Parks & Recreation

Trails & Hiking – The Appalachian Trail and much more

Carter County is criss-crossed with numerous hiking trails, including  some of the most beautiful and challenging sections of America’s crown jewel, the Appalachian Trail.

The AT in Carter County winds along the Tennessee/North Carolina border and over 6,285-foot Roan Mountain before descending to Watauga Lake at 1,959 feet.  After crossing 318-foot-high Watauga Dam, it heads up the spine of Iron Mountain, with breathtaking views of the lake almost 1,500 feet below. It’s challenging, and hikers must be prepared for long, steep climbs and descents, rough terrain, and rapidly changing weather in the high elevations. Snow has been recorded in every month on Roan Mountain, where temperatures falling into the mid-30s in mid-summer are not unheard-of. But the reward is some of the most spectacular scenery on the entire trail, including a visit to Roan Mountain’s world-famous rhododendron gardens.

Of particular interest to long-distance hikers, the village of Roan Mountain is now an Appalachian Trail Community!  You’ll find a warm welcome, good food, a comfortable bed, hot showers and everything else a foot-sore traveler needs.

Not all of Carter County’s hiking is so strenuous, though, and hikers of all skill and fitness levels will find a trail to enjoy. Many quiet walks through the woods and along mountain streams await you. There are plenty of access points, campgrounds and back-country camping areas, and hiker-friendly services are readily available.


Directions to popular hiking trails website
Free map of Carter County’s hiking trails (Pending)
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Maps and brochures are also available at the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce office in Elizabethton on Highway 19E/321. 

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Thanks to Mark Peacock’s Appalachian Treks blog for use of photographs.