This winter feels like it has lasted forever. More because of the endless days of rain than the cold weather, but I've been itching to get outside. We decided to break the monotony with a weekend trip to Grandfather Mountain. Kenny had hiked it once before, but this was a first time for me.
First off - we WAY underestimated how hard this hike was going to be and how long it would take us. We had optimistic plans going in of doing the 13 mile hike and then swinging back by the car to grab our bags and hike back up the 2 miles to camp for the night. This is primarily because I'm not a fan of scrambling over cliffs with a huge backpack on unless absolutely necessary. I will take hiking an extra 2 miles over carrying 40+ extra pounds for 13 miles any day. It didn't work out this time though... this hike was tough and it took us long enough that we were running out of day light and already nursing sore muscles on the way down.
BUT you should definitely do it - the views were beautiful and there were a lot of neat surprises along the way!
We live in Chapel Hill, so it was a little over a 3 hour drive down to the Profile trail parking lot just past Boone, NC. We got there at about 10:30. There's a brand new parking area complete with water fountains and nice bathrooms!
![blogPics](/static/img/GranMount/gm0.jpg "Profile Trail Head")
The high for the day was around 30 degress so we were bundled up with extra layers. The first part of the trail was all new. There was a nice bridge and brand new wooden steps carved into the trail that made it really easy going. The trial criss crossed over a pretty stream quite a few times.
![blogPics](/static/img/GranMount/gm8.jpg "Stream on the Profile Trail")
The only downside was that the trail also followed closely to 221 highway, which meant there was still a lot of noise from traffic. The trail began to climb after the stream and we hit this sign around mile 2 somewhere. The neatest thing about this view was that you could see all of the way to Mount Rogers in VA! (Check out our Mount Rogers trip here from when we very first started dating).
![blogPics](/static/img/GranMount/gm1.jpg "Profile Trail Mountain View")
After another mile or so of mostly uphill hiking we passed the campground where we intended to stay and then came to the Profile View lookout. If you look at the mountain behind my head you can see the profile of "Grandfather's face" in the rock!.
![blogPics](/static/img/GranMount/gm2.jpg "Profile View of Grandfather Mountain")
About four miles into the trail you come to a crossing with a few optional side adventures.
![blogPics](/static/img/GranMount/gm3.jpg "Trail Crossing")
Both options lead to some really awesome lookouts of the valley! Just beware of the wind. I swear the windchill on Calloway Peak felt colder than 2 degrees in Chicago last week!
The trail was still spotted with ice everywhere, which made it a bit treacherous in parts. I was struggling to keep my fingers warm despite two layers of gloves.
![blogPics](/static/img/GranMount/gm4.jpg "Staying Warm")
After our two side adventures we got back on the trail to the Swinging Bridge! We hit a fork in the road for an upper vs. lower path. We took the lower route on the way there and the upper route on the way back. There was quite a bit of scurrying over boulders and a few well built ladders on the way. This part of the trail caused us to move significantly slower than our usual pace. I think it took almost 2 hours to go 2 miles.Eventually we made it to the gift shop/info center and the Swinging Bridge itself. The second floor of the building had some pretty interesting historical information about the area. The original owner had a friendly bear!
![blogPics](/static/img/GranMount/gm5.jpg "Be a bear!")
The bridge itself was really cool! The wind was going pretty strong and when it hit the bridge it sounded like music! It seemed like the bridge was singing to you as you walked across. The sound effects, the slight swinging, and the incredible view of the valley were definitely worth the tough hike up.
![blogPics](/static/img/GranMount/gm6.jpg "Swinging Bridge")
We didn't stay too long on the bridge because it was relatively crowded, cold, and we were running out of time! We took the upper route on the way back to Calloway Peak and it was beautiful! Not recommended though if you're uncomfortable with heights. There were many of these ladders through the steeper part of the hikes. The trail also had some convenient hand ropes in places.
The views were wayyy better on the upper route though - don't miss it!
We traced our same trail on the way back down and eventually made our way back to the parking lot at about 6:30 pm. By this time we were tired, sore, and hungry. We debated a bit, but eventually decided to cook our dinner in the parking lot and head home rather than hike back up to camp. We feasted on some couscous, canned tuna, easy mac, and canned green beans and then packed it up to drive home!
![blogPics](/static/img/GranMount/gm9.jpg "Parking Lot Dinner")