Fall Colors Tour (Grandfather Mtn)

Fall Colors Tour (Grandfather Mtn)

Day two of the fall colors tour started out chilly.  Mid to high 30s, depending on the thermometer you chose.  So we delayed our departure for Grandfather Mountain State Park to give the sun a chance to warm things up a bit.  By mid-morning, however, we were on our way and it wasn’t very long before the temperatures were well into the 50s.  It turned out to be an absolutely perfect day for a ride in the mountains.

Our 137 mile route took us north out of Franklin on 23/441 then northeast on 23/74.  We merged onto I-40 at exit 27 and followed it east for 45 miles, past Ashville and on to exit 72, where we exited onto SR-70 at Old Fort.  In just a couple of miles we headed north again, using several roads, but primarily SR-221, to the entrance of the state park.  The entire ride was roughly a 2.5 hour journey through some very beautiful country. 

Once inside the park, there is a $20 per vehicle admission fee, we began our ride to the top of Grandfather Mountain.  A ride that was every bit as steep and twisty as it was beautiful.  Along the way up, we stopped at Sphinx Rock/Split Rock, before continuing up to Mile High Swinging Bridge.  Looking at the video I shot along the way, the significant elevation change is quite noticeable in the trees.  The ride appears to consist of thirds.  In the first third, the ride from the park entrance to Sphinx Rock, the trees are densely covered with brightly colored leaves and the road is moderately steep and twisty.  In the second third, the ride from Sphinx Rock to the next parking area, the road becomes significantly steeper, and twistier, and before long the trees are devoid of leaves.  In the final third, the ride from the second parking area up to Mile High Swinging Bridge parking area, the road gets significantly steeper and twistier yet again, and there are only evergreen trees.  We were obviously above the hardwood tree line during the top third.

This video presents our ride up Grandfather Mtn.  In it, we pull into the parking area at Sphinx Rock briefly, however, it continues on without showing Sphinx Rock in detail. Sphinx Rock can be seen in greater detail in the still photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

Ride Up Grandfather Mtn from Changing Gears on Vimeo.


Mile High Swinging Bridge

Mile High Swinging Bridge makes it possible for visitors to experience a 360-degree panoramic view from Grandfather Mountain.  The bridge was originally completed in 1952 — and for 65 years, it has excited and inspired the thousands who’ve walked across, as it swayed in the breeze, the wind singing in the suspension cables.  Whether they crossed it to challenge themselves, to admire the scenery, or to marvel at this engineering masterpiece, the experience made their trip to Grandfather complete.

The Mile High Swinging Bridge, America’s highest suspension footbridge, was built to give visitors easy access to the breathtaking view from Grandfather Mountain’s Linville Peak.  Its 228-foot spans an 80-foot chasm at more than one mile in elevation. 

Former North Carolina Tourism Director Charles J. Parker coined the name ” Mile High Swinging Bridge” at the Bridge’s dedication in 1952. The term “mile high” refers to the structure’s elevation above sea level (5,280 feet). The term “swinging” refers to the fact that suspension bridges are free to sway. 

While the towers of the bridge we walked across today are original, the cables, floor boards and side rails were all replaced using galvanized steel in 1999.

The video below is of our visit to the bridge and includes a 360 degree pan from the Linville Peak.

Mile High Swinging Bridge from Changing Gears on Vimeo.