A Catawba legend tells of a great battle with the Cherokee atop the Roan mountain where the bloodshed from the battle left the rhododendron colored crimson and parts of the mountain treeless.
Just outside of Bakersville, Roan Mountain isn’t just one mountain but contains five mountain peaks, and is roughly divided into two sections by Carver’s Gap. The first section — composed of Roan High Bluff and Roan High Knob — lies west of Carver’s Gap and is characterized by a thick coniferous forest. This part of Roan is shaped something like the body of a double-humped camel, with the “humps” being High Bluff and High Knob. Tollhouse Gap lies between the two peaks, and contains the Rhododendron Gardens, the largest of its kind in the world.
The second section of Roan Mountain — known as Grassy Ridge — is east of Carver’s Gap, and is the longest stretch (appx. 7 miles) of grassy bald in the Appalachian Mountains. The three peaks atop Grassy Ridge are Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald.
However, what brings people from far and wide to Roan Mountain are the rhododendrons. Roan Mountain is the largest naturally occurring rhododendron garden in the world. With over 600 acres of bright pink and fuschia catawba rhododendron blooming in mide June, our mountain does indeed turn pink! Plan your Roan Mountain trip to coincide with the NC Rhododendron Festival in Bakersville held the third weekend in June each year!
There are several ways to get to Roan Mountain, but Bakersville is the gateway to the Roan. It’s about 18 miles north of Bakersville, NC on Highway 261.
feature photo credit: Appalachian Exposures