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Roan Mountain State Park  

Close to the Tennessee-North Carolina border and near the community of Roan Mountain, Tennessee, Roan Mountain State Park is situated in the the Appalachian Mountains. The park preserves 2,006 acres (8.12 km2) of mostly hardwood forest. The park is in close proximity to 6,285-foot (1,916 m) Roan Mountain and the Appalachian Trail, both of which are owned and managed by the US Forest Service. Roan Mountain State Park hosts a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, mountain biking, camping, cross-country skiing (during snowy, winter months), fishing, and swimming. A heated swimming pool is open from Memorial Day to mid-August. At an elevation of 2,972 feet, the outdoor swimming pool is at the highest elevation of any swimming pool within the Tennessee State Park System. Other attractions include the historic Miller homestead and the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival. The festival is held in the park annually, during the peak of the alpine catawba rhododendron bloom in late June.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail 

Generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is about 2,200 miles  long, though the exact length changes   over time as parts are modified or rerouted. More than 2 million people are said to do at least one day-hike on the trail each year. The Appalachian Trail was completed the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in forest or wild lands, although some portions traverse towns, roads and farms. The trail conservancy claims that the Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only trail in the world. It passes through 14 states: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Thru-hikers attempt to hike the trail in its entirety in a single season — more than 2,700 people thru-hiked the trail in 2014 — and some hike from one end to the other, then turn around and thru-hike the trail the other way, known as a “yo-yo”. Many books, memoirs, websites, and fan organizations are dedicated to these pursuits.

Tweetsie Trail 

A rail-trail that follows the former ET&WNC (“Tweetsie”) Railroad right-of-way for 9.5 miles. It begins at Alabama Street in Johnson City and continues east through Sycamore Shoals State Park in Elizabethton and the city’s downtown. It ends on Stateline Road near the Betsytowne Shopping Center. The trail has a compacted stone surface, a relatively flat grade, and crosses seven bridges. Along the way, travelers can rest and enjoy its beautiful, natural surroundings on several benches. A “trail extension” stretching all the way to Roan Mountain carries on from the end of the “Tweetsie” at Hatcher Lane in Elizabethton. Parking is available in Johnson City at the Memorial Park Community Center, Cardinal Park, and the Municipal and Safety Building (City Hall). In Elizabethton, parking is available at Elizabethton High School. In Roan Mountain, cyclists can park at the community park or the Happy Trails park.

The Overmountain Victory Trail

part of the U.S. National Trails System. It recognizes the Revolutionary War Overmountain MenPatriots from what is now East Tennessee who crossed the Great Smoky Mountains and then fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina.

The OVHT follows the route from Abingdon, Virginia at the Abingdon Muster Grounds,fording the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals through  Elizabethton, Tennessee, crossing the Doe River twice near both Hampton, Tennessee and Roan Mountain, Tennessee, and ascending over the steep Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, on through South Carolina to the site of the Battle of Kings Mountain now within Kings Mountain National Military Park. The trail network consists of a 330-mile (530 km) corridor, including a 70-mile (110 km) branch from Elkin, North Carolina, that joins the main route at Morganton, North Carolina. In Rutherford County, North Carolina, the trail follows the approximate location of Rock Road through the Gilbert Town Historic District.

Fifty-seven miles (92 km) of OVHT are officially developed for public use, and development continues on the remaining sections. The official sections of the trail were established through agreements with current landowners and often have overlapping designations. All officially certified segments are identified through the use of signs displaying the trail logo (an Overmountain man in profile on a brown and white triangle) or a white triangular blaze.

A parallel Commemorative Motor Route travels along state highways and, in some stretches, actually travels over the old historic roadway.

The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail is a cooperative effort of the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, local governments, local citizens' associations, local historical societies and the states of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Horseback and Equestrian options

Just off Railroad Grade Road on the Tweetsie Trail extension, the Back Country Horsemen are building “Happy Trails Park” which will be a parking and staging area for equestrian enthusiasts to access a new expansive horse trail system being developed in the Cherokee National Forest. In the meantime, Hinkle Branch Trailhead Leads to 36 miles of interconnected trails (old road beds, single track trails, and Forest Service gated roads). Large, easily accessible parking lot Directions: Elizabethton, TN off Highway 91. Heading away from Elizabethton the trailhead is just past Unaka Elementary School. Look for the large brown Forest Service trailhead sign on your left. Other trails include a six-mile long gated road with approximately two miles of single-track connector trail. Parking for about five trucks and trailers is available. There is also a connector to the Little Stoney Creek Jeep Trial (ca. 3 miles long).Directions: From Elizabethton, take Highway 91 towards Stoney Creek, look for the large brown Forest Service sign which directs you to turn left onto Rainbow Circle.Civil War Trails

A great way to tour the area is to follow the Tennessee Civil War Trails, a historic marker program that identifies both great campaigns and lesser-known Civil War places. The Trail includes interpretive markers and an online statewide driving tour, and links Tennessee’s sites to Trails programs in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. Sites in and near Carter County include: 

Roan Mountain State Park, where Samuel P. Carter, a Union general, raised troops in the area and participated in burning railroad bridges in the area. 

Elizabethton, near the home of Admiral and General Samuel P Carter, the only officer to wear two stars in both the U.S. Army and Navy. Carter remained with the Union when war broke out and served in east Tennessee. He later commanded the XXIII Corps during the 1863 Knoxville Campaign. He returned to naval service after the war.

Ripshin Lake 

A smaller nearby lake that is not part of the TVA system is the  located 6 mi (9.7 km) SW of Roan Mountain. Although this is not the place for a family outing or a picnic, it is a wonderful place to drive through and admire the scenery. This peaceful but restricted area is almost completely privately owned land and is patrolled periodically by local owners. However, a main road passes within just a few feet of the lake and especially in the fall of the year, lends itself to some incredible photo opportunities. The road parallels “Roaring Creek” which is a beautiful mountain stream that winds down the mountain with one small waterfall after another. The creek can not be seen in the summer due to the foliage but when the leaves fall, the views are spectacular.

Sycamore Shoals State Park

Located at the convergence of the Doe and Watauga Rivers, this was the site of the largest private land deal in American history. Resulting in the purchase of 20 million acres of land, the Transylvania Purchase marked the beginning of the westward expansion and gave all the lands of the Cumberland Watershed and extending to the Kentucky River to the settlers. In 1780, 1100 men gathered at Sycamore Shoals before making a 14-day march to King’s Mountain, South Carolina, where they confronted and defeated Major Patrick Ferguson’s British militia. Every July, Liberty! the official drama of the State of Tennessee is staged here utilizing an all- volunteer cast of history enthusiasts. There is also a history museum, and numerous park programs are held throughout the year here.

Watauga Lake

The local name of the Watauga Reservoir created by the Tennessee Valley Authority with the 1948 completion of the Watauga Dam.  Fed by the Watauga and Elk Rivers, the lake has a mean depth of 52 feet, and covers 10 square miles of a valley that was once the town of Butler Tennessee. It is stocked by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Administration with Walleye, Rainbow Trout, Largemouth Bass, Bluegill and more. The Cherokee National Forest surrounds Watauga Lake in some of the most beautiful country in the Tennessee River watershed. The original town of Butler, Tennessee, now sits at the bottom of Watauga Lake. “New” Butler was relocated to higher ground above the summer pool edge of the TVA reservoir. According to lake expert Holly C Ward, Watauga Lake is the third cleanest in the country. More than half of Watauga Lake’s shoreline lies within the Cherokee National Forest and cannot be developed. Recreational uses include boating, fishing, water-skiing, and camping. There is no horse-power limit or speed limit for boats operating on the lake. Several fee-based public and private boat launch ramps provide access on the Hampton side of the reservoir. The release of impounded water from both TVA Watauga Dam and TVA Wilbur Dam provides additional downstream riverine recreational opportunities such as whitewater rafting, trout fishing, and kayaking on the Watauga River, and several Cherokee National Forest recreations are located along its shores.

The Blue Hole 

Located at the base of Holston Mountain near Stoney Creek, and accessed by turning on to Panhandle Road off Hwy 91. Shortly after the pavement turns into a gravel Forest Service road, there is a small parking area on the left. Walk down the hill and you can’t miss it. This is a popular local gathering spot in the summer and best visited at off peak times. For an adventurous drive, the gravel road will take you to the top of Holston Mountain which reaches 4,285 ft(1306m). Holston Mountain has a network of trails covering the ridge and running off both sides. South Holston Lake can be seen from the mountain top. Several local broadcasters have antennas on Holston as it is the highest point central to the Tri-Cities.

Coon Den Falls 

Known by some in the past as Bear Cave Falls. This is a very high solid rock wall with a minimal stream coming off the edge. It is reached by hiking from Dennis Cove. The trail is easily missed, located along the road between the National Forest campground and the Appalachian Trail/Laurel Falls trail head. It is .6 miles from the trail head near a private property boundary. Laurel Fork runs along the road at this point. The slope up to the falls is moderate. In the winter the tall rock face becomes a wall of ice.

Jones Falls 

A high waterfall with a small stream, Jones Branch runs on to the Elk River near the state line after tumbling through this waterfall. It’s located near the Appalachian Trail close to the Buck Mountain area of Carter County. A side trail goes to the falls from the Appalachian Trail. The coordinates for Jones Falls are N36.20290° W81.98234°.

Laurel Falls 

Located along the Appalachian Trail between Hampton and Dennis Cove. Also known as Laurel Fork Falls, it is a fairly large waterfall in a deep gorge. It can be reached from the trail head in Dennis Cove or from the Laurel Falls trail head in Hampton, located along Laurel Fork on Highway 321. The Hampton trail merges with the Appalachian Trail, which splits off over the mountain toward Watauga Lake. Parts of the trails running along Laurel Fork lie on an old narrow gauge railroad bed. In places there are two parallel trails. The blue blazes indicatethe alternate high water trail. The trail from Dennis Cove is shorter and mostly level except for a couple places, like the descent down to the falls. The Hampton trail is much longer, mostly level with a few climbs. It takes about an hour of walking to reach Laurel Falls from Hampton but it is a nice hike. 

Other Waterfalls of Laurel Fork 

Forest Service Trail 39 runs along the mountain stream water of Laurel Fork above the campground in Dennis Cove. Special trout regulations apply to this section of Laurel Fork above Dennis Cove. The trail head is along the bridge right before the Forest Service campground. It involves several crossings of the creek before reaching these beautiful waterfalls with large splash pools. You reach a single fall first, then a short distance up the trail is a triple cascade. Above these falls the trail runs on to Frog Level. Frog Level is a relatively flat area of land set deep in the mountains. It’s another special place. The change in topography to flatness seems odd. The stream becomes calmer and more like a lowland creek. It’s the opposite of what might be expected from ascending a mountain stream. 

Twisting Falls 

Located in one of the more remote areas of Carter County past Nowhere Ridge. That’s right-these falls are beyond nowhere, which isn’t far from the Avery County North Carolina line on the Elk River near the Poga community. It’s reached by taking Poga Road off 321 in the Elk Mills area, to Clawson Road, then to Dark Ridge Road. Park near a barn and then walk a slow steep grade to the falls. There have been a number of injuries at this popular destination for locals and out of town visitors, so be careful!

Elk Park

Neighboring town in Avery CountyNorth Carolina, United States. The town was so named because of the number of elk killed there.The population was 452 at the 2010 census.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2), all land.In 1882, the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad ("Tweetsie") linked Cranberry and Johnson City, Tennessee with a stop at Elk Park; three years later, Elk Park was incorporated. In 1911, Avery County was established; originally Elk Park was to serve as the county seat, but was changed after North Carolina Lieutenant Governor William C. Newland made a deal that the new county seat would be named after him for his aid in passage of the bill. However, Elk Park served as a temporary county seat while the new incorporated town of Newland was being constructed. In 1950, the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina decommissioned the railroad at Elk Park, ending rail service in Avery County, though it has survived as a town, unlike neighboring Cranberry.

Elk Park School was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Newland

A neighboring town in Avery CountyNorth Carolina, United States. The population was 698 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Avery CountyBefore its founding, the area was known as Old FieldsOld Fields of Toe or . In 1911 it was renamed Newland, after North Carolina Lieutenant Governor William C. Newland, and simultaneously became the county seat for Avery County. The Avery County Courthouse and Avery County Jail are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2), all land. At an elevation of 3,621 feet or 1,104 metres, it is the highest county seat in the Eastern United States (based on elevations in the USGS database). The East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad ("Tweetsie") passed through the town until 1940.

Hampton

An unincorporated community located a few miles southeast of Elizabethton and northwest of Roan Mountain, Hampton is surrounded on all sides by the Unaka MountainsHampton was established in the late 1860s by Elijah Simerly, a state legislator and president of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. He named the community for his wife, Mary Hampton. Simerly built an elaborate, Italianate-style house which still stands at the corner of Main Street and 1st Avenue, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house is now known as the "Butler Mansion" after a later owner, Ralph Butler. 

Elizabethton

A neighboring city just up the road from Roan Mountain. Elizabethton is the historical site of the first independent American government (known as the Watauga Association, created in 1772) located west of both the Eastern Continental Divide and the original Thirteen ColoniesThe city is also the historical site of the Transylvania Purchase (1775), a major muster site during the American Revolutionary War for both the Battle of Musgrove Mill (1780) and the Battle of Kings Mountain (1780). It was within the secessionist North Carolina "State of Franklin" territory (1784–1788). There is a historic covered bridge there that many folks admire, plus big-box shopping and many fast food dining opportunities.The population of Elizabethton was enumerated at 14,008 during the 2010 census.


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