Asheville TrailsbyTrailful Outdoor Co
Appalachian Trail in North Carolina

Roan Mountain winter hike

Stunning year-round, the Roan Highlands are exceptionally beautiful during a Winter sunrise. Hike the Appalachian Trail from Carvers Gap to Round Bald, Jane Bald and Grassy Ridge for nearly continuous, exceptional wintertime views.

georgia hiking trails: 4-6 miles 4.7 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderaterelatively
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:on the Appalachian Trail at Roan Mountain

PACK:our Osprey day pack and our hiking gear list

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 783 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)

There’s just nothing like chasing an epic sunrise on the Appalachian Trail, especially in winter. Western North Carolina’s sunrises and sunsets are simply beautiful, casting light over the rolling, mountainous landscape and bathing everything in a golden glow under a brilliantly-colored sky. As many sunrises as we’ve caught, they’re always uniquely beautiful, and always entirely worthy of the groggy, pre-dawn drive to the trailhead.

Roan Mountain in winterAbove: hike the Appalachian Trail at Roan Mountain to epic, chilly wintertime sunrises

This wintertime hike on the Appalachian Trail explores the Roan Highlands at Roan Mountain, a rolling, grassy series of mountain balds that offer nearly unlimited, spectacular, 360-degree views for miles along the AT. And while it’s a wonderful hike (and one of our all-time WNC faves) in any season, it’s especially beautiful at a winter sunrise, when Roan’s snowy mountain balds seem to make an already-perfect sunrise even more beautiful.

Stunning year-round, the Roan Highlands are exceptionally beautiful during a Winter sunrise. Hike the Appalachian Trail from Carvers Gap to Round Bald, Jane Bald and Grassy Ridge for nearly continuous, exceptional wintertime views. #hiking #trailrunning #camping #backpacking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Roan Mountain: the winter hike

Pre-dawn breezes blow briskly through the trailhead at Carvers Gap (view maps and driving directions), a paved AT access near the North Carolina / Tennessee Border. Early morning light begins to fill the sky, signaling that the time is near. A golden hue casts on Roan Mountain’s balds, contrasting with the icy, blue-hued, snow-covered landscape. Gearing up, we depart the trailhead, hiking eastbound on the Appalachian Trail and climbing, quickly, chasing the sunrise.

The hike begins a steady, meandering climb of Round Bald, the first of three mountain balds on this adventure. The Appalachian Trail carves through a thicket of rhododendron, their leathery leaves coated in snow and ice. The trail enters a balsam stand, the fresh scent of evergreen blowing fragrantly in the snowy breeze. Early morning light streams through the trees, reflecting across snowflakes like tiny airborne prisms.

Roan Mountain in winter

The hike exits the balsam forest at .25 mile, arcing through switchbacks in a final ascent of Round Bald. From the summit, sweeping views stretch in every direction just as the sun begins to crest over the nearby Grassy Ridge to the east, this hike’s final destination. The AT switches back, descending Round Bald eastbound to a saddle at Engine Gap, enjoying view after breathtaking view across the ice and snow-crusted landscape.

The hike reaches the gap at 1 mile, leveling briefly before beginning a climb. The AT ascends through a rocky landscape, passing several broad slab rock outcrops. The trail reaches the Jane Bald summit at 1.3 miles, catching beautiful dawn views of Grassy Ridge to the east and Round Bald to the west.

Roan Mountain in winter

The hike continues following the Appalachian Trail eastbound, the sun hanging low on the eastern horizon. The trail descends Jane Bald, reaching a saddle at 1.5 miles. The hike begins a final, steady climb of Grassy Ridge, reaching a trail junction at 1.8 miles. From here, the AT veers northeast, traveling to the Overmountain Appalachian Trail Shelter. This route turns to the right, following a short spur trail to the Grassy Ridge Mountain summit. The hike ducks through a dense tunnel of snow-covered rhododendron, their gnarly branches bending low over the trail under the weight of ice and snow. The trail exits the dense rhododendron at just over 2.1 miles, with exceptional views expanding as the trail gains its final elevation.

Roan Mountain in winter

The hike reaches the Grassy Ridge summit at 2.35 miles, cresting elevation at a group of angular rock outcrops. The wind-blown summit landscape offers outstanding views in every direction. Rime ice and snow cling to the grasses and windswept trees, glowing golden in the early dawn light.

Departing Grassy Ridge, the hike retraces its outbound trek to the trailhead, following the spur trail to reach the Appalachian Trail at 2.9 miles, and following the white-blazed AT westbound, rolling elevation over Jane Bald and Round Bald. The hike reaches the Carvers Gap trailhead at 4.7 miles, completing the hike. Hikers swarm the trailhead, departing on their own early-morning Roan Mountain adventure. But that gorgeous, first-light color show is fleeting, and we enjoyed the serenity of having it all to ourselves.

Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.

Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.

Appalachian Trail: Roan Mountain Winter Hike Map, Directions & Details

This map shows our approximate route while exploring this trail, but does not replace an official trail map. Please refer to the official trail map for the most current and accurate route.

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Driving Directions


Free parking is available at the trailhead.

GPS Coordinates

36.106807, -82.110331     //     N36 06.385 W82 06.616

Elevation Profile

Roan Mountain winter hike: Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge Elevation Profile

Eric Champlin is a creative director and photographer who loves to explore southeast. He's the co-owner of Trailful Outdoor Co, a locally-owned hiking outfitter shop in Hiawassee in the Georgia mountains near the Appalachian Trail. He’s also the co-founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.