Azaelas_Overlook
Overlook on Roan Mountain near Appalachian Trail. Photo by Jack Ollis.

Roan Mountain is absolutely gorgeous in the month of June with the Rhododendrons blooming.  When hiked there in June 2017, we got an eyeful of blooming wild flame azealas and rare Gray’s lily.

Rhododendrum_azaelas
Blooms of Rhododendron and Flame Azaleas on Roan Mountain. Photos by Jack Ollis.

Riding over Roan Mountain is a wonderful ride with well maintained curvy roads with beautiful overlooks on the TN side.  You can also add a hike at the NC/TN border.  We have hiked about a mile up and a mile back the Appalachian Trail (AT) in our motorcycle boots.  If you want to hike further, bring better hiking shoes because the trail gets rockier and more narrow after that first mile.  If you do hike farther, you will come to a trail marker after 1.5 mi showing a trail for the AT to your left and a trail for Grassie Ridge Bald going straight. The Grassie Ridge Bald trail is a total of 3 mi out and will give you amazing mountain views.  Going back the 3 mi to Carver’s Gap is a lot easier fortunately since it is more downhill.  To hike, park at Carver’s Gap right on the NC/TN border.  There is also an outhouse there behind the first parking lot that you see.  The trail will be on the east side of the road.

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Carver’s Gap at the NC/TN border on NC-261 and TN-143

This route describes a ride over Roan Mountain from north to south but it is just as much fun in the other direction.  There are several options that you can use to ride over the mountain.  I have included two route descriptions.  You can either go into Bakersville, NC or skip Bakersville and take a short-cut using Fork Mountain Road.  We like using the Bakersville route because we enjoy lunch there at Helen’s restaurant.  In addition although the Fork Mountain route has curvy well maintained roads, it goes through more neighborhoods.  You will also see on the maps that are included that you can get to NC-226 via US-19E from TN-361 or from TN-173.  Both of these roads are also very nice and a good ride choice.  See the Red Hill route to help you get to NC-226.  There are two maps:

Beautiful_Roan_Mtn_1_map
Map 1 shows the end of the Roan Mtn ride at the intersection of US-19E and TN-143. TN-173 and TN-361 are also visible on this map.
Beautiful_Roan_Mtn_2_map
Map 2 shows the entire Roan Mountain ride using either Fork Mountain Rd or using NC-226 to go into Bakersville with Helen’s restaurant.

This is a classic ride of the TN/NC area.  To get maximun ride enjoyment of this area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, please include it on your must-ride rides of this area.

We actually rode over Roan Mountain going south to north yesterday (July 2017) and it was fantastic with beautiful road surface, fun curves, and barely any traffic.  We first rode NC-80 north to south and Little Switzerland’s NC-226A south to north and finished it off with going over Roan Mountain.

The detailed route description is shown below.

Beautiful Roan Mountain, TN ~32 mi from Red Hill, NC

From Red Hill,

Straight on NC-226 S  Go 5.4 mi to Helen’s Restaurant in Bakersville, NC

Continue northeast on NC-226 S  Go 0.1 mi

Left onto NC-261 N  Go 12.7 mi entering TN at Carver’s Gap on NC/TN border

Straight onto TN-143 N  Go 12.7 mi to stop sign at intersection with US-19E

in the town of Roan Mountain on US-19E

Beautiful Roan Mountain, TN using Fork Mountain Rd ~32 mi from I-26 Exit 32

From Johnson City, Get off I-26 at Exit 32

At stop sign, Left/southeast onto TN-173  Go 0.5 mi to stop sign.

Right onto TN-173 E/ TN-107 E  Go ~0.5 mi

Left onto TN-107 E  Go 10.1 mi

Straight on NC-226 S at NC border.  Go 7.8 mi.

Left onto Fork Mountain Rd  Go 4.1 mi to stop sign.

Left onto NC-261 N  Go 9.2 mi

Straight on TN-143 N at TN border (Carver’s Gap)   Go 12.7 mi to stop sign at intersection with US-19E

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