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Southeast Excursions

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Enjoy Roan Mountain’s off-season

By Mark Alan Hudson
Correspondent

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    Park info: www.tnstateparks.com. Info on the recreational area the USDA Forest Service maintains: www.fs.usda.gov (click “N.C. forests”).

     The town of Roan Mountain, Tenn., is small but has a number of interesting eateries, quaint stores and several options for accommodations. If you are staying in the area, it’s definitely worth exploring. Area info: www.roanmountain.com.



For the outdoor lover, the area known as Roan Mountain – on U.S. 19E, just west of Avery County, in Tennessee – offers year-round opportunities like hiking, camping, fishing, picnicking or just relaxing.

Distance

From Charlotte, it’s roughly 125 miles, about a 2 1/2-hour drive.

To see and do

With more than 2,000 acres, Tennessee’s Roan Mountain State Park offers a lot of room to roam. Its elevation – 3,000 to 3,700 feet – makes it cooler than the Piedmont almost anytime. The elevation also offers an environment that sustains a rich diversity of plant and animal life.

The park offers 12 trails of varying length, two of which are for mountain bikes; hiking trails range from easy to strenuous. A recreational area is home to a swimming pool, tennis courts and a playground. Interpretive programs are offered throughout the year and the Miller Homestead offers a glimpse of how tough life was for early settlers to the area. Picnic areas and a conference center round out some of the physical amenities.

The park’s terrain is beautiful; the Doe River meanders through it, offering trout fishermen a nice test. Animal life, bird species and seasonal wildflowers offer great viewing opportunities.

The mountain offers some spectacular year-round views. The Appalachian Trail traverses this area at Carvers Gap and there are three unique “balds” there that offer 360-degree mountain views for just an hour or so of moderately strenuous hiking. Other trail options at the gap offer views and hikes well worth the effort. Even when the recreational area is closed to vehicular traffic, cross-country skiers and hikers can still enjoy the area.

You’ll definitely want to check out the top of Roan Mountain itself. The USDA Forest Service operates a recreational area there from late spring through early fall that has historical, natural and recreational significance. Of special note are the Catawba rhododendron gardens, which erupt in brilliant color the third or fourth week of June. Since 1947, the Rhododendron Festival has drawn upwards of 200,000 people annually to see the spectacular sight. The 2014 festival will be June 21-22.

The park has an outstanding campground with 87 RV and 20 tent-only sites plus 30 very nice cabins available all year. (The campground is opened to self-contained campers only, Nov. 15-May 1).

While most visitors to the Roan Mountain area come during warmer months, it truly is a year-round destination for those who enjoy the beauty and majesty of nature.

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