Cougars, elk, bagpipes, bonfires and raptors — it’s 2017 at Grandfather Mountain.
With a mission to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain, the Linville, N.C.-based nature preserve, and travel attraction is certainly preparing for an eventful year.
The springtime completion of the park’s renovated cougar habitat will allow the mountain to showcase some of its newest residents, Logan and Trinity, a recently rescued sibling duo of Western cougars. Meanwhile, construction on the mountain’s forthcoming elk habitat is slated for completion in autumn.
On top of that, Grandfather has released its 2017 schedule of special events, featuring mountains of programs designed to educate and entertain.
“2017 is looking to be a busy year on Grandfather Mountain,” said Frank Ruggiero, director of marketing and communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the park. “Our calendar is packed with original events, bridging education with outdoor fun and allowing us to share the wonders of Grandfather Mountain with guests of all ages in a memorable and lasting way.”
With a few exceptions, most special events are included with park admission.
The Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble
Guests can join Grandfather Mountain’s naturalists to learn about the beauty and significance of the native rhododendron. Staff naturalists will lead guided experiences, exploring the cultural history behind the plant, as well as its function in the wild landscape.
Nature Photography Weekend
Photographers of all skill levels are invited to Grandfather Mountain to hear presentations from top nature photographers in the evenings and photograph spectacular scenery and native animals during the day. This event is not included with admission, and online registration begins April 3 at www.grandfather.com.
Animal Birthday Party
Grandfather Mountain celebrates the birthdays of all the animals in its environmental wildlife habitats with games, contests, crafts and surprises. The mountain’s habitat staff is planning a fun-filled day for guests, including special programs to celebrate Grandfather’s furry and feathered inhabitants.
Singing on the Mountain
The all-day gospel sing and fellowship returns to MacRae Meadows at Grandfather Mountain for its 93rd year. A dozen top gospel groups will perform, and audiences can expect a sermon from a well-known speaker. Admission is free, and camping (without hookups) is available on the field.
62nd Grandfather Mountain Highland Games
Blaring bagpipes, astounding athletes, delicate dancers, rocking Celtic music and a spectacular highland setting make this colorful celebration of Scottish culture one of the most highly acclaimed highland games in the country. Admission is charged for this event, and more information (including tickets) can be found at www.gmhg.org.
Animal Enrichment Day
Enrichment is an integral part of how Grandfather Mountain cares for its habitat animals every day. An enrichment is a special treat, new toy or even an unfamiliar scent given to the animals to break up their routines and help keep them active and intellectually stimulated. Visitors can enjoy watching enrichment demonstrations, talk directly with keepers and participate in family-oriented games and crafts.
Grandfather Mountain Amateur & Professional Camera Clinic
Top photographers gather at Grandfather Mountain to present on the nuts and bolts of making good photographs. This event is free to working members of the press, with an additional cost for non-press professionals and amateurs. Online registration begins July 19 at www.grandfather.com.
Grandfather Mountain Kidfest
Families are invited to visit Grandfather Mountain for a mountain-wide scavenger hunt. Participants can follow the clues to locations within the park, where they’ll learn about the creatures that live on Grandfather Mountain. Those who complete all the necessary steps will win the game – and prizes!
47th Annual Girl Scout Day
Calling all Girl Scouts! Grandfather Mountain’s annual Girl Scout Day returns for its 47th year, featuring scout activities, presentations and a closing ceremony. This year’s theme is Grandfather’s ecological wonders. All Girl Scouts and troop leaders are admitted free with proof of membership, and family members will receive discounted admission.
International Hawk Migration Viewing
Guests are invited to join the mountain’s naturalists as they count and celebrate the annual spectacle of the fall raptor migration. Participants can meet at Linville Peak daily, weather permitting.
John Muir Day
John Muir, the prominent naturalist and Sierra Club founder, once described Grandfather Mountain as the “face of all heaven come to Earth.” In celebration of Muir’s historic visit more than 100 years ago, guests can explore the mountain with guided hikes and interpretive talks. Furthermore, all Sierra Club members will be admitted free with proof of membership.
Creatures of the Night & Bonfire Delight
As night falls on Grandfather Mountain, guests can enjoy rare after-dark tours, fireside tales and a chance to meet the park’s nocturnal residents. This event is not included with admission.
The Colors of Grandfather Guided Walks
Oct. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22
The diversity of flora on Grandfather Mountain makes it an idyllic location for fall color display. With a series of guided walks through some of the mountain’s most colorful areas, guests can learn more about the great deciduous forest and the science behind the annual phenomenon.
Beary Scary Halloween
Grandfather Mountain gets spooky with its annual Halloween celebration. Guests can enjoy a day full of nature programs, focused on animals considered creepy and crawly. Activities also include the opportunity to create Halloween-themed enrichments for the animals, and kids will be able to trick-or-treat through the habitat overlooks. This event is included with admission, although children in costume are admitted at half price.
For a full schedule of events, including the Grandfather Presents summer evening lecture series, daily programs, special programs and night walks, visit www.grandfather.com.
The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325, or visit www.grandfather.com to plan a trip.