Roan Highlands - June 9th Weekend

11:17 a.m. on April 6, 2012 (EDT)
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I am looking to you guys for advice on an upcoming trip to the Roan Highlands in June.  I am just starting my planning, so please forgive my "stupid" questions. I am going to do the requisite research, I just figured I would throw it all out there in case some of you want to throw me some easy info :)

I will be making the trip with a few friends and/or family. I've planned the trip for when the Azalea and Rhododendron bloom is likely to be in full swing. It have heard it is usually a week or two later, but I am thinking the crazy warm winter and early spring will have bumped it up a bit. 

We will hopefully arrive up there by late morning or mid-day on Friday, and will be looking to arrive back at vehicles by mid-day on Sunday. Everyone that will be going are relatively experienced hikers, and should be able to keep a moderate to good pace. With only having looked at a map and Google terrain view, I am wondering about doing the AT section from Carvers Gap to hwy 19E just NW of Elk Park, NC.

I am looking for the following info and advice, or the best sources for the info (specific trail guides, trip reports, online resources, etc.)

  • Recommended routes: would the above idea the best? What are the options for point-to-point hiking through, or single trailhead out-and back trip? 
  • Water sources & Locations
  • Mileages
  • Best camping locations and points of interest. Any suggestions if there  is anything off the beaten path, or that isn't readily noticeable.
  • If there are "side hikes" or alternate trails that we should see or incorporate into our route.
  • The best maps for the area. I prefer 7.5 minute (1:24,000), and do not like the small scale of the Nat Geo retail series. I am good with USGS quads unless they are not adequate for some reason. 
  • Any info concerning parking, registration, or other details that might be overlooked. 

That's about it for now ;)

11:28 a.m. on April 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Not sure if ya saw this link yet but if not this may help ya a bit(hopefully)

I am curious about this area as well being NC is the where I am going to relocate too awhile down the road and I am looking at all the areas I want to hit ahead of time.

11:37 a.m. on April 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks for the link. There are a bunch of those "overview" type pages when google it. 

Here in the mid south of the east, You can't do better than west NC or East TN, that's for sure :)

11:56 a.m. on April 6, 2012 (EDT)
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West NC huh? I am not too set on where to go(wife likes beaches, I like mountains) so I will definitely be looking into this. Thanks man.

1:17 p.m. on April 6, 2012 (EDT)
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It's right at 15 miles from Carvers Gap to HWY 19E (with no side trips). Since you wanna see the rhodo blooms, You could drive up (or shuttle up) to Roan High Bluff / Rhododendron Gardens and explore the gardens then drive (or hike) back down to Carvers Gap (about a mile in between them).


I say that Roan High Knob is worth seeing whether you hike up from Hughes Gap (nearest road you could be dropped off at) or start from the old Cloudland’s Hotel site near the Gardens. I started from Iron Mtn Gap / TN107 last year specifically to experience the climb up the south side of Roan MTN. To me it was worth it, but I like extra exertion. :)

There are two side trip on this route that you must see in my opinion: Grassy Ridge and Yellow Mountain Overlook. They add a couple miles each but offer some of the best views in the area.


Grassy Ridge is clearly marked: follow the trail all the way until it appears to end. At that point drop the packs and crawl through the obvious Rhodo tunnel until you can stand up. There are several trails through the Rhodo that lead to excellent overlooks. There is also water on Grassy Ridge should you choose to camp there (if you make the rhodo crawl you'll come upon a fire ring where others have camped, not a bad idea).

The other must see is an unmarked trail to the Yellow Mountain Overlook. This led to one of my favorite spots after about a mile. I'll need to consult my notes to give you the best directions to find it. (took me three tries last time, since it isn't marked).

Since your crew is fit you could easily do this as a single overnight even with the side trip but this one is worth taking the time to explore and savor.

It's only 6 miles from Carvers Gap to Overmountain Shelter (which should be seen even if you don't camp there: water source is excellent - follow the blue blaze trail all the way to find the best water source - many stop at the first trickle but the actual source is farther down the trail). That shelter will be super full unless you hit it mid-week. I don't like full shelter areas so I would bypass and camp on a bald somewhere (or camp near the Yellow Mountain Overlook (fill up the water- there isn't much to be had across many of the balds)) if you wind up starting from Carvers.

The Harbor Mountain Bed and Breakfast has a shuttle service and a place for you to park in "corral". They also have a "thru-hiker" lodge type offering (more primitive with shared bathrooms) or traditional B&B rooms.

I parked at Harbor Mountain but used a private shuttle because it was cheaper.

Harbor Mountain B&B 1-866-772-9494

Beth Ann Jarrett (does hiker shuttles on the cheap for extra money) ah, I'll give you a PM with her number - don't wanna post on the internet without asking.

Carter County Sheriff 1-423-772-4812 (I always look up local law enforcement numbers to give my wife in case I get "et by a bar" or something)


This is a fabulous hike!

5:03 p.m. on April 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Here is an excellent website with lots of points of interest in this area.

This is a map that is linked to in the above

If I can manage the time off I would like to do the section from where Walnut mountain road crosses the AT to 19E.  Supposed to be a fantastic waterfall called Jones fall.

Maps and Milages:

Here's an online map that I like to use.  It has 19 different major trails including the AT.  It has google's terrain, map, satellite views and MYTopo.  It also has markers (location type drop down) for shelters and trail heads among other things.  You can even add your own info if you register. The other feature is if you click the show distances link it will show the distance when you hover over the trail.

The trail is very well marked and maintained. It would be near impossible to get lost as long as you don't wander off. 

Parking etc.

Parking was $2 or $3 per car per day.  Shuttle service was $35 (i think) for a dually 4 door cab pickup load.

Water sources etc and description of hike:

You may want to start a little further South at the visitor's center since you are planning a mid day start.  We started in the evening about 5:30 (I think) at Carver's Gap and made it to Jane Bald and camped in the fork where the Grassy Ridge side trail starts.  Grassy Ridge is the only side trail here that I saw other than some blue blaze to water sources and the Over mountain shelter.   We set up the tents and cooked in the dark.  We did not do the Grassy Ridge side trail but it is supposed to be excellent and a good place to camp also.

An excellent water source (decent stream crosses the trail) is just a bit further north on the AT.  When I went through somebody had even left a pitcher to scoop water out of hole someone had dug. We filled up here.  We stopped and had a snack at Stan Murray shelter. Don't recommend it. Small and no views. Met a section hiker (about 250 miles each summer) here that had started about 7:00 in the morning from 19E. 

The girls who are in much better shape than the wife and me decided to hike ahead and agreed to meet them at the trail that leads to Over Mountain shelter.  Wife wanted to use a "real" privy so we hiked down to the shelter and the girls pressed on.  It is huge.  I think it is the largest one on the entire trail.  It's an excellent place to have lunch which we did and if you don't mind sleeping in shelters it has a nice fire ring etc. The view from the front is in my TR.   You should check your water here and fill up.  We didn't and ran out of water (my wife, 8yo son and I went through 8 liters!) half way up Yellow mountain. The wouldn't have be so bad, but the trail up Yellow mountain is in the sun.  Nice views though my pic of Overmountain is from this section. 

Met the girls at the next water source.  They had hiked to Bradley gap and left their packs there having determined that it would be a good place to camp, pulled out their bladders and hiked back. 

There are obvious camp areas all along the wooded areas of the trail from Jane Bald to Bradley gap. We setup camp down hill from the trail in a nice flat area with 2 other people. 

The next morning we went up the appropriately named Hump Mountain. The girls got an earlier start than we did (we cleaned up from cooking and refilled our water (nice stream about .5 miles back south).  About the time we made it to the top another hiker who was staying at Grassy Ridge made it also.  He was just day hiking and ate his lunch there.  We had a snack and enjoyed the fantastic views. 

After you climb down Hump the trail goes back under the tree canopy.  Nothing remarkable along this stretch other than some nice wild flowers. We caught up with the girls who had stopped at a water source (I'm getting a pump filter so I will have a backup/one for them). They were starving and we made ramon and filled up the camelbaks. After eating they took off again.

Just before Doll Flats the trail opens up and you get some good views. Doll Flats is a small field filled with wild flowers and has a nice camp site with rock fire rings. I believe that there was a water source nearby.

After Doll Flats is a nice stretch of wooded area with the occasional view.  The trees are a taller through here.  Also some nice rock formations.

Near 19E it flattens out and is very pleasant.  There is a fairly decent sized stream which might have trout in it.  The Applehouse Shelter has been removed.  Wish I had gotten a couple of pics of it.  Apparently it was a party spot for kids and they left a lot of trash.   

5:16 p.m. on April 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Excellent info guys, many thanks! 

I will have a few more specific questions about the info above, but right now I have to go do some yard work :)

5:47 p.m. on April 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Patman, I'm also interested in the Yellow Mountain overlook.

11:03 p.m. on April 6, 2012 (EDT)
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I was thinking Azalea was a variety of Rhodo...

Anyway I haven't been to the Roan area in many years, I never hiked it but it was a cool place to drive through. We used to visit friends in nearby Johnson City.

I have no doubt you will do a good job of planning, I wish I could offer some input but I have no experience in that area.

Mike G.

2:51 p.m. on April 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Gonzan and Ocala,


Big Yellow Mountain is one of the main prominences you see on the left as you gaze South from the Overmountain shelter. Here it is (although this map isn't much help in finding the trail):

As you hike north on the AT after leaving the Overmountain Shelter, the BYM trail will shoot off to your right as you approach the base of Little Hump mountain. Again, no markings! Caution: Before the clear view of Little Hump in front of you, also shooting off to your right is an old tractor road. This false trail loses elevation quickly: if you start going down you are not on the right trail (another possible clue: last year the tractor road was a bit of a bush whack….the BYM trail is not.).

The trail you want is just a footpath to begin; it starts off heading into a field and then cuts right, then after going in to the trees it cuts left along a fence line and is fairly flat as I recall.

The forward (North) view of the AT from the "base" of Little Hump:









Looking right from the "base" of Little Hump in to the field, here is the unmarked BYM trail as it diverges from the AT (can you make out the trail? It goes to the right):









After turning in to the trees, the BYM trail looks like this (quite level):








It’s about a mile before you reach a gate (has an old broken down walk-through side bar on the left) beyond which is the overlook (keep hiking brother!):



There is a Bench with a Scripture on it; when you find that you know you are there!

You can do it!

10:10 p.m. on April 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Here's a screen cap of a map.  The blue circle with the S is Over Mountain
shelter. I assume you turn right some where near the red word "trail"


This came off of the postholer site.

6:46 a.m. on April 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Yep that's it.

I noticed a typo in my message above.  I should have said Big Yellow Mountain is one of the main prominences you see on the left as you gaze North (er well...AT- North) from the Overmountain shelter.

2:58 p.m. on April 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Excellent info guys, thanks!  

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