Our weekend at Roan Mountain was a classic example of “things don’t always go as planned, but everything works out.”
None of us had ever been to Roan, but we’d heard about it and were dying for a sunrise shoot. The mountain that you camp on is called Round Bald at Carvers Gap right on the Tennessee/North Carolina boarder (address: Fork Mountain-Little Rock Creek, NC 28705.)
There is minimal service out there, so I would recommend downloading the area on google maps. If you are unsure how to do that, click the three lines next to the search bar, click custom map, and find your area by zooming the square in and out. When you arrive at the parking lot, you are between two mountains. One is east, and one is west. The Appalachian Trail goes through both mountains, but round bald is to the east. That is the wide open mountain top with campsites and fire pits.
Roan is about a 5 hour drive from Nashville and we left around 1pm. Nashville is also in central time, so we lost an hour, making it dark when we arrived. We hadn’t eaten dinner yet and planned to cook food at the top. There is a sign and a clear cut trail up to the top. It is less than a mile, but we definitely brought too many things because we were going to shoot the next morning. If you go, definitely keep it minimal and eat dinner before you hike. Carrying a Coleman camping stove and bags of food up a mountain isn’t what I would have done in hindsight.
The wind rages at night on the mountain because there is little tree coverage, but it made for an amazing sunrise in the morning. The fog was rolling in and out, giving us lots of different settings. Roan is definitely one of the most beautiful (and also FREE) camping destinations in the east! Everyone should wake up on a bald mountain at least once in their life. All in all, when we got back to the parking lot and had coffee, we were happy campers. :)