Grandfather Trail -- 5,750'

Grandfather Mountain State Park - Grandfather Trail

Few trails in the Southern Appalachians can compare for sheer ruggedness with the three miles of path that run the length of the Grandfather Mountain ridge.  Exposed cliffs, tangles of huge boulders, steep ascents and descents via ladders and cables...all this and more awaits those who venture out onto the fabled Grandfather Trail.  The trail itself runs the length of Grandfather Mountain, crossing its three main peaks, from the swinging bridge area at its southern end to Calloway Peak at its north.  Calloway Peak, at 5,946-feet, is the highest point along the Blue Ridge but offers limited views.  It's Grandfather's two sub-peaks, Attic Window (5,880') and McRae (5,844') that offer the most scenery.  Its a spectacularly challenging trail and one that easily ranks as one of my favorites in the southern mountains.

Grandfather Mountain is located in North Carolina's so-called 'high country', in the northwest corner of the state.  The nearest town of consequence is Boone, just to the north.  Once a privately owned mountain, Grandfather is now one of North Carolina's newest state parks.  That said, unlike most other state parks, there is still a hefty entrance fee as their was when the mountain was private.  In 2016, the fee was $20 per adult.  Its pricey but I do have to admit there's a lot offered here for the money and you can tell the funds are being put to good use as the parks facilities and trails are in impeccable shape.  

As it had been nearly 10-years since I had set foot on Grandfather I would, on this day, be following the popular Grandfather Trail the length of the ridge from the Swinging Bridge to Calloway Peak and then back.  On the return journey I'd make a slight detour via the rugged Underwood Trail to avoid the steep climb back up and over McRae Peak.  Though only around five miles in length, the route feels longer due to the ruggedness of the terrain that the trail crosses.  There's rarely a dull moment on this's fantastic.

So, without further adieu, I present to you Grandfather Mountain.  Make sure your laces are tight and you don't mind a few dizzying climbs...this is a good one...ENJOY!!

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  36.096208, -81.831771

Route Type:  Out-and-back              Difficulty:  HARD  (Petzoldt Rating:  8.36 )

Mileage Hiked:  4.8 miles                   Hike Duration:  4:30

Trailhead Temp:  65'F                        Trail Traffic:  25-50 people

Min. Elevation:  5,250'                         Max. Elevation:  5,946'

Total Vertical Gain:  1,780'                 Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  371'

Trails Used (blaze color/shape):  Grandfather (blue diamonds), Underwood (yellow diamonds)


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  • Tim Truemper

    on August 6, 2019

    I did this hike when I turned 60. A birthday present. Hardest hike I ever did for the distance. A week later I did a 9 miler roundtrip up steep terrain (2000 feet elevation change) in Colorado and it felt like a breeze compared to this one.

  • Dave Kathy Weemhoff

    on September 4, 2016

    Amazing place, however Treacherous much of the trail seems to be! Great to see what to expect, while enjoying some fantastic views - even in the fog.