Spring Fun

Mar 18, 2024

Grandfather Mountain, the not-for-profit nature park run by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, is gearing up for springtime, with daily programs, special experiences, a slate of events and beautiful blooms all ahead.

“Spring is such a special time here,” said Jesse Pope, president and executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. “Along with the greening of the mountain and the first wildflowers starting to appear, our programming really ramps up and offers guests so many unique options for experiencing Grandfather.”

Check out these fun ways to explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain in the spring season.

Spring is an ideal time to visit Grandfather Mountain, as the park’s flora and fauna become energized with the initial signs of warmer weather — and Grandfather Mountain’s talented team of educators is on hand to showcase these natural wonders, all included with the price of admission.

Starting April 1, Grandfather begins offering daily programming, including Keeper Talks, during which guests can talk with park educators about the habitat animals — black bears, cougars, river otters, bald eagles and elk — and watch them receive an enrichment. Enrichments are special treats, new toys or unfamiliar scents designed to break up the animals’ routines and help keep them active and intellectually stimulated. Keeper Talks run between 10 and 15 minutes and are held daily, every half hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., April through October, in the environmental wildlife habitats area.

The Community Science Weather program spotlights Grandfather Mountain’s weather, known as some of the most extreme in the Southeast. Through this program, guests can help staff record data that is then passed on to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This 10-minute program is held daily at 11 a.m. at Grandfather’s Pollinator Garden, behind the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery.

During Grandfather’s Junior Naturalist program, park educators help younger guests (ages 5 to 10) use scientific tools to make observations about natural phenomena. These 30-minute programs take place at the Pollinator Garden and are held at 11:30 a.m. on weekends April 1 to May 26, daily May 27 to Aug. 18 and weekends Aug. 24 to Nov. 3.

Animal Encounters invite guests to come face-to-face with some of the mountain’s off-display educational animal ambassadors, such as opossums and snakes, while a park educator answers questions about that particular animal. Encounters last about 30 minutes and are held weekends at 2 p.m. at the Williams Outdoor Learning Space, located next to the Wilson Center.

To learn more about these Grandfather Mountain daily programs and others, visit www.grandfather.com/daily-programs.

Daily Programs

This April, Grandfather Mountain brings back special experiences, like “Meet the Bears,” Behind-the-Scenes Tours, “Paint With an Otter” and “Keeper for a Day,” available at an additional cost.

Meet-the-Bears Tours take participants behind the scenes to meet some of Grandfather Mountain’s resident black bears and learn all about them, including their names, daily routines, care, histories and more. Meet-the-Bears Tours are offered on weekends, April through October. Tours last approximately 30 minutes and are offered at 11 a.m. Reservations are required.

Behind-the-Scenes Habitat Tours allow guests to see where the cougars, otters and elk sleep overnight, meet black bears that are not commonly on display, learn the ins and outs of what it takes to care for the animals year-round, observe a training session and find out why the animals call Grandfather Mountain home. Behind-the-Scenes Habitat Tours are offered on weekends, April through October. Tours last one hour and are offered at 12:30 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. Reservations are required.

“Paint With an Otter”  allows participants to meet an otter, choose nontoxic paint colors for the artwork and watch as a habitat keeper guides the animal through the painting enrichment. Participants are able to select the painting they like the best to take home. The experience lasts for 30 minutes and is offered on weekends, April through October, at 11:30 a.m.

“Keeper for a Day” offers participants the unique experience of learning how to care for Grandfather’s resident animals, clean their habitats and prepare their food. “Keeper for a Day” also includes a painting session with one of the habitat animals. This three-hour “work shift” is offered on Tuesday mornings, April through October.

To learn more about Grandfather Mountain experiences, visit www.grandfather.com/experiences.

Individuals with limited mobility should inquire about availability when booking “Meet the Bears” or “Paint With an Otter.” A UTV is available to transport guests with mobility issues if lined up in advance.

Opened at the end of June 2022, the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery nearly doubles the size of Grandfather Mountain’s former Nature Museum with 10,000 square feet of education space, including state-of-the-art museum exhibits, three classrooms, an ADA-accessible theater and expanded capacity for hosting conferences and community events.

New exhibits include a 3D interactive map of the mountain that showcases Grandfather’s ecology and history; flora and fauna walls; and other exhibits focusing on the mountain’s natural history, weather and geology.

The Wilson Center is part of an expanding Conservation Campus. Outside the building, guests can enjoy a new botanical garden filled with native plantings. And, last summer, the Williams Outdoor Learning Space was unveiled, featuring an amphitheater with terraced seating and a pavilion built around the existing natural landscape adjacent to the Wilson Center. It is an ideal place for special events, naturalist presentations or a picnic.

Solar Eclipse
Monday, April 8, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
A total solar eclipse is coming to North America on April 8. Weather permitting; a partial eclipse will be visible at Grandfather Mountain. All daily programs (other than Keeper Talks) this day will make thematic ties to solar and lunar eclipses. In addition, a designated area to enjoy the eclipse will be set up. Solar eclipse glasses will be needed to view the event. The first 100 guests on April 8 will receive a pair of solar eclipse glasses for free with their admission. The glasses will also be on sale in the mountain’s gift shops that day. Event included in park admission.

The Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble
May 25-June 2, 1-1:30 p.m.
From May 25 through June 2, daily, short, guided strolls will highlight Grandfather Mountain’s rhododendron species and blooms – their history, attributes and the roles they play in the mountain’s ecological communities. The easygoing walk takes approximately 20 minutes and is fit for all ages. Included in park admission.

Nature Photography Weekend
June 7-9
This popular shutterbug weekend includes presentations from top nature photographers, hands-on breakout sessions, a friendly contest and the rare opportunity to photograph the mountain’s spectacular scenery and native animals before and after regular business hours. This year’s speakers include Andre Daugherty, Leslie Restivo, Michele Sons and Luke Sutton. Additional cost.

Animal Birthday Party
Wednesday, June 12, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Grandfather Mountain celebrates the birthdays of its resident animals with games, contests, crafts and surprises. The mountain’s habitat staff will prepare a fun-filled day for guests, as well as programs to celebrate the park’s furry and feathered inhabitants. Millie the Bear, the mountain’s mascot, will make special appearances throughout the day. Included in park admission.

Grandfather by Night
Less-Adventurous Version: May 31, 8-10 p.m.
Adventurous Version: June 14, 8-10 p.m.

Explore Grandfather Mountain after hours with your own personal guides. You’ll discover some of the park’s nightime wonders, while stopping at its most significant sites. Watch a stunning Grandfather sunset and experience the mountain as never before! Additional cost.

New in 2024, Grandfather is offering two versions of Grandfather by Night – an adventurous version and a less-adventurous version. The adventurous version will include a short optional hike after sunset to discuss and look for the creatures that are more active at night. The group will explore the spruce-fir forests from top to bottom in search of salamanders, flying squirrels, fireflies and any other creatures they might come across. The less-adventurous version of Grandfather by Night includes an outdoor interpretive program and flora, fauna, folklore and other topics.

More Grandfather by Night dates are set for the summer.

See more events on our Calendar.

Spring and the leaves starting to bud on trees is always a welcome sight after winter at Grandfather. Dutchman’s breeches, spring beauties, trout lilies, squirrel corn and chickweed are just some of the very first wildflowers of the spring.

The months of May and June see the beloved rhododendrons, azaleas and mountain laurel make their return, among others. A treat in late April and May, pink-shell azalea can be found growing across the park. This subspecies of the rhododendron family, considered vulnerable globally, has delicate pink blooms.

Visitors hoping to take in the sights, and scents, of the bountiful blooms on the mountain can plan ahead by referencing Grandfather’s Wildflower Bloom Calendar at www.grandfather.com/wildflowers-calendar.

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