Grandfather mountain is only about an hour from where I live, which makes the fact that I have only visited the mountain once previously utterly absurd. To correct my act of trail blasphemy, I decided to host a hike to one of the famous peaks, Calloways Peak, on one of the less famous trails, the Daniel Boone Scout trail. Falling in at just under 6000 feet, Calloways peak offers amazing views high above the Blue Ridge Parkway deep within the great Smoky Mountains. Arriving at the peak requires a long steady climb to the peak of around 8 miles round trip. Along the way you’ll climb ladders, negotiate cables, gain excellent views via overlooks, cross river strung bridges, and penetrate dense forest. The park allows backpacking, but only within specific developed spots along the route (detailed on the map you can pick up at the main entrance for free).
Aside from excellent hiking and views, Grandfather mountain offers the Mile High Swinging bridge, wildlife habitats (complete with blackbear), a nature museum and more. Everything except hiking will cost you 15 bucks per person to access the main park via the main entrance. This main entrance is also the easiest way to get to the most popular trails. Well worth the cost if you’re looking for a more domesticated experience, or if you have children with you. The 15 dollar fee will also allow you to utilize the rockstar parking right at the more popular trailheads.
To gain access to the free hiking trails, don’t enter through the main entrance. Instead, park on the blue ridge parkway or off of the North Carolina Highway 105 and hike in from there. Either way will get you in free, after registering at the trailhead. We decided to take advantage of this.
A rough detailed route for the trails we took can be found here. Begin on the Tanawha trail, heading south. This brought us to a fork which we too west onto the Nuwati trail. From there, head south on the Cragway trail, and you’ll find yourself junctioning east onto the Daniel Boone Scout trail to the peak.
Upon hitting the trial, the group (ten of us total) worked our way up the winding trails. The trail turned out to be much rockier and eroded, with exposed roots and rocks, than anticipated. This slowed our pace, but didn’t hamper our enjoyment of the trail. The trail began with a wide river crossing via a wooden bridge. There were several streams and interesting rock formations. Along the way we discovered several excellent views with teasing previews of the peak of destination in the distance. Eventually the trail turned into a long, steady climb through dense wood. It continued for what felt like miles. However, finally, finally cleared the dense vegetation, and were greeted with an impressive, and sudden, open rock peak upon the top of the mountain. Transitioning from the never ending wood to the wide open vista was jolting, in the best of ways. The views were inimaginable. You could see for miles all around, with distant humble peaks hunkered in the landscape.
If you’ve never been to Grandfather Mountain, I highly recommend it. And if you don’t want to pay to get into the primary entrance, this is a great way to do it. I’ll be covering more of the trails soon.