June Jamboree in the Highlands of Roan

Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan. Photo by Witt Langstaff, Jr.

By Emma Castleberry

On Saturday, June 9, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) will host its annual June Jamboree, a day of free, guided hikes in the Highlands of Roan region. “For some people, hiking in the Roan is a life changer,” says SAHC membership director Cheryl Fowler. “At the very least, it will expose you to a world of beauty.”

There will be six outings available, catering to all ages and ability levels. Preregistration is required for each. “This year we will offer two new challenging hikes,” says Angela Shepherd, communications director for SAHC. One of this year’s new, more challenging options is a 7-mile hike from Shell Creek to Tennessee’s Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area. This hike, led by Tom Gatti, will start at 9 a.m. at a newly protected tract of land on Hump Mountain. “This hike will feature breathtaking, 360-degree views from atop Roan’s grassy balds,” says Shepherd. “Participants in this hike will start in the Shell Creek area, hiking up through the 324-acre tract on the northern slopes of Hump Mountain, which SAHC purchased last year. This property had been a conservation priority for decades.”

Another newly-added burner is an 8-mile trek along the Appalachian Trail starting at Iron Mountain Gap. This route will take hikers across the Tennessee-North Carolina border to the location of the Jamboree’s afternoon social. “We change the location of the afternoon social from year to year,” says Shepherd, “and this time it will be held at our Big Rock Creek Preserve, the former site of TrailRidge Mountain Camp.” Drinks and light refreshments will be provided at the social and attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about SAHC and its accomplishments over the past year. There will also be a short, newly constructed trail on the preserve, made possible by SAHC volunteers, the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley.

Both of these new hikes will cross sections of SAHC-owned properties, which are not generally open to the public. “This an opportunity to see and experience some of the areas we have recently protected, and see how SAHC’s ongoing conservation work benefits this imperiled landscape,” says Shepherd.

A third challenging option will be a popular hike from last year, led by Gary Kaufman. Hikers will start at Carver’s Gap and travel up to Grassy Ridge, which sits at more than 6,000 feet in elevation. Kaufman, a U.S. Forest Service Botanist, will discuss the significance of the balds and the best practices for managing this pristine habitat.

Some of the Jamboree’s popular, easier events will also be returning from last year. At 11 a.m., Lauren McTigue, SAHC’s Connecting People with Lands Associate, will lead a short hike on the Dr. William Davenport Preserve. The hike will be followed by a yoga session led by McTigue, who has a 500-hour yoga certification in Anusara and Natural Movement Yoga. Also at 11 a.m., visitors can enjoy a 1-mile hike in the Rhododendron Gardens atop the Roan. The Rhododendron Gardens trail is paved and accessible for wheelchairs and strollers, making this hike a perfect option for families.

A third easy option will be the Plant Inventory Walk, led by U.S. Forest Service Botanist Susan Fruchey. “In the past, people have been interested in learning more about biological communities and plant identification, so we are excited to offer this educational outing,” says Shepherd. The two-mile hike will be held at SAHC’s Little Cove Creek Preserve near Roan Mountain State Park.

From the most accomplished backpacker to the leisurely walker, the June Jamboree offers all nature lovers a unique opportunity to enjoy this precious landscape. “We hope that people will walk away with an appreciation for the extraordinary biodiversity of the Highlands of Roan and for the long-term work that SAHC and our partners have accomplished here,” says Shepherd.

For more information or to register for a hike, visit

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