Within a short distance in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can be atop the highest mountain in the range, cross a mile-high swinging bridge, go to the deepest gorge in the Eastern US and then go inside the mountain itself.
Beginning atop Grandfather Mountain (elevation 5,964 ft), a privately owned nature preserve with extensive hiking trails from young child and old dad friendly to challenging for experienced hikers, a small environmentally and animal friendly zoo with some very popular bears, a nature and history museum and extensive picnic opportunities — and in season Scottish Highland Games.
One of the big adventures on Grandfather is taking a stroll across the Mile High Swinging Bridge onto a craggy outlook with a great view. The bridge is an interesting structure in and of itself and the excitement of crossing it almost matches the view.
You could easily spend a day on Grandfather without being there for a special event.
But having seen the mountains from above, it’s only a short trip to see the deepest gorge on the East Coast and the Falls at the start of the Gorge there at Linville. Again there is plenty of camping of all varieties in the area including some challenging hikes into the Wilderness of the Gorge.
One of the best ways to experience the Gorge is to visit the Falls. The recreation area associated with the Gorge and Falls in right off the Blue Ridge Parkway and is easily accessible and federally maintained. (at milepost 316.5).
The walk to the upper falls and the views of the gorge aren’t challenging, but you can up the ante with a steeper descent to the lower falls and the plunge basin — even in the current drought these are the more impressive.
But while being below the mountain is impressive, you could combine the trip and trek with an easy visit into the mountain’s interior.
Linville Caverns is one of the oldest tourist sites in the North Carolina mountains so in some ways there is a period feel to the visit and giftshop to experience before you enter the timeless walk into Humpback Mountain.
The walk is a short one and friendly to the entire family with few challenges — other than being left in absolute darkness for a very few minutes.
In our case, a very amusing guide kept us informed with fact and non-fact and pun as we walked under the limestone.
You should if the spirit moves you and your family know that there are many opportunities to take your kids fishing in the area as well.