At an elevation of 6,285 feet on the Tennessee-North Carolina border, Roan Mountain has been a popular destination for explorers, botanists and naturalist for hundreds of years. Legend tells a story if Indians coming to the top of the Roan to wage a great battle and that so much blood was spilled that the rhododendron turned from pure white to a brilliant red. Spanish explorers came to the mountain looking for gold and world renowned botanists came looking for exotic species of plants. In the late 1800's the wealthy came to the magnificent Cloudland Hotel to take in the cool mountain air. Often the peak of the Roam will be above the clouds which gave rise to the the name of “Cloudland”.
Andre Michaux, the world famous botanist who documented plant species on Grandfather Mountain in 1794 while on an expedition for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette of France also documented plant species on Roan Mountain. Michaux's expeditions to the mountains of the Carolinas were especially fruitful. In this remote region he ascended many of the highest peaks. To reach the summits of Grandfather Mountain, Roan Mountain, the Black Mountains, the unique peaks of Table Rock and Hawksbill, and many other mountains the indomitable explorer followed his local guides on routes traveled only by hunters.
The Roan is probably best know today for the rhododendron gardens that will soon be in full bloom. The Roan is considered to be in a “Canadian Zone” which basically for most of us means that blooming comes late in the season for native plants at this elevation. Usually mid to late June is the best time to plan a visit to the mountain to see the rhododendron display in all it's glory. The Roan has a special place in the hearts of many who visit and live here hence the popularity of the Rhododendron Festival being in the 60th year held on Sat. and Sun., June 17-18, 2006, from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m., outdoors at Roan Mountain State Park in the swimming pool and amphitheater area. Be prepared, I have been on top of the Roan in June and witnessed cross country skiers passing by on their way down the mountain. Needless to say, the weather is king when on the high exposed peaks in the Blue Ridge.
The Roan Mountain State Park is part of the Tennessee State Parks system and was created in the 1950s and developed in the 1970s. Boasting one of the finest campgrounds in the county and modern cabins available to rent, this campground is set against some of the most spectacular scenery in the Eastern U.S. With hiking trails, swimming, tennis, children's play areas and an amphitheater where several events and concerts are held throughout the season you will not find yourself trying to fill your free time with idle activities here. There is always something going on when you are in the mountains. This tends to be one of my biggest problems....so many mountains...so little time.
"It is the most beautiful of the high mountains... with Carolina at its feet on one side and Tennessee on the other, and a green ocean of mountains rising in tremendous billows around her."
-Dr. Elisha Mitchell, (for whom Mt. Mitchell is named)