Trekking Appalachia: Roan Mountain State Park

Roan Mountain State Park in Tennessee is massive, covering over 2000 acres of valleys, ridges and dense Appalachian forest. Trek 6300 feet to the top of Roan Mountain and the view will take your breath away.

Roan Mountain is also shared by North Carolina, crossing two state lines. It joins the Tennessee Cherokee National Forest with the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. At its base, flows Bearwillow Branch Creek and Doe River.

As part of the Appalachian trail, there are 12 miles of hiking trails in the park with 12 trails to choose from. For a light hike, pick the Peg Leg Mine Trail and visit an old mine. Others can be a strenuous workout. The Raven Rock Overlook is a hard steep climb, but worth it for the view. So is the Chestnut Ridge Trail with views of the Roam Highlands of Appalachia. If you love nature, this can be an educational trek. You’ll see a wide array of fauna and flora, deer and possibly a black bear. Learn how to stay safe if you encounter one. A naturalist is always available at the park to answer questions.

Roan Mountain is famous, too, for its natural catawba rhododendron gardens. The gardens are spread over 600 acres of the park and on foggy June days, the mountain has a pink hue.

Begin your trek at Carver’s Gap along the ridgeline of Roan Mountain. You’ll have excellent views of the the grassy “balds” or crests that cover the ridge. The balds stretch for 10 miles to the Big Hump Mountain and views from the Overlook on top of Roan Mountain shouldn’t be missed.

There are other hiking trails in southern Appalachia you may also want to consider and they can be accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway. They include Elk River Falls. This is a beautiful 50 foot waterfall surrounded by giant rock smoothed by the river and current. People do jump from the falls, but it’s not advisable due to the strong undercurrent. Linville Falls is a higher waterfall and stunningly beautiful. You’ll want your camera here. Lastly, is Laurel Fork Falls. Trek to the top for the best view of this 55 foot waterfall. The Laurel Falls trail is rugged but still popular and busy. Weekday treks are best for a quiet day.

When you’re finished with the hard trek, enjoy a relaxing walk along the banks of Doe River and do a little fishing. For all the treks in and around Roan Mountain State Park you are advised to wear suitable hiking boots or shoes and take plenty of drinking water.

Campsites areĀ  first come/first serve, so book as soon as you arrive. They have RV sites available and cabins to reserve.

The state park in Tennessee is an easy hour from Johnson City and the drive to get there is very scenic as you pass the Doe River Gorge.

The park entrance is at 1015 Highway 143
Roan Mountain, Tennessee.
Phone (800)- 250-8620 for more information.