8 Wonderful Things to do in Western North Carolina
2. Visit Grandfather Mountain and Walk the Suspension Bridge
At 5946 feet, Grandfather Mountain stands tall as the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountain range. Visiting this gorgeous area is a must on any trip to Western North Carolina. There are so many wonderful things to do including: hiking the park’s trails, walking across the mile high suspension bridge, visiting the animal habitats, exploring the nature museum, and of course taking a scenic drive up to the top of the mountain.
The admission is a bit hefty ($20 per person), however, do not let that discourage you from visiting this amazing place. It really is a full day activity that everyone in the family will enjoy. There are no shortage of activities, whether you are a fitness enthusiast, photographer, or just out for a relaxing day filled with incredible scenery.
When you enter the park you will be given an audio CD that will provide you with historical information, along with the top sights to take in as you travel up the mountain.
The must see sight here (if you only have time for 1 activity) is the Mile High Swinging Suspension Bridge. A bit scary if you are afraid of heights, but well worth it for the panoramic views. Here you will experience completely different views based on the time of day and season you visit. No matter the time, the views will be outstanding. For even better views, climb the rocks after the bridge for even more breathtaking vistas.
At Grandfather, you will find 11 hiking options, varying in intensity from beginner to advanced. I recommend everyone take the 1/2 mile hike to the suspension bridge versus driving. The hike is a bit steep, but very peaceful and scenic. Taking the journey yourself to the bridge, as opposed to getting there by car, is a much more natural and motivating experience.
Grandfather Mountain is home to 7 wildlife habitats where you will find black bears, cougars, bald eagles, and more. Even if you do not spot any wildlife on the trails, you will be able to view them up close in an environment that mimics the wild.
Other activities to enjoy at Grandfather include: picnicking, visiting the nature museum, stopping for a piece of homemade fudge at The Fudge Shop, and signing up for a ranger led hike.
Location: 2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville, NC 28646 or enter GPS coordinates: 36.08502N, -81.84646W.
3. Gem Mining
Get your adventurous spirit on with a unique exhilarating activity like gem mining. North Carolina is known to be the gem capital of the world, thus you will find many opportunities for gem mining. Gem mining is a fun family activity to incorporate into your trip. A visit to the Foggy Mountain Gem Mine in Boone is great fun.
For those unfamiliar with the activity here’s a brief overview: First, you will receive a bucket (prices vary according to size) Next, you will put your explorer hat on and sort between rocks and precious gems like emeralds and rubies. You will get to sift through the dirt, rocks and gems on the flume line. As you place the screened sifter in the water, you will quickly notice the difference between shiny gems and rocks.
The whole experience is pretty exciting, even for adults! You have the option of transforming your gems into jewelry or just going home with the natural creations you have found. A specialist will go over your finds with you, suggesting the best options to be cut into gemstones. The company purchases from gemstone mines and randomly places the finds into different buckets so you never know what you will find.
Gem mining is a great addition to any trip – something different than hiking and sightseeing, but still relaxing and fun at the same time. An easy, affordable, entertaining activity not to be missed! Who knows what valuables you might bring back home with you!
Location: 4416 North Carolina 105, Boone, NC 28607