Roan Mountain Sate Park is a spectacular place to visit. This post is the first in what I hope to be a series of posts sharing some of the natural wonders of the Smoky Mountains/Western North Carolina/Eastern Tennessee area, and Roan seemed like a great place to start. We are so lucky to live in such a diverse ecosystem with different flora and fauna at every elevation. I am ecstatic to have a former bride turned friend, Star, to share these adventures with me. She is also an awesome writer and researcher, so I have asked her to guest blog about our adventures. I hope you enjoy the images and information about a place that is unlike any other I have seen. I hope you get the opportunity to visit Roan Mountain – I know we are going back and will hopefully get to witness the largest natural rhododendron displays in bloom next year. We hope you enjoy!
Today’s adventure found us in Roan Mountain State Park, located in Mitchell County, Tennessee. There are many trails to choose from, many of them less than a mile long. The trails are clearly marked and easy for all ages. As soon as you enter the forest, each of the five senses is piqued. The lush, vibrant flora surrounds you, and lures you with more shades of green than the eye can comprehend. The forest gives off a cedar and floral smell, very pleasant and alluring. Roan Mountain is located at an elevation of 6100 feet, and this means absolute silence other than the animal and insect noises one would expect in the woods. Moss and lichens blanket every surface; I felt compelled to touch it on everything: trees, rocks, moss beds. The moss floor of the forest was so inviting, I seriously considered lying down in it, but did not want to harm the fragile ecosystem.
In every glen, enormous trees lie where they have fallen, giving the woodland an almost primeval feeling. The mountain at this altitude is a sub-alpine forest, allowing many rare lichens and other flora to flourish. Some of the species of plants found here are on the Federal endangered species list. Several varieties of fern crowd each other in the secluded open areas where deer and squirrel come to feed. We were fortunate enough to see two baby deer (still with their spots) bound across the road where we parked at the start of Cloudland Trail. We also followed a very fast fox squirrel up to the high lookout.
There are two incredible lookout points to observe the largest natural rhododendron gardens in the world, and also the view of one hundred mountain peaks spanning the North Carolina and Tennessee border. The vista is truly spectacular; even on an overcast day it will take your breath away. The clouds seem to float above a sea of blue-green fir trees and rhododendrons. A small mountain farming community is also visible. It is a remnant of when Southern Appalachia was a booming mining town and lumber region. Now, the forest and Roan Mountain are all protected land and part of the Pisgah National Forest.
In these woods, trees grow up and out in every direction, becoming unique specimens; the remnants of both live and long-dead trees standing sentinel over their patch of forest. Soft moss coats the all of the trees; the fallen trees, thickly coated as they return to the forest floor. Ancient trees grow from the top of boulders, hiding sheltered glens that seem like fairy hide-outs. The forest has an old-world feel, which is contributed to by the random signs of human habitation: an old stone fireplace in the middle of a trail, a huge stone picnic table reminiscent of an altar. Each sign of man shows signs that the forest is trying to reclaim that space. In the meadow, there is little trace of the Cloudland Hotel, a luxury resort that drew visitors in the late 1800’s. A sign post near the Appalachian Trail marker provides a little of the hotel’s history. One of the most entertaining stories about the hotel was the painted line in the dining hall that indicated the North Carolina/Tennessee state line during prohibition. Alcohol was legal in Tennessee and not in North Carolina, so patrons had to be mindful to stay in Tennessee with their spirits.
This adventure is definitely worth the drive – over and over again!! I hope you enjoyed this first adventure post and look forward to sharing more soon!
These images are available for sale directly – or you can check out our etsy store – camiphotoart for more Camilla Calnan Photography Fine Art – Nature – Landscape imagery.
Thanks for visiting our blog!