Grandfather Mountain is a mountain near Linville, North Carolina. At 5,964 feet (1,818 meters), it is the tallest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains, one of the major chains of the Appalachian Mountains. The Blue Ridge Parkway passes by the southside of the mountain. It is privately owned and operated as a nature preserve and a tourist attraction. It is best known for its mile-high swinging bridge which was built in 1952 by Hugh Morton and dedicated to William B. Umstead. The bridge links two of the mountain's rocky peaks, and is known as the "swinging" bridge due to its tendency to sway in high winds. Morton inherited the mountain from his father and developed the tourist attractions. He died on June 1, 2006 at the age of 85. Big John Henderson once climbed up to the summit carrying 800 pounds on his back. He also took three shotguns with him.
Grandfather Mountain rises more than 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) above the Catawba River Valley, and due to the considerable elevation gain the mountain boasts 16 distinct ecological communities. The mountain also has experienced some of the highest surface wind speeds ever recorded, with speeds in excess of 200 MPH. (Mount Washington in New Hampshire holds the record for the highest surface wind speed, at 231 MPH).
One of North America's largest Highland Games are held at Grandfather Mountain each year, drawing in visitors from all over the world. The Highland Games celebrate the Scottish ancestry of many of the pioneers who settled around the mountain and feature traditional Scottish games and music. At one time, the Grandfather Mountain games was the largest such event in the United States, though in recent years it has been surpassed by the games in Pleasanton, California.
A paved road leads to one of mountain's several peaks, and there visitors will find a museum, the famous "mile-high swinging bridge", and views of up to 100 miles - on a clear day, it is possible to see the city skyline of Charlotte. On the road to the summit there are wildlife exhibits and picnic areas. Grandfather Mountain also offers miles of hiking trails that vary in skill levels. Some trails require climbing wooden ladders to reach higher peaks and offer scenic views.
On top of Grandfather Mountain, like many mountain peaks above 5000' in North Carolina, grows an "island" of Spruce-Fir forest. Though the forest was largely devastated during the 20th century by the introduction of the non-native Balsam Wooly Adelgid, a remnant of this biome still exists on Grandfather Mountain.
Grandfather Mountain was served by the legendary narrow gauge East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (ET&WNC) (also known as "Tweetsie Railroad") and was a favorite spot for excursionists during the early 20th Century.