Roan Mountain Rhododendron Gardens

Roan Mountain Rhododendron Gardens

Roan Mountain is famous for its spectacular natural gardens of Catawba rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense). The peak bloom time for the sea of purple-magenta is usually mid June, plus or minus a week depending on weather. The area is located on the North Carolina / Tennessee state line - the Pisgah National Forest in NC and Cherokee National Forest in TN. Enjoy the blooms along the Appalachian Trail (from Carver's Gap) or drive into the Recreation Area for a paved walking trail and picnic area. Peak color: June 10-22

Roan Mountain Rhododendron NC

For one of the most spectacular hikes in the mountains, walk the Appalachian Trail from Carvers Gap up (parking area adjacent to NC Highway 261) and over several bald peaks with panoramic views all the way! See photos and details of this unforgetable hike across the balds of Roan. It's also our favorite spot for a winter wonderland hike in the snow (read more).

Roan Mountain Rhododendron

See the view from the observation deck along the half-mile sidewalk trail through the Rhododendron Gardens in the Recreation Area (park in picnic area lot or Cloudland lot). Find many picnic tables. It's a few miles drive from Carver's Gap (if you are driving from North Carolina, turn left at Carver's Gap sign before you cross into Tennessee.) The fee for this area is $3/car.

Roan Mountain Flame Azalea
Flame azaleas on the balds along the Appalachian Trail, peaking right after the rhododendron.

There are many options for amazing hikes in this area. See our Roan Mountain Hiking Guide that includes a five-mile spectacular hike on the Appalachian Trail where you will find many flame azaleas blooming at the same time. 

The summits are always cooler (often 15-20 degrees colder than Asheville), especially if covered in clouds. Bring a jacket even on summer days. Beware! The weather can change quickly. So be prepared. 

Roan Mountain Appalachian Trail

Driving Directions to Roan Mountain from Asheville
About 65 miles (allow 1.5+ hours):

  • Go west on I-26 about 18 miles to Mars Hill.
  • Take exit 9 toward Burnsville/Spruce Pine. Go another 18 miles through Burnsville (or stop for lunch or exploring downtown).
  • Turn left on NC 197 North and go about 11 miles.
  • Turn right onto NC 226 South toward Bakersville (5.5 miles).
  • In Bakersville, turn left onto NC 261 North and go 12.8 miles to Carver's Gap at TN state line. Read about this scenic drive.
  • Turn left at Carvers Gap. There's parking area and restrooms immediately on your right. Or keep driving to enter the Recreation Area for picnic areas, paved trail and gardens.
  • See Google Map below for directions from your location.

Rhododendron Festival
Rhododendron Festival
Friday, June 15, 2018 to Sunday, June 17, 2018
Two Rhododendron Festivals (North Carolina and Tennessee versions) are held in the Roan Mountain area!

A must-hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 420.2, about 26 miles from Asheville) is the Black Balsam Knob area, which includes some of the most spectacular... read more
Summer bring so many great festivals and events to Asheville and the western North Carolina mountains, including our many small towns. Here are our favorites! Also see special features for ... read more
While NC Highway 261 is only 12.8 miles long, the curvy road is packed full of great views as you climb 3,000 feet in elevation to Roan Mountain... read more