Scenic Drive to the Top
The 2-mile winding, scenic road to the top of Grandfather Mountain is one of the most spectacular drives in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Grandfather’s Road connects all of the things to do inside the nature park, ending at the Mile High Swinging Bridge. By the time you reach the top of the mountain, you pass through a few of the mountain’s 16 natural communities that vary by altitude, weather, forest and topography. The road climbs 1,000 feet in elevation, so you usually experience a temperature drop of 8-10 degrees.
Enjoy spectacular windshield vistas and many stops along the leisurely drive:
Mile 0.0 – Entrance Gate: Show your ticket and get information on the day’s programs and other updates. Begin the audio tour (included in your admission) to learn as you drive. The elevation here is 4,294 ft.
Mile 0.4 – Half Moon Overlook: One of the most photographed views of Grandfather Mountain is on the left. The overlook is ringed with hundreds of native azaleas and rhododendron and bloom in May and June. Looking up, you’ll see Linville and Morton Peaks.
Mile 0.5 – Woods Walk & Picnic Area: Find picnic tables, grills, restrooms and a family-friendly walking trail. The 4/10 of a mile exploration loop gives you a chance to spot at least 64 species of flowers and plants, plus 19 types of trees.
Mile 0.7 – Picnic with a view: Enjoy big mountain views roadside. Read more about our picnic spots.
Mile 0.9 – Sphinx & Split Rock: Drive past two giant 640-million year-old boulders that mark the middle portion of Grandfather Mountain. Park in the adjacent parking area for a close up look at these fascinating formations. This parking area also connects to the Wilson Center & Wildlife Habitats.
Mile 1.1 – Conservation Campus: Turn right and park to visit the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery and Wildlife Habitats. Inside the Wilson Center, find Mildred’s Grill, interactive displays, theatre, gift shop and more. Located outside are an amphitheater, picnic shelter, and a charging station for electric vehicles. The botanical garden surrounding these spaces includes a pollinator garden.
Mile 1.2 – Forrest Gump Curve: This famous turn is featured in the movie as part of Forrest’s run across America, appearing just after people begin running along behind him. Adjacent is another picnic area.
Mile 1.3 – Cliffside Picnic Area and Overlook: Until 1952, this was the end of the road! On a clear day, gaze across the Blue Ridge Mountains to the rest of the Appalachians. Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, is visible to the southwest. Picnic tables are scattered amongst the boulders.
Mile 1.7 – Black Rock Parking Area: Just past the sign that marks 5,000 feet elevation is the large parking area often referred to as the “hiker’s lot” since several trails begin here, including Black Rock Trail and Grandfather Trail Extension. From here, hike the short Bridge Trail past massive rock outcroppings to the Mile High Swinging Bridge. See our hiking guide for details.
Mile 2.1 – Top Shop / Mile High Swinging Bridge Parking: The last section of the road has hairpin curves with panoramic views. This section has been featured in many car commercials! At an elevation of 5,250 ft is the Top Shop with gift shop, restrooms and an elevator that makes the Mile High Swinging Bridge accessible to all. As you face the top shop, find a birdseye view of the snaking road to the left. To the right, find outside steps up to the Bridge and Linville Peak.
Tips for Enjoying the Scenic Drive
- You drive your own vehicle up the two-mile road to the summit, stopping at overlooks, picnic areas and the Nature Museum as fits your own schedule. Shuttle service is available only to large groups traveling by bus, with advance reservation.
- Since the temperature at the summit is usually 15-20 degrees cooler than in the Piedmont, bring a jacket! Read more about our weather.
- Drive in low gear as you descend from the summit to prevent overheating of your brakes.
- Due to the steep grades and curves in the roadways, walking on the roadways is not permitted. Bicycling is not permitted on the roadways or on the trails.
- No motorhomes or RV’s longer than 28 feet in length are allowed through the Entrance Gate.
- No hinged vehicles are allowed through the Entrance Gate. Guests who wish to unhitch trailers and leave them at the Gate may drive through in the tow vehicle.
- Guests on motorcycles receive information at the Entrance Gate about the nature of the mountain’s roads. On days when the mountain is experiencing high winds, motorcycles will be prohibited from visiting the park. On windy days when the park is open to motorcycles, drivers may be required to park in a sheltered area behind the Top Shop.
- Go to “Plan Your Visit” for more tips for your trip.
The most famous spot on the road to the top of Grandfather is Forrest Gump Curve.
Fall color at Half Moon Overlook peaks in early to mid October while colorful valley views extend to late October.
Due to the extreme weather conditions including high winds and winter snow, the top section of the scenic drive closes when conditions are unsafe.