The Annual Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival will be held Saturday-Sunday, June 17-18 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Roan Mountain State Park, located on Highway 143 in Roan Mountain, TN. This two-day event celebrates the blooming of hundreds of spectacular Alpine Catawba Rhododendron which tower more than 20-ft. high along a trail that loops through the main garden. Along the way wooden platform decks offers spectacular views of surrounding mountains, and nearby is the site of the old Cloudland Hotel, once a popular destination for people seeking a respite from the long hot days of summer. The USFS charges a small fee to enter the garden area.
This event, celebrated continually for the past 60 years and once held at the top of Roan Mountain, was moved in recent years to the lower elevation of Roan Mountain State Park. In addition to the fabulous Rhododendron display, visitors can also sample a variety of traditional southern foods, check out the offerings of regional artisans and sit back and enjoy authentic Appalachian music provided by The Roan Mountain Hill toppers, a well-known old-time string band. This family band has performed at such venues as the Smithsonian Museum’s American Folk Life Festival, the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, TN, and the Country Music hall of Fame in Nashville.
You might want to pack some swim gear and take advantage of the pool, which is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. –7 pm. on Sunday. A $5 fee is charged per person and a $3 fee is charged for cabin and camping guests. Lifeguards are on duty and a small wading pool provides a safe and fun spot for younger visitors.
Thirty rental cabins and tent and RV camping are provided for at the 107-site Roan Mountain State Park campground, which encompasses more that 2,000 acres and is located at the base of the 6,285 foot Roan Mountain. Cabins have fully equipped kitchens, a full bath, wood-burning stoves and gas/electric heart. Campsites are equipped with a grill and picnic table. A bathhouse offering hot showers is located nearby.Wildlife is abundant in the area and The Friends of Roan Mountain have compiled a checklist for the flora and fauna in the park along with amphibians, birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals and reptiles, which is available by visiting Friends of Roan Mountain.
Interstate 26 to Exit 31 (Elizabethton), U.S Route 321 to Elizabethton and then U.S. Highway 19-E at Elizabethton then south into Roan Mountain, TN.
U.S. 19 splits into U.S. 19E and U.S. 19W in Bluff City, TN., north of Elizabethton.The routes rejoin in rural Yancey County, N.C. While U.S. 19W heads
Finding Roan Mountain is half the fun! Be sure and take the scenic route, your honey will thank you! Photo credit ACTS-Syracuse.org
directly for Interstate 26 at exits 35 and 36 in Johnson, City Tennessee, U.S. 19E takes a 70 mile path through the heart of the Unaka Mountains. U.S. 19W splits from I-26 just before the Tennessee-North Carolina border and meanders through the mountains of Yancey County, N.C.
Alternate U.S. 19W is co-signed with Interstate 26 for much of its length in Tennessee. U.S. 19E in Tennessee runs concurrently with State Route 37. Tennessee State Route 143 intersects U.S.-19E in the Roan Mountain community and connects the area with both the state park and Carvers Gap, a low point in the ridgeline of Roan Mountain. As you ascend you exit Roan Mountain State Park and enter Cherokee National Forest. A parking lot at the gap provides access to the Appalachian Trail that crosses a series of grassy balds offering spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. This 10-mile stretch of balds is said by many hikers to be the most beautiful section of the entire Appalachian Trail. Beyond the balds, the AT climbs to 6,285 foot Roan High Knob, the highest point of the Roan Mountain Ridge.
FISHING: Anglers will enjoy the Doe River which is cool enough year-round to provide a habitat for native brook trout, along with rainbow and brown trout which are stocked regularly. Bring a fly rod and test your skills against the abundant, but elusive, trout or fish for Bass, Walleye and Catfish on nearby Wautauga River.
HIKING AND BIKING: You are sure to find the perfect spot to hike or bike on some of the 12 miles of hiking trails and more than three miles of mountain bike trails which range from easy to strenuous.
Even the smallest endeavor yields great rewards on Roan Mountain. Take a break from the car and hit the trail!
Blue 2 Trail- a multi-use, easy trail runs for 1.35 miles. The trail climbs and descends steeply in short sections and features narrow switchback turns.
Moonshiners Run Trail is an easy to moderate multi-use trail that runs 1.85 miles along the Doe River. Although wide and level in sections, the trail narrows to a single track in the last mile.
Chestnut Ridge Trail is easily the most challenging in the park. The trail climbs steeply through deciduous forest and rhododendron thickets, gaining elevation on its way to the Miller Farmstead on Strawberry Mountain. The reward for this strenuous activity is the stunning view of the Roan Highlands from an overlook platform. CAUTION: BLACK BEARS ARE KNOWN TO FREQUENT THIS REMOTE AREA AND HIKERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO HIKE IN PAIRS AND MAKE NOISE ALONG THE TRAIL.
Cloudland Trail, a moderate half-mile hike is self-guided with the help of informational brochures that are available at the visitor’s center. The trail winds along the Doe River and continues over a couple of small ridges.
Forest Road Trail is the longest trail in the park at 2.75 miles. Classified as easy to difficult the trail connects the visitor center and the campground as well as a link to several other trails. The Southern section is rated easy, while further north if changes to moderately difficult. The section from the Turkey Trot Junction to Hwy 143 is very steep, but early spring hikers will be rewarded by the sight of a carpeting of spring flowers along the trail. The hike features rhododendron tunnels, a bridge crossing over the Doe River and amazing views of Roan Mountain during the winter months.
Fred Behrend Trail is a moderate to difficult 2.35 mild hike that loops around the entire campground and leads along the Doe River before entering lush thickets of rhododendron. Expect to see lots of mountain hollows and experience stream crossings.
Peg Leg Mine Trail is a .35 miles leads to the ruins of an iron ore mine once operated in the late 1800s. Entry to the mine is prohibited due to safety precautions.
Raven Rock Overlook Trail is a one-mile difficult trail ascending quickly to the crest of Heaton Ridge and is one of the most popular trails in the park. It offers amazing views of the Roan Valley and is one of the best spots to watch a Roan Mountain Sunset.
Riverside Trail runs for a half-mile and provides access from the cabin area to picnic shelter 2 via a boardwalk installed over a restored wetland.
Turkey Trot Trail runs for only a quarter-mile yet is categorized as moderate-strenuous. It begins at the cabin overflow parking lot and ends at the top of the ridge.
Extra nearby fun:
The Miller Farmstead is a great place to learn about the grit of our mountain pioneers!
Step back in time at The Miller Farmstead, located just before entering Roan Mountain State Park. Drive up a winding road and discover the hardiness and self-sufficiency of early Appalachian settlers. The white-frame Miller farmhouse, built in 1908 by Nathaniel Miller, is preserved as it appeared then, along with a barn, corn crib, hog pen, root cellar, smoke house, chicken house, spring house and the ever-necessary outhouse, as a testament to the ingenuity and industriousness of these early settlers who farmed the ridges of the southern Appalachians. On Saturdays, during the summer months, local musicians, storytellers and folks demonstrating traditional farm skills share their talents. The farmhouse location is picture perfect during October’s fiery autumn colors, and beginning in November the house is festooned with greenery and other natural decorations for the annul Old time Yule at the Farmstead when hot apple cider and snacks are offered and live music echoes throughout the house. The farmstead is open Memorial Day to Labor Day from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday and on weekends in October. No admission is charged for this site which is on the National Register of Historic Places.