Monday, June 18, 2007

Rhododendron Gardens

Referred to as a "Jewel of Nature," the rhododendrons on top of Roan Mountain are putting on their annual show. I'd say they are at their peak this week (right now!) leading up to the Rhododendron Festival this weekend. The rhododendron gardens are a breathtaking display of hundreds upon hundreds of Catawba rhododendrons carpeting the mountainside. The three dollar per car fee is well worth it to see this incredible display of nature.

Directions: Take Route 19E to the town of Roan Mountain, turn onto Route 143 and travel 12.8 miles to the TN/NC state line (Carver's Gap). On your way up the mountain, you'll pass through the Roan Mountain State Park. Eventually, you leave the state park and enter the national forest. At Carver's Gap turn right, following the signs to the Rhododendron Gardens two miles up!

Other things to do: After walking the paths through the gardens, drive on to the trail head for the Roan High Bluff -- a short hike will take you to a breathtaking overlook. Another hike to consider is to stop at Carver's Gap on your way down from the gardens and to take the Appalachian Trail to the top of Round Bald -- this short hike will give you an amazing 360 degree views of the mountains.

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