Grassy Ridge Bald, Jane Bald, and Round Bald on the AT

  • Highlights: Three bald summits, spectacular views, blaze orange azaleas, Roan Highlands, Appalachian Trail
  • Distance:  4.9 mile out and back
  • Elevation change:  1,030 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Trailhead Parking: Carver’s Gap at the NC/TN state line; Tennessee route 143 and North Carolina route 261
  • Website: AllTrails
  • Beer Pairings: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale & Dankful IPA

The Hike:

If we could only go on one hike, this might be it. Many Appalachian Trail thru hikers consider the Roan Highlands to be among the most scenic parts of the AT. While we are not AT thru hikers, we agree this section of the trail is amazing. It includes three bald summits: Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald. We completed this hike in June and the wild blaze orange azaleas and rhododendron were in full bloom. It was an awesome sight. For obvious reasons, this is a very popular hike so you certainly will not be alone at any time during the spring, summer, or fall.

The trail begins across the road from the parking area. Follow the white blazed AT north past wild azaleas and rhododendron. The grassy summit of Round bald is .7 miles from the parking are and is a pretty easy climb. As a result, this is the most crowded section of the trail. Round Bald, at 5,826 feet, offers amazing panoramic views. Roan Mountain looms to the south, to the east are the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee to the west. Up ahead you can see the AT meander through the wide open ridge as it reaches Jane Bald and in the distance is Grassy Ridge Bald.

Continuing north, the gravel path ends and the train becomes more rugged. The AT rises and dips for the next .7 miles to the summit of Jane’s Bald at 5,807 feet. This is the smallest of the three balds but still has outstanding views. The grass is slowly being taken over by wild azaleas and rhododendron.

Continue north on the AT as the trail descends for a bit and then begins a 500 foot climb to the summit of Grassy Ridge Bald. At just under 2 miles, the trail reaches a junction. The AT branches off to the left and a spur trail goes straight ahead to the summit of Grassy Ridge. The spur trail to the summit passes through a tunnel of rhododendron as it makes a somewhat steep climb. The grassy summit provides fantastic panoramic views. On a clear day Mt. Mitchell is visible to the south as is Grandfather Mountain to the east. Retrace your steps back to the parking area and your vehicle enjoying the fantastic views on the return trip.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing:

If we could only go to one brewery, Sierra Nevada might be it. Their East coast brewery and pub is located near Asheville, North Carolina. It has quickly become a top brewery destination in a city that rivals Richmond as “beer town USA”. One of our go-to beers has always been Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It was one of the first beers produced by one of the first microbreweries back in the 1980’s. It is good today as it was 40 years ago. Dankful IPA is a west coast style IPA made with seven varieties of hops. At 55 IBUs it is a bit hoppier than the Pale Ale and a portion of the proceeds are donated to charity. Cheers!

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe and be responsible.