Why Your Family Will Love Roan Mountain State Park

A few months ago, our family was on our way to a hike in northeast Tennessee, and the drive took us through Roan Mountain State Park. As soon as I saw it, I knew we had to stay there! This 2,000+ acre park sits at the bottom of Roan Mountain – and the park is spectacular.

This was our first experience with a Tennessee State Park, and it did not disappoint. There was so much to see and do in and around the park itself, and our accommodations were awesome. Here were some of the reasons our family loved Roan Mountain State Park, and we know your family will love it too!

The Accommodations

Photo courtesy of Kate Gelsthorpe.

We stayed in one of their 30 cabins – and it was amazing. Truly one of our best cabin experiences to date. Our cabin had a bedroom with a queen bed, a loft with two twin beds, a large bathroom, an equipped kitchen, a living room with wood burning stove, a large dining table, and a front porch with rocking chairs.

We loved this cabin! We chose ours on their website, and got one that was next to the playground for our kids, which worked out perfectly for us. The cabins are situated together and are connected by a paved walking path.

Once you park in the designated area, they have carts available for getting your bags and things to your cabin. We loved this – it was just so nice to feel like we were in our own little cabin world, and we didn’t have to worry about cars driving directly in front of our cabin. It gave us parents a little extra peace of mind.

The cabins themselves were charming, inviting, and clean. We had no issues at all. The kids loved their special loft area – and made quick work of turning it into their clubhouse.

The loft overlooked the living space, and there was plenty of room to stand up there. I’ve stayed in loft spaces before where it felt cramped, or small, but this wasn’t like that at all. This sleeping area could definitely accommodate adults.

It was also so great that linens were included here. We didn’t have to worry about sleeping bags, pillows, or towels – it was all there for us!

We made great use of the front porch with the rocking chairs, since a small creek ran in front of our cabin, and kept the kids occupied for hours! It was so peaceful, and the perfect way to relax.

We loved the wood burning stove in the living room. It was a huge hit amongst the kids, and it kept the cabin plenty warm for us. The cabin also has a heating system, for those especially cold nights. And here’s the best thing – firewood was included!

There was firewood on our porch, in our cabin, and outside near the community fire pit. We loved this, and it was just another thing that made this experience feel like a true vacation!

In addition to a cabin our size, Roan Mountain State Park also has cabins that can accommodate larger groups. The park also has RV and campsites available. I also want to mention, that we made these reservations a couple of months in advance, and at that time they had most of their cabins still available.

I wanted to put that out there because we visited at the beginning of November, and the leaves were changing and were incredibly beautiful. If you have a hard time finding affordable cabin accommodations in north Georgia, this could be a great last-minute option for you!

Hiking In The Park

Photo courtesy of Kate Gelsthorpe.

Our main reason for visiting Roan Mountain State Park this time, is the same reason we even found this park to begin with: their hiking trails! The state park has 12 miles of hiking trails, and 2.25 miles of mountain bike trails. Their trails range from easy to strenuous, and all of them are under three miles.

We hiked the .35 mile Peg Leg Mine Trail with the kids – we had five children with us on this trip, ranging in age from 3-8 years old. We chose the Peg Leg Mine Trail because it left from their amazing Visitor Center, and it was short with a unique discovery at the end!

We all loved this hike. The kids had a blast on this short, easy trail, and they got to see the entrance of an old iron ore mine. It was really neat! We definitely spent a lot of time exploring around the old mine, and the kids couldn’t get enough.

The other hike we did within the park, was the .75 mile Raven Rock Trail to see the sunset. Doesn’t .75 miles just sound so incredibly easy?! So easy, in fact, that you may just make the decision to hike it kind of last minute, and therefore didn’t completely check to see if it was…hard?

My sister and I did this hike, and I’ve got to tell you – I worked hard for those sunset views! This hike was awesome, and wound through the beautiful changing leaves, but it was also a steep, uphill climb. We made it to the overlook – and the views were spectacular.

You could see the sunset behind the mountains, and the entire state park below, and it was a great feeling of accomplishment. With that said, I’ve never been more happy my kids weren’t with me on a hike. This would not have worked for our crew! Y’all, I was wearing my hiking boots, and I slipped on rock and fell THREE times. Ha! Like I said, totally earned those views.

We also walked a bit on their Riverside Trail, but our kids got distracted by…the river! The Doe River runs through this state park, and I am not exaggerating when I say the kids spent HOURS down there. Collecting rocks, throwing rocks, seeing how far their leaves could go before disappearing – this place was a dream come true for the kids.

So we started walking on the Riverside Trail – which was a beautiful boardwalk hike over the wetlands – but we mostly ended up playing in the river. The Riverside Trail takes you past some of their picnic pavilions, and you can take a short trail off of it to their recreation area – which includes a swimming pool. Can’t wait to come back in the summer to check that out!

Hiking Near The Park

Our favorite hike in the area was located only eight miles from our cabin in the park – the Appalachian Trail from Carver’s Gap. This part of the Appalachian Trail from Carver’s Gap to Roan High Knob is beyond beautiful.

It truly feels like you’re in the Lord of the Rings or something. Everything is so green, covered in beautiful moss, and both times we’ve hiked it it’s been filled with clouds and fog. Simply breathtaking.

We love the Appalachian Trail, and this part of it is just out of this world. The kids were major troopers – the day we were hiking this was a bit chilly and drizzly. But honestly, that’s some of my favorite hiking weather. And everyone we ran into on the trail agreed!

It’s just magical when it’s like that. And once we were truly in the forest, it really warmed up. And the hike smelled like Christmas trees. That’s one way to get in the spirit! It’s just one of my favorite hikes of all time.

Our goal was to hike the AT until we got to the knob, so we could attempt to hike the Cloudland Trail. But once we reached the Cloudland Trail, the area was really socked in with clouds. We went to the first overlook – and it was just white. Ha! We just had the imagine the beautiful mountain views.

The kids thought it was awesome, and so did we, but they were kind of worn out from all the two miles of AT hiking, so we headed back to our car from there. We honestly had one of the best mornings doing these hikes, and I’ll definitely be back to attempt it all again!

There are also some great Tennessee waterfalls so be sure to check those out too.


One of the things Roan Mountain State Park is famous for is their rhododendrons! For sixty years, the area has held a two-day festival celebrating the rhododendrons. The festival is held on the third weekend in June at the state park, and it’s a huge event. Many hikes in the area will lead you through the beautiful, flowering rhododendron plants.

Bur the most popular place to celebrate these gorgeous plants is the Rhododendron Garden at the top of Roan Mountain. Thousands of people head up to the top of the mountain during their peak blooming season at the end of June to see the beautiful plants with the mountain range in the background. This is definitely a bucket list item for us!

The Location

Roan Mountain State Park is located in northeast Tennessee on the border with North Carolina, and is about 4.5 hours from Atlanta. It’s very close to a town called Elizabethton, Tenn., which we visited this summer and loved!

There was so much to see and do there, and some great restaurants nearby, too! Our favorite adventures in Elizabethton included driving ATVs up a mountain with Off the Grid Adventures, and swimming in the mountain lake at the Shook Branch Recreation Area. We’d highly recommend a visit to that super-friendly town!

Roan Mountain State Park is also about an hour away from Asheville, NC, and two hours away from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park – so it would be easy to combine trips here. But for us, a visit just to see this state park was more than worth it.

It’s Awesome

This park really had it all. We loved the hikes in and around the park itself, we loved the incredible views and beauty at every turn. We loved all it offered our kids. This park had playgrounds, creeks, and rivers to play in, there was always something for them to do.

We loved the different levels of hiking that would appeal to every type of hiker. We loved their beautiful Visitor’s Center, which had a cute museum and a beautiful bridge over the Doe River.

This park also hosts special events throughout the year. In addition to their Rhododendron Festival, the park hosts Easter egg hunts, chili cook-offs, and a Halloween in the campground event, to name a few.

Fishing is also a popular activity here. The Doe River is cool enough to host three types of trout!

We just truly loved staying here. Roan Mountain State Park is a beautiful and peaceful place, and we can’t wait to go back to discover more.

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Roan Mountain State Park in Tennessee. Here is why you will love this spectacular 2,000+ acre park that sits at the bottom of Roan Mountain in Tennessee.

Kate Gelsthorpe is a former TV news writer, and a born and raised Georgia girl who grew up camping with her family at state parks around central and south Georgia. After 18 years in Atlanta, her family recently moved to Athens, and in their spare time you can find them exploring their new hometown. She and her husband, Kevin, are the proud parents of an 8-year-old dinosaur expert, and a 6-year-old outdoor-loving fashionista. You can follow her family’s quest to go on 100 hikes in 2018 on Instagram @loveandkate.


Lesli Peterson

Lesli Peterson

Lesli made her way to Atlanta over 20 years ago, after living in Germany, Japan and six U.S. states. She relishes the discovery of obscure, offbeat and unwonted places, and she will chat up any willing stranger to uncover a new secret locale.

After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.

Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.
Lesli Peterson

1 Comment on "Why Your Family Will Love Roan Mountain State Park"

  1. Hi Kate, thank you for your story. It sounds like a great place to escape from the city life. What is their most special food there?

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