The Hike: Tom Gray Trail
The Place: Roan Mountain State Park, Carter County
When Roan Mountain State Park announced ranger-led hikes were returning, with the group of 10 and stay-6-feet-apart rules, I still jumped on the opportunity.
Since I moved to Northeast Tennessee, I’ve been doing my best to learn more about wildflowers and which are which. While I still tend to do a dismal job most the time, I’m getting better. However, I never turn down a learning opportunity, which this was.
I had ventured a bit down the Tom Gray Trail once in the past, as part of a wildflower hike during a Friends of Roan Mountain Naturalists Rally. This time, we would venture to the end, and see many flowers, including a couple of my favorites.
When I left my house to head to RMSP, the thermometer read a brisk 51*. When I arrived at the park, I found myself switching my fleece for a puffer jacket and pulling a Buff around my neck – for warmth and as a potential face covering.
I like to call the Tom Gray Trail the godfather of wildflower trails for Roan Mountain. A couple weeks later, and who know what we would have seen. On this trip, however, it was everything from stonecrop to painted trillium to pink lady’s slipper to a variety of mint and aster.
Let’s talk about the trail itself. The Tom Gray Trail starts near the playground across from the campground in the park. Its total mileage is just under a half-mile, if you can complete the whole loop. However, the left hand part of the loop gets marshy as a spring crosses and takes over part of the trail.
The accessible parts of the trail are well maintained and relatively flat. There is a small bridge early on to cross, and the end of the right side of the trail ends with a bend along the Doe – and a swimming hole.