Thursday, July 5, 2007
Roan Mountain State Park, Tennesse
OK. It says Roan Mountain is a Tennessee state park and while the park may be in Tennessee a large part of the mountain is in North Carolina. It's a big mountain and rivals Mount Mitchell with an elevation of 6285 feet. We drove from Blowing Rock, NC and it's not the easiest place to find despite its size. I had not been to Roan Mountain in over 25 years.
I was thinking about a visit when the June issue of Our State magazine featured an article on Roan. Was it a sign from the hiking gods? The piece concentrated on the Cloudland Trail and the magnificent Rhododendron that bloom in mid June. For more information on Our State magazine, please visit http://www.ourstate.com
We drove through the park and up the mountain, past access to the Appalachian Trail to a gate house that was unmanned at 10:30 am. Honor system here, put $3 in an envelope, tear off receipt/parking tag and proceed to the parking lots.
Per the article in Our State, we parked in a huge, empty lot that is presumably for buses but also has some car parking. On one end of the parking lot there is the trail head for the Cloudland Trail and on the other end of the lot there is a restroom and a short trail to a post-civil war hotel once stood and access to the Appalachian Trail.
We followed the Cloudland trail for a ways through some rhododendron. We came to a 3-way intersection on the trail where we met some other hikers who were lost and did we know the way to the observation platform? We didn't either, but took the straight ahead fork and went past the Rhododendron garden and eventually found ourselves at the observation deck.
The view and the breeze was spectacular but a thick haze hung over the mountains obscuring any long distance view or photography. The hike was well worth the effort:
Walking back we stopped at the garden and walked the loop trails there. After a while all Rhododendron look the same. We got some great pictures and got to see more Rhododendron in one spot than you would see anywhere else in a life time.
It may be also worth noting that this time of year while these plants are in full bloom, they are also full of bees and other buzzing and possibly stinging insects. We suggest hiking boots, insect repellent, and plenty of water.
This was a great side trip for us. The Rhodey's were beautiful and it was fun getting back to a place I had not been in years.
We will go back and maybe next time we will be on the Appalachian Trail as it passes through Roan Mountain. As I recall, the views from the ridge the trail traverses were even better than the ones from the observation deck.
Directions to Roan Mountain: From Boone, NC take Hwy 105 to Newland, NC. Take Hwy 194 North out of Newland toward Roan Mountain, TN.