LINVILLE — Leaves are beginning to fall across the High Country, and according to Howard Neufeld and Michael Denslow of Appalachian State University, Avery County is one the epicenters for the earliest peaks of the fall color season.

In earlier October, places such as Grandfather Mountain, Sugar Mountain and the Linn Cove Viaduct reach their fall splendor before the rest of the region. By mid- to late October, other locations such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville Falls and lower-lying areas will follow suit as leaves change into splendid colors of yellow, orange, red and other fall hues.

On Grandfather Mountain, the popular scenic attraction is currently open for business, but visitors to the mountain should note that precautionary measures are being taken to ensure the safety of visitors and staff alike during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The main thing now is that we’re doing reservations online at grandfather.com,” said Natalie Brunner, Grandfather Mountain’s marketing and communication associate. “That helps us keep a limited amount of guests in the park. We’re only allowing a limited amount of people every half hour.”

Aside from reservations, the attraction is also requiring face coverings at areas within the park where social distancing isn’t possible. These spots include the park’s animal habitats, gift shops and restaurants. Precautions are also being taken at one of the mountains most popular sites, Grandfather’s mile-high swinging bridge.

“In order to ensure more safety on the bridge we are implementing one way traffic,” said Brunner. “So we have people up there with radios directing when to cross.”

The goal of the park is to create an environment where visitors can soak up the fall scenery and explore the mountain’s natural wonders safely. Folks eager to take in the fall color from the craggy peaks of Grandfather should consider booking a reservation at least three days in advance and if possible, visiting during the week.

One of the few things currently closed to the public on the mountain is the park’s nature museum exhibit, which is undergoing remodeling, part of an ongoing capital campaign. Known as the “Fulfilling Promises Campaign,” the fundraiser hopes to raise money for a new conservation campus at Grandfather.

“We’re renovating that whole nature museum, we’ll have more classrooms to teach children, we’re building an atrium, remodeling the auditorium, and getting a bigger habitat staff office, so they can store more food for the animals,” Brunner explained.

Those interested in donating the “Fulfilling Promises Campaign” can visit https://grandfather.com/support/give/fulfilling-promises-campaign/.

“I think it’s just a really special place where people of all ages can come and learn something new and really enjoy the outdoors,” said Brunner. “Some kids don’t have the opportunity to really get outdoors and this place gives them that opportunity.”

The Grandfather Mountain Attraction is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. For more information about the park’s COVID-19 precautions and making reservations visit, https://grandfather.com/ or call (828) 733-4337.

Luke Barber contributed to this story.

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