One of my favorite things about Northeast Tennessee is having FOUR distinct seasons. Summers are hot. Fall is beautiful. And winter is cold and snowy.
At least it is on top of Roan Mountain! In fact, “the Roan”, as it’s called, gets more yearly natural snowfall than anywhere else in the region.
Located right on the border of North Carolina and Northeast Tennessee, Roan Mountain is really more of a mountain range—or a series of peaks rather than a single peak. And some of those peaks top out at over 6,200 feet! Not bad for the Southeast, right?
So it makes perfect sense that Roan Mountain is such a popular spot for cross-country skiing, tubing, snowshoeing and winter hikes. And one of the most popular places within the Roan Mountain ridgeline is Carver’s Gap. It’s 8 miles past the park on Highway 143, just outside the Roan Mountain State Park and inside the Cherokee National Forest. The parking lot at Carver’s Gap provides access to the Appalachian Trail, which offers a series of grassy balds offering unobstructed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. This 10-mile stretch of balds features various trails where skiing and tubing is permitted, and is touted by many as one of the most beautiful sections of the entire Appalachian Trail.
And you can’t really talk about Roan Mountain without mentioning the world-famous Rhododendron Gardens. Here, you’ll find the largest natural stand of Catawba Rhododendrons in the world, and in the spring, they’ll take your breath away!
But for now, it’s almost winter, and the snow is already falling! And if you cross-country-ski, just follow the signs up to the balds, strap on your skis, and explore this magical part of God’s Country.
*SIDE NOTE: It’s important to mention that the road from the Rhododendron Gardens to Carver’s Gap is NOT plowed during snowfalls. There is no ski lodge or lift, and skiers must bring their own equipment—no rentals in the immediate area. And all these activities are only available weather-permitting.