In the Boone area two great mountains, Grandfather Mountain (5,946 feet) and Mount Mitchell, the East's highest peak (6,684 feet) are ready to climb.
Grandfather Mountain lies one mile off the Parkway at Milepost 305.1. A brand new summit visitor center debuted in the spring of 2010 providing elevator/handicapped access to the Mile-High Swinging Bridge for the first time. Great trails lead from there lead across the mountain's high peaks in the adjacent State Park. Halfway to the summit, the mountain's Wilson Center for Nature Discovery offers a wealth of high-quality natural history exhibits, and theater with films and other programs, a gift shop, and a restaurant. Nearby is a collection of wonderful environmental habitats for bears, eagles, elk, cougars, and otters. There's also a picnic area, overlooks, and trails. The non-profit travel attraction is known for its green policies, environmental education, and great views.
Mount Mitchell is one of a dozen summits that soar north from the main Blue Ridge chain to comprise the massive range of the Black Mountains - only 5 miles off of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 355. These peaks dominate horizons in northwestern North Carolina-it's particularly dramatic from the Mount Mitchell Parking Overlook, 4,825 feet, just north of the mountain (Milepost 349.9).
The Balsam Nature Trail is an easy summit stroll that passes the highest spring in Eastern America. For a majestic hike away from the summit development, take the Black Mountain Crest Trail from the picnic shelters at the first bend of the parking lot and hike the rugged 2-mile roundtrip to nearby Mount Craig, 6,645 feet. The high mountain atmosphere is inspiring.