Located on the North Carolina/Tennessee state line, Roan Mountain is actually more of a mountain range – or a massif – than a single peak. Famous for its Catawba Rhododendron gardens with its brilliant purple flowers in spring, the Roan is a wonderful place to visit and hike any time of the year.
Cross country skiing is even popular here during the winter (as the Roan Massif gets more snow than almost any other location in the area). It is one of the highest ranges in the Southern Appalachians, with peaks topping out at over 6200′. The Appalachian Trail – the main hiking opportunity on the peak – traverses the ridgetops while a few other trails wind around the area, including one fully wheelchair-accessible trail through the main Gardens area.
Besides the Rhodododendrons, which bloom in mid-June, most people will find the mountain interesting for a variety of reasons. The area’s balds are probably the next-most interesting feature. These treeless mountaintops offer spectacular views, fields of grass waving in the winds, and an alpine-like hiking experience. In other places, a dense spruce-fir forest grows, some of the healthiest examples of this ecosystem left in the southern Appalachians since being devastated over the last few decades by the Balsam Wooly Adelgid. A unique historical site, that of the Cloudland Hotel, offers a glimpse into the mountains’ past while the mountain’s name itself has been subject to legends of origin and historcal debate.