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Grandfather Mountain vs Grandfather Mountain State Park

Wait, What's the Difference?

We're talking about the same mountain here, aren't we? Yes, we are. But there are key differences between Grandfather Mountain and Grandfather Mountain State Park that go beyond which side of the mountain they're located on. Each attraction has enough to see and do to keep you and your family busy for at least half a day.

In this article, we'll compare and contrast the differences between Grandfather Mountain and Grandfather Mountain State Park in order to help you decide which side of the mountain you want to visit. But first, let us tell you about why you want to visit this mountain in the first place.

More about the Mountain

Grandfather Mountain is environmentally and ecologically unique. This temperate rainforest resembles the natural landscapes of the Pacific Northwest instead of Appalachia. Grandfather Mountain is home to a wide variety of specular wildlife, including more than 200 species of birds, the world's smallest species of tarantula, and is a refuge for black bears, otters, and other endangered species.

Jesse Pope, the former director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, describes visiting the mountain this way: "When you're at the bottom of Grandfather Mountain, you're going to find tree and plant species that you'd find in the Piedmont area of North Carolina and maybe even South Carolina. By the time you get to the top, you're seeing species you would find in Canada. A 12 mile hike up Grandfather Mountain is [the ecological equivalent of] getting in your car and driving from Charlotte to Maine."

The Mountain is home to a network of trails, roads, attractions, and bridges that allow you to fully explore this incredible natural landmark.

Location and Accessibility

Grandfather Mountain is surrounded by three major roadways: North Carolina Highway 105, U.S. Highway 221, and the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. This means that it's easy to reach, and all you have to do is choose which side of the mountain you want to explore. 

Grandfather Mountain

  • Accessed via Grandfather Mountain Entrance Gate on U.S. Highway 221.
  • Most of Grandfather Mountain is wheelchair accessible.
  • Grandfather Mountain is a privately owned attraction, and there is a per-person entrance fee.

Grandfather Mountain State Park

  • The State Park is made up of a network of hiking trails spread across the northwest to eastern side of the mountain. These trails can be accessed via NC Hwy 105, U.S. Hwy 221, and Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • Grandfather Mountain State Park's hiking trails are not wheelchair accessible.
  • As a North Carolina State Park, admission is free.
  • Permits are required for the hiking trails, but they are free.

Natural Beauty and Scenic Views

As we talked about before, Grandfather Mountain is an ecological wonder and a one-of-a-kind haven for hikers, birdwatchers, and nature lovers. Both Grandfather Mountain and Grandfather Mountain State Park have some incredibly unique vantage points and interesting landmarks to enjoy. Here's what you can expect to find on the mountain. 

Grandfather Mountain State Park

  • Calloway Peak
  • Watauga View
  • Arch Rock
  • Grandmother View
  • Attic Window Peak
  • See a Complete Map

Hiking Trails

As we said before, Grandfather Mountain is a haven for hikers and nature lovers. Whether you visit the private attraction or the State Park, you'll have plenty of opportunities to surround yourself with the beautiful forests, rock formations, and streams of Grandfather Mountain. Here are some of the trails waiting for you on Grandfather Mountain:

Grandfather Mountain

  • Woods Walk Trail: 0.4 mile stroll near the picnic area of the park.
  • Bridge Trail: 0.4 mile out-and-back trail near the Swinging Bridge.
  • Blackrock Trail: 1 mile trail that starts about half a mile before the Swinging Bridge.
  • Grandfather Loop: A challenging 1.5 mile loop along the top of Grandfather Mountain.

Grandfather Mountain State Park

  • Calloway Peak via Profile Trail: 7.4 mile out-and-back trail on the north side to the summit of Grandfather Mountain.
  • Daniel Boone Scout Trail: 7.0 mile loop starting at the northeastern end of Grandfather Mountain.
  • Tanawha Trail: 2.7 mile out-and-back trail along the base of the southern face of the mountain.
  • Nuwati Trail: 3.2 mile out-and-back trail follows an old logging road on the mountain's eastern side.

Visitor Facilities & Amenities

The biggest difference between Grandfather Mountain and Grandfather Mountain State Park is the amount of available facilities and amenities, and there's a clear winner in this category. To give you the full picture, here's a list of all facilities and amenities available to you on Grandfather Mountain and where to find them. 

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain State Park

  • Parking lots at trailheads
  • One restroom located at Profile Parking Area
  • Dispersed backcountry campsites
  • Dispersed backcountry shelters


In the end, both Grandfather Mountain and Grandfather Mountain State Park offer unique and compelling experiences. If you're looking for a more casual and relaxed day on the mountain, we recommend paying the admission fee to Grandfather Mountain. There you'll be able to get a taste of this wonderful mountain from the comfort of your car, venturing out on well-maintained hiking trails at your own pace. Grandfather Mountain's famous Mile High Swinging Bridge and Forest Gump Curve are well-worth the visit.

If you're looking for more than a taste of this distinctly unique mountain, then Grandfather Mountain State Park is the place for you. With miles of rugged trails spread across the entire mountain, it's easy to find moments of absolute stillness in the majesty of this incredible place. While the journey to the summit is certainly a challenge, it's worth every hard-earned step.

Stay at Blue Bear Mountain Camp

No matter what you choose – book a stay at Blue Bear Mountain Camp. Our prime location allows you to get the full North Carolina experience, making it the perfect hub for all of your adventures in the region. Immerse yourself in the rustic charm of the High Country while enjoying the convenience of easy access to Grandfather Mountain.

With Blue Bear Mountain Camp as your base, you can create lasting memories as you explore the diverse beauty of Grandfather Mountain and the rest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Book your stay with us today!