LINVILLE — Each year, thousands of visitors flock to the High Country to take in the scenic wonder that is Grandfather Mountain. While the vast majority of tourists visit the mountain during the spring, summer and fall seasons, those who choose to come during the winter months are in for a unique experience during what GFM staff refer to as the mountain’s “secret season.”
The Secret Season Pass allows holders unlimited, six-month access to the park November 2020 through April 2021.
“Winter is a time to see the mountain in a completely different light, both literally and figuratively,” GFM Stewardship Foundation Director of Marketing and Communications Frank Ruggiero said. “It’s often a little more secluded, it’s a little more quiet and you beat all the crowds that you normally find in spring, summer and fall. Oftentimes, when you’re out there on a nice winter day, it feels like you have the entire mountain to yourself.”
An individual Secret Season Pass costs $35 plus tax for adults — less than the price of two regular tickets. A child’s Secret Season Pass (ages 4 to 12) is $20 plus tax. A group pass, good for up to six people traveling in the same vehicle, sells for $100 plus tax and pays for itself on the first visit.
The pass allows guests to experience the wonders of Grandfather Mountain without the bustle of spring, summer and fall.
While the landscape may look dramatically different, visitors can enjoy many of the same attractions that are hallmarks of the mountain’s offerings, albeit with a seasonal touch. From crossing the Mile-High Swinging Bridge and visiting the animals in their habitats to exploring the GFM nature Museum and grabbing a bite to eat at Mildred’s Grill.
“Whether your interest is snapping shots of snow-dusted evergreens, sipping soup or hot cocoa from Mildred’s Grill or just savoring the solitude, the Secret Season Pass is the most affordable way to do it,” Ruggiero added.
On Nov. 1, Secret Season passes became available online at www.grandfather.com/secretseason, at the Grandfather Mountain Entrance Gate or by calling (828) 733-4337. The passes are valid through April 30, 2021.
“Grandfather Mountain becomes a veritable winter wonderland during the colder months,” Ruggiero said. “Rime ice coats the Mile High Swinging Bridge, the otters frolic on their frozen pond, and the mountain itself feels extraordinarily peaceful.”
The wildlife habitats on the mountain feature access for visitors to black bear, mountain lion, bald eagles, otters, elk and more. The park also houses a Nature Museum that offers an opportunity to learn about the diverse and sometimes rare aspects of nature that is found on the mountain and in the area that surrounds it. The museum displays range from 60-plus examples of gems and crystals found in this mineral-rich region to native plant life displays created by the late artist Paul Marchand.
A number of wildlife movies have been filmed on Grandfather Mountain, and the park’s Nature Museum Theatre plays these productions on a regular basis throughout the day.
Grandfather Mountain is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day in winter, weather permitting, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. During times of inclement weather, park opening is delayed until all roads and paths can be cleared of snow and ice. As such, those planning a trip are encouraged to contact the park’s entrance gate before booking their visit to confirm the day’s conditions.
Due to COVID-19, Grandfather Mountain is requiring guests to book their visit in advance by clicking to 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 click to www.grandfather.com to plan a trip.