Hikers taking the trek across Grandfather Mountain’s ridgeline can now enjoy five new ladders on the Grandfather Trail. The new ladders on MacRae Cliff replace the old ones that had been up for decades on what many people consider to be one of the most exciting spots along the ridgeline hike.
The five ladders are all in a row and transport hikers along a steep rock cliff while providing unbeatable views of the surrounding landscape. The section of trail, part of Grandfather Mountain State Park property, is under a trail easement that assigns responsibility for upkeep to the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
Members of the Stewardship Foundation Interpretive Staff worked for months in the planning process. Wood, cables and bolts had to be purchased, ladder posts and rungs had to be cut to size and corners and edges had to be smoothed before each piece of equipment was carried out to the Mountain’s backcountry.
Chief Interpretive Ranger Gabriel Taylor estimates that close to 200 hours of work were put in during the three days in early November when the ladders were actually installed on the trail. Those helping out included Stewardship Foundation employees, State Park rangers and volunteers from Appalachian State University and the Boone Climbers Coalition.
“The old ladders weren’t dangerous but it was time for them to be replaced,” said Taylor. “Hikers will notice subtle differences on the new ladders, one being that they are sturdier.”
Carriage bolts were used in place of nails on the new ladders. The carriage bolts run through the rungs and posts and are much thicker and stronger than the nails that had a tendency to rust or bend. In addition, the cables that provide extra support for the ladder’s placement are now anchored in the rock more than an inch deeper than in the past.
The ladders along the Grandfather Trail allow many visitors the opportunity to traverse a rugged mountain top while offering up a great sense of accomplishment. MacRae Cliff is located .7 miles up the trail when starting from the Grandfather Mountain nature park.