The mile-high swing bridge at Grandfather Mountain is one of the state's top attractions. It's also one of the state's coldest places

The mile-high swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain is one of the state's top tourist attractions. It can also be one of the coldest places in the state.

At 5,946 feet, it is one of the highest peaks in North Carolina. One of the fantastic things about it is the weather difference just between the top and bottom. Let's talk a little bit about why the temperature is so different.

As you go up through the lower atmosphere, the temperature drops. The rate at which it drops is around 5.4 per 1000'. If it's snowing, that rate can drop to 3.3 per 1000'.

That means on a warm, muggy day in the Triangle, when the temperature is around 90, the summit of Grandfather, may only be 60!

The top of the mountain can also bring some strong wind. It features one of the highest weather reporting stations in the state.

Corey White is a ranger for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, and he's taken some pretty strong readings in his time on the summit.

"The strongest winds I've seen in the top parking lot is about 72mph," he said. "We close that area when the winds get up into the high 50s."

And, he says, the winds can blow even higher.

"One of my co-workers was up there and measured wind gusts in the 90s before one of the cups on the anemometer blew off and ended his measuring experiment," White said.

The highest wind speed ever recorded was around 120mph.

Even with extreme temperature changes and high wind gusts Corey thinks the one thing that keeps folks coming back to the Grandfather is, to paraphrase Forrest Gump, a visit is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.

Whether it's on a cold winter day or a balmy summer afternoon, the weather is always changing. A two-mile drive up the mountain can bring all kinds of different conditions.
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