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Naturalist Weekend at Grandfather Mountain

Article Published: May. 1 | Modified: May. 1
Naturalist Weekend at Grandfather Mountain

Chief naturalist Jill Goodwin searches for terrestrial salamanders on Grandfather Mountain. The naturalists will lead a variety of programs May 16 to 18 during Naturalist Weekend.
Photo courtesy of Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

The annual Grandfather Mountain Naturalist Weekend returns May 16 to 18, offering an in-depth look at the mountain’s plants, wildlife and history in a series of programs spanning three days.

Guests can participate in guided hikes and workshops throughout the scenic attraction, as well as Grandfather Mountain State Park.
“This is one of the best opportunities to explore Grandfather Mountain on
a deeper, more hands-on level,” chief naturalist Jillian Goodwin said.
The weekend begins Friday with an all-day spring bird count hosted by High Country Audubon Society at various locations throughout the mountain.

As darkness falls at 8:30 p.m. Friday, staff naturalists will lead a two-hour Owl Prowl to search for the nocturnal creatures.

Saturday’s events commence at 9:30 a.m. with a wildflower hike along the Profile Trail to marvel at the early spring ephemerals.

Birds of prey, both common and endangered, visit the mountain at 11 a.m. Saturday, courtesy of a special program from the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute at Lees-McRae College.

Appalachian State archaeology student Josh Goodwin presents his research on Native American life on Grandfather Mountain at 1 p.m., followed by a 2 p.m. Ridgeline Hike guided by Chief Interpretive Ranger John Caveny.

The Grandfather Mountain Habitat Staff will offer a bear workshop at 3 p.m., and the day concludes with a Naturalist Night Walk at 7:30 p.m. to explore the forest without headlamps or flashlights.

Early birds can start their day at 7:30 a.m. Sunday with birding on the Profile Trail with education specialist Mickey Shortt.
Activities continue Sunday with a kid-centric Forest Expedition along the Woods Walk trail, which will be “spiked” with artifacts at 10 a.m.

At 11 a.m., director of education Jesse Pope takes guests on a journey through time on the Black Rock Trail, as he paints a picture of the mountain through the eyes of some of history’s greatest explorers and naturalists.

The “Tree Facts and Folklore” program begins at 12:30 p.m., leading visitors through the Woods Walk, while discussing trees of Southern Appalachia.

At 2 p.m., “Nature on the Edge” invites guests to stroll to Linville Peak to identify plants and animals on the rock outcroppings, and at 3 p.m., “Tracks and Signs” helps budding naturalists identify the telltale evidence animals leave behind.

The weekend concludes with a fascinating program, titled “Squirrels: The Original Hoarders,” that provides insights on the often-overlooked North Carolina state mammal.
Visitors also have ample opportunity throughout the weekend to explore the mountain at their leisure.

All activities are included free with park admission, but some require advance registration.

To register for the Spring Bird Count, call (828) 733-3224 or email ( To register for the Owl Prowl, Ridgeline Hike
r Naturalist Night Walk, call (828) 733-4326.
Visit for more information and a full schedule.

Those who attend more than one day should keep their receipt from the first visit and present it upon their return for discounted admission the following day.

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established to preserve Grandfather Mountain, operate the nature park in the public interest and participate in educational research activities. For more information, call (800) 468-7325, or plan a trip at

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