Roan Mountain’s mysterious grassy balds and its natural 600-acre Catawba rhododendron gardens create incredible beauty.
Address: 1015 Hwy. 143 Roan Mountain, TN 37687
There are some who believe Roan Mountain, with its grassy balds and natural 600-acre Catawba rhododendron gardens is the most beautiful mountain in the Eastern U.S.. The unusual vegetation of Roan Mountain’s more than 1,000 acres of balds attracted the famous botanist John Frasier and others of the 1700s and 1800s.
Some claim it’s named for Daniel Boone’s roan, a horse with a coat color pattern characterized by an even mixture of colored and white hairs on the body, while the head, lower legs, mane and tail are mostly solid-colored. Others believe the name came from the roan or reddish color of the rhododendrons in bloom. It is just as likely the pioneering Scots saw the orange/red mountain ash berries in fall and named the 6,285-foot peak for the rowan tree of their homeland, a member of the rose family with leaves and berries similar to the mountain ash.
Roan Mountain is a massif, or compact portion of a larger mountain mass that was displaced as the mountains were formed, according to the informational displays in the Roan Mountain State ParkVisitor Center. With summits, a central ridge with rounded peaks and gaps, the Roan Massif is 12 miles long and forms the highest point in the Unaka Mountain Range.
Roan Mountain State Park encompasses 2,006 acres of southern Appalachian forest at the base of 6,285-foot Roan Mountain. Park elevation ranges from 3,000 feet in the valley to around 3,700 feet on surrounding ridges. Rich hardwood forests allow for a great diversity of life and a wide range of outdoor activities. Doe River bisects the park and provides a healthy environment for legendary trout fishing.
Park guests have opportunities to hike along creeks and ridges, fish for trout, play tennis, swim, tour a century-old farmhouse, join rangers and naturalists for educational programs, and enjoy mountain music concerts. Wildflowers and wildlife inhabit the hollows and ridges of the Roan foothills in abundance. From Dutchman’s breeches to deer, trillium to turkeys, bee balm to black bears, there is always something to discover. The Appalachian Trail and famous Rhododendron Gardens of Roan Mountain can be accessed at Carver’s Gap, an 8-mile drive from the park.