spot of the more daring visitor!
The Environmental Habitats at Grandfather Mountain North Carolina allow visitors to view native animals in large enclosures built around the animal's native habitat. Seven habitats for families of Black Bear, River Otter, Bald and Golden Eagles, and White-Tailed Deer allow guests to get an up close visit of these animals in their natural settings.
To get the most out of the Grandfather experience, you really need to walk the mountain. Eleven hiking trails adding up to about 13 miles exist, from an easy "walk in the park", to a rigorous backcountry mountain climbing adventure, the best trails in the area! The forests of Grandfather Mountain are of the type more often found in Canadian type climates. As home to 16 different ecosystems and 66 rare or endangered species, the backcountry hiking trails bring you close to nature, often using ladders and cables to climb the steeper cliffs and rock faces! Being privately owned, hiking requires a permit, as does admission to the mountain. However, the things you'll experience are well worth the price!
Before you set off on the hiking trails, bone up on your environmental sensitivity by visiting the Nature Museum. Displays of gold, gems and minerals, birds, mushrooms, edible berries and the wildflowers of the region, will give you the education you really need to truly appreciate what you've been walking through, as you're catching you're breath, overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountain Range from it's highest peak!
The Highland Games & gathering of Scottish Clans
Every summer in July, Banner Elk and its surrounding areas are invaded by a horde of Scotts, coming from all over the world to attend what has become "the grandest of highland games in the new world". The annual "Gathering O' Scottish Clans" meets at MacRae Meadows, at the entrance to Grandfather Mountain NC, to participate in variety of Celtic activities such as music and dancing, sheepherding, piping, wrestling, and a variety of Gaelic track and field competitions. A magnificent event for 50 years, this is the busiest week of the year for banner Elk, and you can see the influence of the games throughout the area - "The Scottsman" convenience stores, "Tynecastle", "Lees-MacRae", and a scattering of Scottish themed shops from Linville to Boone!
Grandfather Mountain North Carolina is the premier must see attraction of our area and the best place for hiking trails around! And if you happen to be in our area in early July, the annual Highland Games and gathering of Scottish clans is the event of the year!