The Carver's gap parking area is located on NC 261 at the NC/TN border 12.8 miles north of Bakersville, NC. Cross the street and head up the Appalachian Trail. The hike to Grassy Ridge Bald is 5 miles round trip.
It is interesting hiking with kids sometimes. Nonstop complaining the entire hike in. Whine about their legs hurting, they are hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, tired, have a blister, too windy, you name it. But hiking back out not a peep. To me hiking in to see that view at the end, that is the purpose. To the kids, hiking back to the car is their time. Now they are hiking with a purpose. The wonderful purpose of going home. Forget that gorgeous, magnificent once in a lifetime mountain view. We want to see the van and that parking lot. That beautiful parking lot. And sure enough as soon as that old van became visible their faces lit up as if it was Christmas morning. Well also someone had told them they could have ice cream after the hike so that may have had something to do with it too.
See this hike was one of my first real tests to see how much hiking my kids could stand. I had taken them on lots of 2-3 mile hikes so today we were stepping it up to 5. And minus all the complaining, which they do hiking or not, it went really well. I had fun and they got ice cream. Plus I had been eyeing this trail for awhile now. Seeing beautiful pictures of the hike online accompanied by 5 star reviews, I was very excited to finally get here. So after parking, bathroom breaks, and my kids along with our friends' kids taking way to many pics by the sign, it was finally time. We crossed the street and headed up the Appalachian Trail.
The trail begins with a short hike through the forest and then quickly opens up to grassy fields and endless views. Beautiful sights in every direction with Tennessee on your left and views into North Carolina on your right. This stretch of the Appalachian Trail is part of the Roan Highlands which happens to be the longest stretch of grassy bald in the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Trail crosses Round Bald and Jane Bald before veering left at the obvious fork. Here you head to the right for a short climb to reach the peak of Grassy Ridge Bald. Standing at the top of Grassy Ridge we were treated to wide open fields of grass and wildflowers and sweeping views of the beautiful mountains all around.
After having lunch, enjoying the views, and taking lots and lots of pictures (and not just me taking way too many pics of mountains, I mean family pics standing in front of the mountains), we began our hike back. Which was just turning around and hiking back on the same trail. Though one really cool thing was now the sun had come out and most of the clouds had vanished. This was great because on the hike in Tennessee was completely covered in fog. Heading out was like a new hike now seeing all the great views into Tennessee. So naturally I got left way behind as I constantly stopped to take pictures. In fact this hike may be a problem for you if you already take too many pictures. I actually think I had to fight the urge to take a photo every time I took a step.
So yeah, it really is that beautiful up there. The open fields and 360 degree views leave you in awe. It really reminded me of hiking out west up above where the vegetation grows. It really has that feel to it. The entire hike is simple and pretty easy on the legs combined with 5 miles of beautiful views. We were staying several days in Beech Mountain so the hour drive to Carver's Gap was worth every minute.
Speaking of Beech Mountain, the town's extensive trail system ran through the backyard of the house we rented. It was really fun to step outside and head down the trails to some beautiful cascades, a few waterfalls and tons of wildlife. I always really enjoy the Beech Mountain and Banner Elk area. Plus I was greeted by this unusual sight at the very bottom of the mountain: