6-5 & 10-9, 2020

~ 5.1 mile

~ 1,033 ft

Roan Mountain, TN

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Roan Mountain- Carver’s Gap holds a special place in our hearts because it is one of the first trails that we would frequent when the boys were babies. It is especially memorable because when my second son was a few months old, I didn’t want to stop and nurse him because he was content and it was a busy day on the trail. I was wearing him in a front carrier and ended up having a horrible case of mastitis as a result. Pro tip…just stop and nurse the baby.

Roan Mountain- Carver’s Gap is a great hike for kids of all ages because there are multiple balds along the way. It can easily be a 1 mile hike or a 5+ mile hike depending on how far you feel like going that day. It also doesn’t have any spots that are particularly challenging to navigate. There are some uphill climbs that will require you to watch your footing, but nothing too difficult.

This is also a gorgeous hike for any season. We have been in spring, summer, and fall but I am hoping we can make it up there this winter. In winter, you would definitely need a good vehicle and be sure to check ahead for road closures depending on the weather because there is a narrow, steep, and curvy mountain road (with breathtaking views!) leading up to the trail.

This trail starts at Carver’s Gap which is right on the Tennessee/North Carolina border. Once on the mountain, you can see N.C. to one side and T.N. to the other. It’s  incredible. Roan Mountain hiking trail is part of the Appalachian trail which branches off before you reach the third bald. There is a bathroom at this parking area but it is definitely a trail bathroom- no sink, flush, light, etc. If you turn right at the Carvers Gap sign, (if coming from the T.N. side), and continue driving up the mountain, there is an area called the “Rhododendron Gardens.” It is beautiful to see when all the rhododendrons bloom at the end of June.

The trail head is right across the street from the Carver’s Gap sign.

Early on in the trail there is a large wooded area with perfect trees for climbing. In all honesty, the boys could spend all day just playing in this forest. It is one of their favorite parts of the whole trail.

Right after you leave the woods, there is a big rock and your first view. This is not one of the balds but is still a gorgeous scene.

After a short hike up, you come to “Round Bald.”  This Bald has a pretty large area for viewing on both the N.C. and T.N. side. A lot of people stop here and head back, so the crowd definitely thins out as you keep going on the trail. 

The path to the second bald is a hike downward and then back up again. The downhill portion is fairly smooth but the trail becomes rocky once you begin the ascent toward the second bald.

Just before you get to the second bald, Jane bald, there is a breathtaking viewing area with cleared spaces off to the side that are perfect for snack or lunch breaks. We usually stop and spend a little time here before deciding if we will turn back or push on.

After that spot, you will come to Jane Bald shortly.

Then its down and back up again to continue on to the tip top and third, grassy ridge bald. This section of the trail will take you past the point where the Appalachian Trail splits off.

Then it will take you through a lot of narrow trail spaces lined with rhododendrons and other varieties of bushes.

We didn’t quite make it to grassy bald because we started a little late in the day so we were concerned about daylight. The kids were also done by the time we reached Cornelious Rex Peak. This area still provided breathtaking views and the highlight for the boys- we saw three deer, one of which was a baby!

This trail is one of our absolute favorites because of its 360 degree mountain views and multiple areas to stop along the way. I’m going to share the caption from my Instagram post because transparency is important to me.

“…I never want to paint the picture in this space that hiking with kids is always easy. There are times doubt creeps in and it can be easy to want to avoid these types of activities because within the perfect squares of IG it looks like everyone’s kids just magically persevere on the trails and are happy little hikers the whole time. There is no truth in those thoughts. None.

We hiked 5.1 mi with a 1,033 elevation and there were parts that were really tough for our 5 and 7 year old…really tough. These are kids that have been hiking their whole lives. We did not start here. We started with super short and low elevation hikes and worked up to this. The boys still absolutely struggle sometimes.

BUT…what I saw today was my 9 year old stepping in and helping his younger brothers. He used a “magic” stick to turn our youngest into iron man to get up a tough part. He encouraged our second son. We often tell them that we know they can do hard things and they do not have to do them alone.

The trails teach hard lessons and sometimes there are even tears. Toward the end and after, they always talk on and on about the fun memories, good stories, and time together. That is what’s important. We can only hope that between the tough spots we are laying a foundation of something good.”

Roan Mountain- Carver’s Gap is definitely one to put on the short list if you are in the area! It is one that always feels like going home to us.


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Nature finds to look for:

DISCLAIMER: We use the “Picture This” app to help identify plants we find along the trail combined with our own nature books and study. We are by no means experts and might get it wrong sometimes! Please do not take any of our suggestions as text book or ingest anything based on what we share. Our nature finds are also based on the season in which we did our hike. If you hike the same trail in a different season, you might find totally different plants. If you notice any mistakes in our identification, please feel free to contact us and let us know so we can update it ASAP! Thank you and happy exploring!