Snowy Balds at Roan Highlands – A Photo Essay

There was a snowstorm over Roan Mountain the last Friday in February, 2020. Seeing Roan Highlands covered in a blanket of snow is always a highlight of WNC winter. So on Sunday, March 1st I set out for this glorious destination high above the little town of Bakersville. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do in winter. This makes three in a row now.

As usual I was not disappointed. To be honest, it couldn’t have worked out better. The road crews had done a fabulous job of clearing all the back country mountain roads between Burnsville and Carver’s Gap, so the driving part was a snap. It was a bright sunny day, with but wispy clouds on an azure sky, and views that seemed like 50 miles, or more. The only downer were the dozens of jet contrails polluting the sky.

There were only a handful of cars at Carver’s Gap when I arrived, so there were a few intrepid others who had the same idea. It was definitely cold. The air temp was 22° when I stepped out of my Subaru. The wind seemed calm, but that was to change on the summit of Round Bald.

Preparation is one of my hallmarks though, so I had heavy wool socks and snow boots, fleece-lined softshell pants, plenty of layers for my core and a down filled vest with a hood, plus a balaclava and gloves. Sunglasses finished off the ensemble. I probably looked a bit like the Michelin man, but I was ready.

Once out in the snow and on the Appalachian Trail, I could tell that I was first out on this morning. The other cars must have been for overnight campers. Brr! The lower trail was barely packed down by boot steps probably from Saturday hikers. Once I cleared the spruce forest, the wind had filled in any previous footsteps, so it required a bit of post-holing. The higher and more exposed I got, the windier it became. The south side of Round Bald was 4-6 inches deep. Most of it I was breaking trail. To say it was slow going would be an understatement.

The summit of Round Bald was a downright gale. Boy was I glad I had all that cold weather gear on. The snow-covered mountains that surround in every direction were astounding. Perhaps the most beautiful view was of the Hump Mountains off to the northeast. Once on the north side of Round Bald, the snow depth was a foot. The wind was obviously blowing snow from the summit mostly to the north.

I didn’t stay long, and only went as far as Engine Gap, but the two hours I was there was worth every stinging ice crystal slamming into my face. Two other solo hikers passed me on the downside. Climbing back up to the summit of Round Bald was really slow going because of the foot deep snow.

Enjoy the photo gallery below of my adventure to Roan Highlands in the snow. If you are interested in going to Roan Highlands yourself, check out my trail report that includes directions, maps, and many more seasonal photos. Thanks for visiting!



This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.


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