Grandfather Mountain Fall Visits

Fall Visits: Insider Tips

The fall season on Grandfather Mountain (September & October) is certainly a favorite for many as the crisp cooler temperatures ushers in the leaf color show that lasts for many weeks. Here are some insider tips for getting the most out of your mile-high excursion to Grandfather.

  1. In 2022, we kick off the fall season by celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Mile High Swinging Bridge on September 2. Read more about this special day.
  2. There’s certainly enough things to do on the mountain to spend an entire day. But you have less time, you have many options. See our full list of Things to Do. Top destinations for visitors are the Mile High Swinging Bridge, the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery and the Wildlife Habitats.
  3. Tip: If you arrive early in the day, begin your visit at the Mile High Swinging Bridge, especially on busier weekends.
  4. Book your timed entry and tickets in advance! Fall can be a busy time on the Mountain, and you don’t want to miss out. Purchase tickets online.
  5. Planning to hike? See our Hiking Guide to find the perfect trail for you.
  6. Choose from a variety of daily programs during your visit that are included in your admission ticket. No advance reservations needed for those!
  7. On weekends, sign up in advance for “behind-the-scenes” Experiences with a naturalist or wildlife expert.
  8. The summit of Grandfather Mountain is often 20 degrees cooler than the valleys and Piedmont areas. Bring extra layers. Fall days at Grandfather are usually crisp and cool! Check the weather before your visit.
  9. Visit our gift shops, located in the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery and Top Shop, for Grandfather Mountain apparel and souvenirs.
  10. Look for fresh ways to see fall color. The views up top are nice, but also check out the vantage points from the bear and elk habitats viewing areas. On the trails, look down to enjoy wildflowers, plants, shrubberies and interesting fungi.
  11. Pack a picnic or plan to eat lunch at Mildred’s Grill. You can also get your food to-go so you can still enjoy the fresh air and picnic table views! Find more than 100 picnic spots on the mountain. See our Picnic Guide for details.
  12. When is peak color? Leaves begin changing color at the highest elevations and gradually work down the slopes into the valleys over several weeks. Typically, the first fall colors appear on Grandfather Mountain in mid to late September. Peak color toward the summit is usually early October. The lower sections of the park peak in mid October. Color views into the much lower valleys extend into late October.

Check the schedule of events before your visit to plan what you’d like to do. Some require advance registration and fill up quickly. Here’s a sampling:

  • Hawk Watch (September): Grab a front-row seat to one of nature’s most stunning spectacles — thousands of raptors migrating over the mountains and heading south toward their wintering grounds.
  • Junior Naturalist Day (September): A day’s worth of special programming to spark participants’ curiosity about the natural world.
  • Girl Scout Day (September): Nature hikes, hands-on activities, weather exploration, presentation, habitats tours and more are enjoyed by Girl Scouts and their troop leaders – free admission if in uniform.
  • Creatures of the Night & Bonfire Delights (October): A nighttime event that features fun and spooky stories told by firelight, along with exclusive after-dark tours. This is an unique opportunity to see the new world that is Grandfather Mountain after the sun goes down. 
  • Fall Color Ramble (October): These easy-going rambles, led by members of the park’s naturalist staff, give guests an opportunity to learn more about color change and explore the species of plants and trees native to Grandfather Mountain.
  • Beary Scary Halloween (October): This spooky selection of fun, interactive programs, features Halloween-themed activities and trick-or-treating. Guests can try their hands at Halloween crafts, along with games like Pin the Tail on the Bear, bean-bag toss and more. Park educators host interactive, autumn-themed nature programs.

Bring your camera! See our Fall Color Gallery for inspiration.


Grandfather Mountain | Home to the Swinging Bridge, Animal Habitats and Nature Museum

GPS: 2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville, NC 28646
Mailing: PO Box 129, Linville, NC 28646

Owned & operated by Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
Go here for Grandfather Mountain State Park information.
Member of Southern Highlands Attractions