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Tennessee State Parks Series: Roan Mountain offers something for everyone

February 9th, 2012 9:34 am by Carmen Musick

Tennessee State Parks Series: Roan Mountain offers something for everyone

Visitors who enjoy the 'natural' attractions can hike along creeks and ridges, join rangers and naturalists for educational programs, or simply kick back and relax under a canopy of towering shade trees.

Editor's Note: The Tennessee State Parks system is celebrating its 75th Anniversary in 2012. During the month of February, we are taking a closer look at each of the four Tennessee State Parks located in or just a short distance from the Tri-Cities.


If I ever run away from home, chances are my family will know exactly where to start the search.


After all, Roan Mountain State Park and the surrounding highlands are - quite possibly - my favorite place on earth.


Roan Mountain State Park encompasses 2,006 acres of southern Appalachian forest at the base of the towering 6,285-foot Roan Mountain. Park elevations range from 3,000 feet in the valley to around 3,700 feet on surrounding ridges, making it comfortably cool even in the middle of summer. The rich hardwood forests allow for a great diversity of life and a wide range of outdoor activities.


Visitors who enjoy the 'natural' attractions can hike along creeks and ridges, join rangers and naturalists for educational programs, or simply kick back and relax under a canopy of towering shade trees. Hiding in the nearby woods are approximately 12 miles of hiking trails and 2.25 miles of mountain bike trails. Difficulty levels range from easy to strenuous. Hikers can stroll along the Doe River or take a challenging trail up to a ridge with a great view.


One of our favorites inside the park is the 1.9-mile Fred Behrend Trail, which meanders around the campground. Rated a moderate to difficult hike, the trail is worth the effort and proves that one need not journey far to take in the natural beauty or the diverse plant and animal life at Roan Mountain State Park. Set aside a good two to three hours to enjoy it at a leisurely pace and pay close attention to the flora and fauna along the way. We’ve spotted some unusual creatures and plants on the path in years past. There are even a few jumping off spots where it passes close by the campground - if it proves to be too much.


Also nestled off the beaten path at the state park is the Millers Homestead - a century old farmhouse built in 1909 and now preserved as a reminder of the way folks used to live in these mountains. During the summer months, local musicians, storytellers and demonstrators of traditional folkways visit the house on Saturday afternoons to share their talents. It’s a treasure worth seeking out.


No matter what you enjoy, there's plenty to do within the borders of Roan Mountain State Park.


Sporting visitors can fish for trout, play tennis, swim in the park's pool (during the summer months, of course), run, hike or bike. The Doe River, which originates just above the park on Roan Mountain, is home to three species of trout, including native brook trout as well as rainbow and brown trout stocked by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.


Inside the park, getting away from it all doesn't have to mean sacrificing all the comforts of home either. For overnight stays, the park offers a good range of options from primitive tent camping to electric and water sites for campers and RVs, to furnished cabins complete with fully-outfitted kitchens, full baths, as well as wood-burning stoves and gas/electric heat. For our family, any one of the 87 RV sites will suffice when we have our pop-up camper in tow - as each offers water and electric hookups, a grill and picnic table, and is located near a bathhouse with hot showers. But we've also journeyed to the park for tent camping and highly recommend the 20 tent sites (as well as the four group sites for Scouts and church groups) that - minus the electric and water hookups - offer the same easy access to all of the wonderful activities the park has to offer.


On Saturday, Feb. 11, the park will welcome guests to its annual Winter Naturalists' Rally. A full slate of activities is planned, including guided hikes, field trips, guest speakers and workshops, and all of them are open to the public.


To learn more, visit the park’s Web site at www.state.tn.us/environment/parks/RoanMtn/ or call 423-772-0190 or 1-800-250-8620.

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