“It’s a great place to get away,” said Jacob Young, a park ranger at Roan Mountain State Park. “Even during this time of year, you aren’t having to fight the crowds. It’s quiet up here and, if you like nature then there is a lot to do.”
Even though visitation is down during the winter months, there are still things to do at the park. They offer hiking, biking, fishing, skiing and beautiful sightseeing.
“We have a lot of hiking trails that are still open during this time of year,” Young said. “Although it is cold, this is a wonderful time to get out on the trails to see wildlife.”
The best parts of the park during the winter months are the views and the chance to see the wildlife.
“There isn’t a lot of foliage so you can see a long way,” Young said.
However, it is important for people that are planning on taking hikes or enjoying the outdoors to remember that the park is anywhere from 10 to 15 degrees cooler once you reach the mountain, so it’s important to pack warm.
“You leave Johnson City and it could be 40 degrees, then you get here and it’s 25 or 30 with a 30-mile-an-hour wind,” Young said.
“It’s a beautiful place and we want people to come experience it but, at the same time, make sure that you’ve got plenty of gas and make sure that you have the right clothes.”
The park accommodates any groups or families that might like a ranger-led tour or hike. Those are available upon request.
“It doesn’t really matter how many people,” Young said. “If they want a ranger-led hike or ranger program, we will do that.”
One of the biggest attractions right now are the cabins located on the park’s grounds. For people that might want to enjoy the snow or the beautiful views, there are 30 cabins that are available at AAA rates. This is also a great time to visit because the cabins are 50 percent off for anyone that stays in them Thursday through Sunday from now until the end of March.
The cabins are located just eight miles from Beech and Sugar mountains, which makes for a short commute for anyone that might want to enjoy the slopes.
There is also a campground that offers 87 RV sites and 20 tent sites. Unfortunately, right now, the camp ground is undergoing a major renovation, so it's not currently open. But the major renovations, which include adding Wi-Fi internet access and newly-paved sites, will be done in the spring.
Completion of the campground project is dependent upon the cooperation of Mother Nature, but a grand opening for the public will be held Memorial Day weekend. If it is done sooner, then they will open it.
“From here on out, the campground will be open during the winter and you will be able to camp during the winter,” Young said. “We now have frost-proof spigots, so we will be able to leave the water on. And that will be a change, because normally everything is winterized during the winter months.”
The park was first thought of in the 1950s, but land wasn’t acquired until the 1960s and 1970s. It is open year-round and is most widely known for the the rhododendron gardens that begin to blossom in June. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the park offers 20 to 25 ranger-led programs a week.
“It just gets so slow once school starts back in the fall that we kind of cut (those) off. So, in the winter months, it is just a great place to come and relax,” Young said.
For more information on the park, visit tnstateparks.com. Also now available, through the website, you can book a cabin or campsite months in advance. For more details or if you have any questions, you can contact the rangers at the park at 423-772-0190.