Following a two-month closure last year due to COVID-19, Grandfather Mountain, which is 15 minutes from Banner Elk, reopened on May 22, 2020, with all ticket sales taking place online and reduced occupancy on a daily basis.
This continues to be the policy in 2021. Guests will still be able to enjoy Grandfather Mountain’s many wonders, including the Mile High Swinging Bridge, wildlife habitats and hiking trails. However, the park will operate under a limited capacity to ensure the safety of visitors and staff.
Rather than purchasing tickets at the park’s entrance gate, visitors must purchase tickets online for a set date and time of entry. This measure limits the number of guests in the park at one time, in accordance with NC’s social gathering guidelines. As such, tickets will not be sold or available at the gate, thus visitors must book online in advance.
Another way to ensure entrance is through Banner Elk’s Grandfather Mountain lodging packages. Your lodging host secures a reservation for admittance at a specific date/time.
“The safety of our guests and staff comes first and foremost,” said Jesse Pope, president and executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit that owns and operates the famed nature preserve.
Park officials have enacted operational measures to discourage crowding and encourage social distancing. Main buildings, such as the Nature Museum and Fudge Shop, are operating under reduced capacity, while enhanced health and safety measures are in place.
The Top Shop welcomes a limited number of guests at a time, while the park’s on-site restaurant, Mildred’s Grill, operates with limited capacity and tables spaced six feet apart. Mildred’s Grill continues to offer takeout service, allowing guests to dine in their vehicles or at one of the park’s 100-plus picnic sites.
High-traffic pedestrian areas, such as the Mile High Swinging Bridge and wildlife habitats, operate under a one-way directional system to ensure that guests do not come within six feet of each other — the minimum safe distance recommended by the CDC and other health officials.
The number of guests allowed to visit such areas at one time is limited, based on state social gathering recommendations, while a time limit ensures that others can participate in turn. However, guests are welcome revisit such areas during the same trip.
Time limits are not enforced for the park’s less crowded, lower-traffic areas.
The park has enhanced its already stringent cleaning procedures and placed additional sanitization stations in key areas, while boosting staff presence to direct traffic flow and encourage safe social distancing.
Guests who hold season passes through Grandfather’s Bridge Club annual membership program continue to receive free admission, although reservations must still be placed online. Current Bridge Club members whose passes were purchased prior to the closure will have their subscriptions extended by the length of the closure.
Please note that dates and guidelines are subject to change, based on current conditions and federal, state and local regulations. As such, those planning a trip are encouraged to visit www.grandfather.com for updates.
To learn more about Banner Elk’s Grandfather Mountain lodging packages, in which your host arranges park admission for you, click here.