Grandfather Mountain Trail Run, Banner Elk, North Carolina
Elevation:  5946'
May 3, 2015 
Grandfather Mountain is a rocky, spectacular summit known to tourists for great views 
from its privately owned road and Mile-High Swinging Bridge. The peak is one of the 
region’s premier natural areas, with a wonderful network of trails.  Trails include 
Tanawha Trail and Daniel Boone Scout Trail to Calloway Peak, Nuwati Trail, Cragway 
Trail, Grandfather Trail, Black Rock Trail, Underwood Trail, Profile Trail and the Calloway 
Trail.The Tanawha Trail runs 13.5 miles from Julian Price Park to Beacon Heights and 
parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the 
region. The Grandfather Mountain Trail climbs 7428' in 24.4 miles.
When you draw up plans to check off items on a bucket list you gather information, look
at the pictures, read accounts, but you always face surprises when you actually engage
in the endeavor.  You just hope you aren't disappointed.  Afterall, even the best of
photographs and narratives don't tell the whole story.  At the end of the day I was
overwhelmed by how much better this adventure was than I could have imagined.  In
fact, a mere six miles of my 14-mile day ranks right up there as one of the most
rewarding outdoor experiences I have ever had.  Since I did this as a solo effort, I am
obliged to get the story down so as to not only recall the details clearly, but to perhaps 
inspire others to go to Grandfather Mountain and experience this wonderful place.

From the Blue Ridge Parkway I started from the Boone Fork Parking Area (upper right
on map below), linking to the Daniel Boone Scout Trail from the Tanawha Trail.  Without
expectation I knew there would be a climb of about three miles before the trail would
connect with the Grandfather Trail, but I didn't have a clue as to the specifics.
After running 18 miles of rocky trails the previous days my dogs were a bit tired, even
though I had a good night of sleep.  Nothing was sore or injured, so I proceeded to
loosen up as I went and cruised up, up, and up through switchback after switchback
for more than a couple miles.  It was late morning by the time I started, but temps
were still chilly as hardwoods yielded to the cover of fir trees above five thousand
feet.  Donning a windbreaker I proceded comfortably, passing a couple pleasant
backpackers headed down.


The trail was steep enough to challenge my climbing muscles, forcing me to adjust
effort to maintain momentum and progress.  By the end of this day and 32 miles of
countless vertical running on technical trails I would be very pleased with the condition
of my hams, quads, and knees.  The overall effort of the two days would not leave me
sore (as evidenced by a stingingly quick road run the day after).  Anyway, after passing
the wreckage of some hapless prop aircraft strewn about along the trail, things began
to get interesting.

A good indication of the steepness of the trail is the number of times you have to climb
via ferrata.  There must have been thirty ladders staged at appropropriate climbs and
descents in the next three miles.  By the time I reached the end of the Daniel Boone
Scout Trail at the summit of Calloway Peak (5946') there were so many cool photo ops
that I wasn't even turning my camera off as I ran along and climbed.  




From Calloway Peak the trail continues along the ridge as the Grandfather Trail for another
2.4 miles to the Swinging Bridge and tourist parking lot.  The west-facing escarpment is
as dramatic as that along the west side of the Hudson in New York.  Often the narrow
footpath followed the very crest of the ridge with both sides falling away steeply into a
tangle of rhododendron and weather beaten fir trees.  The considerable amount of 
scrambling up and down over rock boulders across this ridge is what made this adventure
most memorable.  I was loving it.

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