Grandfather Mountain Slates Rhododendron Ramble. Grandfather Mountain is set to showcase the iconic plant that ushers summer into the mountain’s high country, the Catawba Rhododendron.
Grandfather Mountain has scheduled The Remarkable Rhododendron Ramble, June 1-9. The event features a series of short, guided strolls each day at 1 p.m. led by park naturalists who will talk about the history, characteristics and roles these spectacular plants play in the mountain’s ecological communities. An extra added benefit is the spectacular views that are the park’s signature feature. Location for the hikes depends on which section has the best blooms and participants are encouraged to enquire at the park’s entrance gate for the starting point of each day’s hike.
The event culminates on June 9 with a native plant festival and multiple hikes. That day, hikes are scheduled on an hourly rotation and are divided into ability groups. The beginner level hike, from 11 a.m. – noon, travels a quarter-mile through fairly level Woods Walk, and the advanced level hike, slated from 1:30-2:30 p.m., traverses about 1.5 miles at Black rock and highlights a higher elevation rhododendron and acid cove forests. Intermediate level hike, scheduled from 2:30-3:30 p.m. is a one-mile loop that leads through McRae Meadows and ends at Point sublime. Participants are encouraged to select hikes based on ability. All hikes are led by a member of Grandfather Mountain’s naturalist staff.
Also included on this day, the park’s Let-It-Rain picnic shelter will be filled with local organizations, botanists and representatives from local plant nurseries who will share information about native plants. A kid’s craft activity, also located at the shelter, will provide youngsters with an opportunity to make their own Rhododendron blossom to take home.
Four species of rhododendron grow wild on Grandfather Mountain and three of them could be in bloom for this year’s event said, Amy Renfranz, the park’s director of education. The types include flame azaleas (R. Calendulaceum) which range from orange, peach or red; Catawba rhododendron (R. Catawbiense) , possibly the best know of all rhodos, blooms early to mid-June and their deep purple flowers provide a spectacular canopy over many trails. Rosebay Rhododendron (R. Maximum), the last to bloom in late July, spreads a blush of delicate pink blossoms.
Grandfather Mountain is a one tank trip up our sister national park, The Blue Ridge Parkway, and getting there is half the fun! Take a ride with us on a perfect day cruising the parkway!