On Friday afternoon we were able to leave work a few hours early in order to get a quick overnight trip to Grandfather Mountain. We had a really great time, and recommend this park to anyone who wants to visit a jungle gym for outdoor enthusiasts. What a great use of a day and a half!!!
The main entrance at Grandfather Mountain requires folks to pay $20 per person to enter the park, and also requires you to return to your vehicle and leave the park by 5pm. So in order to go backpacking in the park, you have to enter from one of the other sides (and conveniently you then do not need to pay the $20 per person).
So we parked at the Boone Fork Parking Area off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and began our hike.
Friday September 23rd, 6.6 miles
We got to the parking area at around 4pm and started hiking up the Nuwati Trail to our first view at Story Teller’s Rock
Dirt Stew noticed a spring in my step, and I think it was because of the new pack I was carrying. I’ll post a separate little review on that shortly. Until we got onto the Cragway Trail, the tread-way was fairly easy.
Once we got onto Cragway Trail, things became more challenging, but the views were fantastic. We followed the Cragway Trail to the Daniel Boone Scout Trail to the Grandfather Trail.
At the beginning of the hike when we registered our trip at the trail head, we had to pick which campsite we wanted to stay at. Not knowing anything about the various campsites, we chose Attic Window. We passed many other campsites on our way to Attic Window. The sun started setting and we were rewarded by stunning views and a beautiful sunset.
We were glad not to spend too much time hiking into the darkness as the terrain was very challenging and I was worried about making a wrong step or a wrong move in the darkness. But, once we got to Attic Window Campsite, we were both a bit disappointed because there was only a small wooden platform and one very sloped spot on the ground to pitch a tent. And it wasn’t like there were any other spots that were already taken. We were the only ones there.
Since we do not have a free standing tent, we pitched on the sloped spot (I usually prefer sleeping on the ground over a platform anyway). It was quite uncomfortable and we kept sliding around so, and in the middle of the night, Dirt Stew decided to leave the tent and go sleep on the wooden platform under the stars.
Saturday September 24th, 9.8 miles
We got up in the morning and took a only few steps along the trail before we understood why this spot was called Attic Window. It was obvious. We were definitely up high, and there was definitely a window!
We headed further along Grandfather Trail to MacRae Peak. This section had many ladders and ropes and even a huge rock scramble that reminded us of Mahoosuc Notch on the Appalachian Trail.
We finally made it to the other parking lot (the one you have to pay for), and we refilled our water bladders at the visitors center and bought some post cards. Then we headed over on the swinging bridge and followed some easier trails to Grandmother View. That was not as worth it after the fantastic views we had earlier on the trip, but we did get a view of the whole mountain range from there including the swinging bridge. We also saw a little garter snake along the way.
We then retraced our footsteps for most of the way back except that we tried to do every alternative trail that we could find. The Underwood Trail was much a much easier alternate that avoided many ladders and did not summit MacRae Peak. The only trail in the park that we wound up not completing was the Profile Trail. This was basically out of laziness (or rather tired legs). However, there did not seem to be much on the Profile Trail worth seeing, and it would have added another 6.2 miles and a ton of elevation to our hike. We were content with returning to our car in the late afternoon so we could make it home for dinner.
All in all this was a terrific trip, and definitely worth it. It was especially good for a short trip, since there aren’t many trails and the park is fairly small. The trails are super fun, challenging, and very rewarding.