Grandfather Mountain: Keeper for a Day

Grandfather Mountain’s Nature Preserve is an excellent example of the care and devotion keepers demonstrate for the wildlife in the area. The park is home to a number of native animals, including black bears, cougars, otters, eagles, and more. As a part of their ongoing initiative to educate others about native wildlife, Grandfather Mountain offers a Keeper for a Day experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Offered on Tuesdays between April and October, guests may sign up for an up-close look at how the animals are cared for and learn more about their behaviors. Space is limited, and if you’re interested, sign up soon! I promise—it’s worth the drive and it’s worth the time!

Our Story

When my husband and I learned of Grandfather Mountain’s Keeper for a Day experience, we knew we had to try it. Since Grandfather Mountain is almost a two-hour drive from our home, we set our alarm clocks extra early and arrived at 8 AM. After meeting the REAL Keepers, including Alexis and Deborah, we signed our liability waivers. Then, we were off!

First, we met the four otters who call the Grandfather Mountain Nature Preserve home, and they were delightful. So much fun to watch! We arrived with their breakfast, and while they were eating, Deborah began the task of cleaning out their bedding, while Alexis took us to their outdoor habitat. We helped with poop patrol (as fun a job as these people have, this is the less-than-glamorous component!) and collected the enrichment toys.

On a side note, all of the animals are given daily enrichment experiences to keep them engaged and curious.

After we had taken care of the otters, we went to the first of three bear habitats. This first habitat is home to four bears, all of whom were eager for their own breakfast, which consisted of an apple, orange, a carrot, sweet potato, and other food (think dog food, but for a bear). Each bear was safely enclosed and focused on her meals, so we made our way into their habitat. Rolling hills, rocks, and a stunning panoramic view of the mountains make this a piece of real estate many would love to claim for their own. However, the presence of several bear dens reminds one of whose turf they are really on! I teased my husband a bit about celebrating his birthday with a poo bucket, but he was grinning from ear to ear! This was his idea of the best kind of party—being a part of nature, and an experience so unique, you can’t help but want to jump in and be a part of every aspect!

During our visit, the cougar habitat was being remodeled, so the cougars were not on display for the general public. However, we weren’t the general public on this particular day! I was thrilled because my husband loves cougars! They are his favorite animal, and he’s wanted to see them up close and personal.

Three cougars call Grandfather Mountain home. Two are two-year-old brother and sister, and they live together, yet separate from Aspen, a 14-year-old male. With everyone outside, we began the process of cleaning out their rooms. If you’re a cat person, just imagine your cat’s bedding and playthings jumbo-sized! We cleaned the floors and bedding before putting everything back in its place. One of the keepers, Alexis, had brought bamboo shoots from her home for the cougars to play with, and we prepared some additional enrichment toys for them. And you guessed it—big kitties like boxes just as much as their smaller counterparts!

I could go on and on…we saw eagles, owls, and a skunk, too! This was a memorable experience that any nature and animal lover should try. We’ll definitely be back! We had fun, created memories, and have an amazing respect for these people who commit their lives to the care of these incredible animals.

To learn more about Grandfather Mountain’s Keeper for a Day experience, visit them online at or call 800-468-7325. Be sure to keep up with them on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and, of course, Trip Advisor!