Roan Mountain is one of the jewels of the Tennessee state park system, according to their website. After staying a full 14 days, I’d mostly have to agree with that assessment. A couple hours drive north from Asheville, NC or a an hour south from Bristol (VA or TN), and you’re in the middle of a forested campground with hiking trails, the Doe River, and a short, beautiful drive to Carver’s Gap and the Appalachian Trail.
My favorite trail was the short one down from my campsite and along the Doe River as it ran down from the mountain and through the campground. I hiked it every day just to see the changes in the river, the light, and the leaves at different times of day.
I bounced around the campground, staying in three different spots in one of the upper loops. I wouldn’t normally do that, but when it’s Labor Day weekend, even vagabonds can’t magic the perfect campsite. For that three-day weekend, I perched in a tiny spot with my truck parallel to my trailer. It was probably a van site, but with a 17-foot trailer, I can fit into a lot of small spots and the campground hosts were cool with it.
I did a few longer hikes and was amazed by the amount of rhododendrens. This park is part of the big rhododendren festival in June and I would love to see that some time. Walking the trails then must be like drifting through flower beds.
My friend Scott came up for a couple of days with his (new to him) RV and we had campfire and conversation, along with a bit of a hike along the AT. We ended the day by checking out the visitor center, where I learned that John Muir himself had stayed at a now-gone hotel at Roan Mountain.
There’s lots to do here, from hikes to day trips to Boone, NC, to simply sitting outside and reading away the afternoon. This was my second time at Roan Mountain, and I wasn’t disappointed at all in my return trip. Even the overcrowded Labor Day weekend was worth it.
Roan Mountain STATE PARK (TN STATE PARKS)
- Site 50, site 88, site 48. 48 is the best of the three, dark at night and quiet part of the loop. Big rigs and Class A RVs are not suitable for upper loops and should stay in the lower loop. Reserve at TN State Parks.
- Services: electric/water, one dump station, bath houses with showers and toilets. Recycling in lower loop.
- Zero cell signal, but great FREE campground wifi.
- Groceries: 15 minutes to the Dollar General, which has a fair selection of groceries (but no fresh fruit or veg). 30-40 minutes to Elizabethton, where you have Food Lion and Walmart.
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home…