Distance Round-Trip: 2.5 miles
Estimated Hiking Time: 1.5 hours (because it’s the kind of hike in which you want to spend some time just enjoying the views)
This hike northward on the Appalachian Trail leads you up through a fir-pine forest and onto the grassy Round and Jane Balds. In addition to the awe-inspiring views, you also get to see the oldest rocks on the trail. This is one of my favorite hikes around Roan Mountain but it didn’t make it into Hiking Tennessee, so I chose it to be the first hike I share.
Caution: This moderate trail involves only a 300-foot elevation gain but begins at more than a mile above sea level. Because the grassy balds are exposed, they are subject to more wind, and are often covered by clouds. Make sure you have clothes to protect from direct sunlight, rain and wind as inclement weather can move in quickly at this elevation.
Trail Directions: The parking area for this trail is at Carvers Gap on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. To reach it, take Tennessee 143. Carters Gap is 14 miles south of Roan Mountain, Tennessee. The Trailhead is across the road from the parking area at N 36º 6’ 23”, W 82º 6’ 37”.
After you pass through the fence at the trailhead, begin hiking up hill. Follow the gravel path to the right, then to the left as it curves up hill through a rhododendron tunnel before entering the balsam fir and pine forest at .16 mile. At .33 mile, you will leave the forest and enter a grassy area as the trail winds its way to the summit of Round Bald at .61 mile. Round Bald is at 5,826 feet at N 36º 6’ 25, W 82º 6’ 13”.
Continue straight ahead along the Appalachian Trail, descending along the grassy bald with blueberry bushes to your right and left. At .97 mile, you will reach Engine Gap at N 36º 6’ 22”, W 82º 5’ 39”.
From here, you will ascend again, reaching the summit of Jane Bald at the top of a rocky outcrop with excellent views at 1.26 miles or N 36º 6’ 22”, W 82º 5’ 39”. Jane Bald is at 5,820 feet in elevation, and the exposed rocks here are 1.1 billion-year-old gneiss, which have been intruded by 740 million-year-old plutonic rock dikes. These are the oldest rocks along the Appalachian Trail.
Return to the parking area by backtracking.
You can find a MotionX GPS map HERE: Jane Bald