An elk, a Girl Scout, two cougars and a bagpiper walk onto Grandfather Mountain…

The punchline? It’s 2018 at the Linville, N.C., nature preserve and attraction. No joke.

With a mission to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain, the nonprofit park and its staff are readying for a fun and eventful year.

Last December’s arrival of three bull elk calves — Doc, Merle and Watson — will allow guests to see some of the mountain’s long lost residents, while two of its newer inhabitants, Western cougar rescues Logan and Trinity, are settling in comfortably to their recently renovated habitat.

On top of that, Grandfather has released its 2018 schedule of special events, featuring mountains of programs designed to educate and entertain.

“2018 is looking to be a busy year on Grandfather Mountain,” said Frank Ruggiero, director of marketing and communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the park. “Our calendar is packed with original events, bridging education with outdoor fun and allowing us to share the wonders of Grandfather Mountain with guests of all ages.”

With a few exceptions where noted, most special events are included with park admission.

 

Nature Photography Weekend

Friday-Sunday, June 1-3

Visit Grandfather Mountain to hear presentations from top nature photographers, while photographing spectacular scenery and native animals before and after regular business hours. Additional cost. Online registration begins April 2 at www.grandfather.com.

 

The Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble

Saturday, June 9

Meet Grandfather Mountain’s naturalists at the Nature Museum to obtain a map and information on where to find the most beautiful blooms. Special programming throughout the day will highlight this High Country jewel.

 

Animal Birthday Party

Wednesday, June 13

Grandfather Mountain celebrates the birthdays of all the animals in its environmental habitats with games, contests, crafts and surprises. Grandfather’s habitat staff has prepared a fun-filled day for guests, as well as programs to celebrate the park’s furry and feathered inhabitants.

 

62nd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

Thursday-Sunday, July 12-15

Blaring bagpipes, astounding athletes, delicate dancers, rocking Celtic music and a spectacular highland setting make this colorful celebration of Scottish culture one of the most highly acclaimed games in the country. Additional cost. For more information, visit www.gmhg.org.

 

Animal Enrichment Day

Wednesday, Aug. 1

Enrichment is an integral part of how Grandfather Mountain cares for its habitat animals every day. An enrichment is a special treat, new toy or even an unfamiliar scent given to the animals to break up their routines and help keep them active and intellectually stimulated. Visitors can enjoy watching enrichment demonstrations, talk directly with keepers and participate in family-oriented games and crafts.

 

Grandfather Mountain Amateur & Professional Camera Clinic

Saturday & Sunday, Aug. 18-19

Top photographers gather at Grandfather Mountain to present on the nuts and bolts of making good photographs. This event is free to working members of the press, with an additional cost for non-press professionals and amateurs. Online registration begins July 18 at www.grandfather.com.

 

Junior Ranger Day

Saturday, Sept. 8

Grandfather Mountain’s inaugural Junior Ranger Day will celebrate the park’s Junior Ranger program and its esteemed participants. Geared for ages 5-12, the Junior Ranger program offers young explorers a unique, hands-on experience at Grandfather Mountain, including a scavenger hunt, trail exploration, plant and animal identification and more. On Junior Ranger Day, kids can complete a special set of assignments to earn a badge and free ice cream.

 

48th Annual Girl Scout Day

Saturday, Sept. 15

Calling all Girl Scouts! Grandfather Mountain’s annual Girl Scout Day returns for its 48th year, featuring scout activities, presentations and a closing ceremony. All Girl Scouts and troop leaders are admitted free with proof of membership, and family members will receive discounted admission.

 

International Hawk Migration Viewing

Sept. 16-22

Guests are invited to join the mountain’s naturalists as they count and celebrate the annual spectacle of the fall raptor migration. Participants can meet daily at Linville Peak, across the Mile High Swinging Bridge, weather permitting.

 

Creatures of the Night & Bonfire Delight

Saturday, Sept. 29

As night falls on Grandfather Mountain, guests can enjoy rare after-dark tours, fireside tales and a chance to meet the park’s nocturnal residents. Additional cost. Limited to 48 participants. Registration opens Sept. 1 at www.grandfather.com.

 

The Fantastic Fall Color Ramble

Saturday, Oct. 13

Meet Grandfather Mountain’s naturalists at the Nature Museum to obtain a map and information on where to find the most beautiful fall colors! Special programming throughout the day will help families explore the great deciduous forest and learn about the science behind the annual phenomenon.

 

A Beary Scary Halloween

Saturday, Oct. 27

Grandfather Mountain gets spooky with its annual Halloween celebration. Guests can enjoy a day full of nature programs, focused on animals considered creepy and crawly. Activities also include making Halloween-themed enrichments for the animals, and kids will be able to trick-or-treat through the habitat overlooks. This event is included with admission, although children in costume are admitted at half price.

 

And More

Grandfather Mountain will add additional events to its schedule throughout the year, including the Grandfather Presents summer evening lecture series, daily programs, special events, night walks and more. To learn more, visit www.grandfather.com, email events@grandfather.com, or call (828) 733-2013.

The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325.