Appalachian Trail TN, Carvers Gap to Overmountain Shelter

Roan Mountain, TN
Length: 11.00 mi.
Type: Out & Back

About This Trail

[Total: 1    Average: 5/5]

Ready to dive deep into the Appalachian Trail and visit two states in one day? Carver’s Gap to the Overmountain Shelter is a perfect jumping-off point for a backpacking trip with the baby. Start off in Tennessee, end up in North Carolina, and take in views of Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald along the way.

While we don’t normally hand off this long of a hike to Hike it Baby families, this is an easy one without a lot of elevation and mainly just distance. If you start out early in the day, this is an easy one for the whole family to accomplish. Just keep in mind that you will want to attack this one only if your little has spent some time hiking and you know they can do half a day on trail. Consider doing a 6-mile hike leading up to this so you have tested time. Also, make sure you stop every few hours and let your little one down to crawl around and get circulation moving again. You can also do just 4 miles of this hike by going 2 in and turning around and still getting an amazing experience.

What makes this trail unique is the Overmountain Shelter, which, out of the 250 shelters on the 2,200 miles of trail, is one of the Appalachian Trail favorites. A big red barn built in 1970, the shelter was originally built for farming needs; but in 1983, it was renovated, allowing thru- hikers a nice reprieve from camping outside if the weather turns. The bonus is the barn holds up to 30 overnighters.

If you love wildflowers and rhododendrons, come in the spring. If you’re looking for blueberries, visit in the summer. The hike starts out in a small fir forest for the first 0.5 mile. Be sure to watch the trees; you’ll often see tween and teen kids sitting in them because they are perfect for climbing. From there, most of the hike is along the ridge above the treeline. Every now and then, the trail drops back into the trees, where you’ll see flat open campsites that make for nice breaks whenever you (or baby) decide it’s time to call it a day. This is a better adventure when you have lighter babies who are easier to carry, but the elevation gain isn’t so significant that you can’t hump a bigger kid in or walk slowly with a toddler who is used to doing more miles.

The most standout things on this hike are the grassy meadows of wildflowers, the old giant fir forest, and the natural tiny springs bubbling up everywhere. Make it a day trip by just heading out to Yellow Mountain with a 4-mile out and back, or turn it into 12 miles and take in all of the highland bald with epic 360-degree views. Sunrises and sunsets are amazing in this location thanks to 1,000 acres of grassy rolling fields. This is a year-round hike that may see a dusting of frost in the winter but is usually passable.

“What I love about this trail is you feel something special hiking such an old and famous trail,” says Sierra Patterson. “Climbing the same climbs that so many before you have. Imagining the thru-hikers who made it that far. Hiking past and taking breaks in the campsites so many have taken refuge in. It’s magic!”

What should you look out for on this hike? Ticks, poison ivy, and stinging nettles. Yes, these are all possible. There are also black bears in the area, although it is uncommon to see them on this part of the trail. Prepare to bring a jacket even in the summer. Those peak winds can be much colder than the valleys below. There are a few areas where you’ll want to carry your walking young toddler but no major cliffs.

While this is definitely much longer than a normal Hike it Baby adventure we would send families on, this is one where you can just hike as far as you want and still feel like you really enjoyed the trail. “This is one that my family frequents,” says Sierra Patterson. “The distance is perfect for kids of all ages. It’s challenging, but absolutely doable and worth it. It’s the perfect full-day hike.” We suggest using this one as a trial for how far your little one will adventure. Also, consider making it an overnighter so you can see the Overmountain Shelter, and try backpacking with your baby!



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Trail Features

Seasons Fall, Spring, Summer, and Winter
Surface type Dirt
Elevation gain 1,500 ft.
Stroller friendly No
ADA accessible No
Water fountains No
Bathrooms No
Cell reception Spotty
Pet friendly Yes
Nearby convenience store No
Camping Nearby Yes
Emergency support
within 5 miles

Trail highlights

Camping Nearby and Viewpoint

“Carver’s Gap to the Appalachian Trail’s Overmountain Shelter is an epic day hike traversing multiple balds, which are some of the highest on the AT. We like it because there are multiple flat campsites along the entirety of the trail, which are safe spots to stop for diaper changes, snack time, nursing sessions, and little ones getting some time out of the carrier! The whole hike is around 12 miles. You could also easily backpack it and camp at the shelter, which offers a fire ring, a privy, flat grassy meadows for tent camping, and bunks within the barn!” —SIERRA AND RICHARD PATTERSON

Fee & Parking Details

Fee : $0.00

Park at the Carvers Gap Trail Head parking lot.

Trail Contributor

[Total: 1    Average: 5/5]

Hike it Baby Trail Guide is managed by the Family Trail Guide team. If a trail has been “abandoned” by the initial owner, it gets adopted by the team. Also, if there are no trails in the area, the Family Trail Guide team researches trails that are family friendly in the area to insure that hikes cover all areas where Hike it Baby hikes.