New Peakfinder Signage at Round Bald

Have you ever stood atop a gorgeous summit and wondered what you are viewing? New “peakfinder” signs on Round Bald in the Highlands of Roan will help hikers learn more about the surrounding summits and landscape. The Roan Massif straddles the border between TN and NC, so one sign provides info on the view into North Carolina while the other tells you what you’re seeing in Tennessee.

“The purpose of this project was to install two peakfinder maps, one on each side of the Appalachian Trail to help orient visitors and give them a “destination”, hopefully preventing further damage to the globally rare grassy balds,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. “In addition, we hoped to repair, shorten, and formalize two short social trails to reduce off trail damage.”

During the installation, visitors in the area lined up to take a peek at the peakfinders.  Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy’s Roan Stewardship team led the project, partners at Appalachian Trail Conservancy provided a grant to fund creating the signs, and volunteers and partners at TN Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club and US Forest Service performed the installation work.

Part of a Visitor Use Management Effort

As a part of the Roan Stewardship Committee, the Roan Highlands Visitor Use Management working group includes Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, TN Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club, and the Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests. Since 2014, this group has noted rapidly growing visitation to the Roan Highlands, especially day use and weekend hikers. This visitation is heaviest on Round Bald, situated closest to the Carver’s Gap trailhead and easily accessible for day hikers along the Appalachian Trail.

In 2019, the recreation working group visited Round Bald to discuss options for reducing recreational impacts and providing educational materials for visitors. They noted that the lack of a “destination” stopping point for hikers caused visitors to wander around looking for views — which resulted in heavy compaction and erosion around the trail. The installation of the peakfinder signs provides knowledge about the surrounding area – including which state people are looking into and which peaks are visible. Coupled with temporary fencing, the installation will help direct the thousands of visitors to Round Bald to select locations, protecting surrounding habitat areas for rare plants and helping to prevent erosion.